quarta-feira, 27 de novembro de 2013

Gaming experience and social network: how games can be funnier with RAPTR

In this post, let's figure out how to engage an audience in a deeper entertainment experience using a digital social network. I’m taking about RAPTR, a social networking website and instant messenger, targeted towards video game players launched September 3rd, 2008. The site allows users/players to import their Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam accounts. It also includes other features such as trophies and achievements tracking, and this is a point to highlight in our discussion.

With RAPTR, you can compare your in-game statistics, level of engagement and collection of trophies/achievements in a wide mode. This is possible because RAPTR allows users to explore/connect a world broader than the console network.

As an example for this post I’ll use the game “Batman: Arkham Origins”, that I started to play recently. When the playing experience starts, automatically the game appears in your RAPTR dashboard with your level of engagement and list of achievements. The most interesting feature of the system is the possibility to view your performance against other players of the same game. In the image below we can see these features and the ranking on the bottom side (I’m 5th in the ranking, but I'm working to get a better position.).

With social networks like RAPTR we can have a parallel contest involving a large number of players fighting for symbolic rewards and ranking. In other words, it sounds like a game inside the game and it’s important for publishers to stay alert with this kind of social tool. In this scenario, companies also need to understand how to survive in times of media fragmentation defined by Lord and Velez (2013: 223) as the “increasing availability and consumption of different types of media across channels”.

Among the players, to be well-ranked in a gamer ecosystem is a very important reward and an essential component of social capital construction. As Santaella (2013: 43) says, by creating a profile on the social networks, people start to respond and act as if this profile were an extension of the self. Like an extra presence of what constitutes their identity. These profiles become flags that represent the people who hold them.

In this context we define social network sites in the words of Boyd and Ellison (2007) as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.

The new generation of consoles promises interactions involving increasingly sophisticated games and social networking. Definitely, this is a matter for further discussion and deserves more attention.

Now on to your opinion.

Note: Unlike “Batman: Arkham Asylum” (Rocksteady Studios, 2009) and “Batman: Arkham City” (Rocksteady Studios, 2011), this game will not be developed by Rocksteady Studios. Warner Bros. Games Montréal, co-developer of “Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edition”, created Arkham Origins, with additional development by Splash Damage for the game's multiplayer feature. Check the trailer below:

Go gamers!


BOYD, D. M., & ELLLINSON, N. B. Social network sites: definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11, 2007. URL: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html (last access: August, 2013)

LORD, B.; VELEZ, R. Converge: transforming business at the intersection between marketing and technology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, 2013.

SANTAELLA, L. Intersubjetividade nas redes digitais: repercussões na educação. IN: PRIMO, A. (org). Interações em rede. Porto Alegre: Sulina, p. 2013.

quarta-feira, 20 de novembro de 2013

What is a game?

Researchers of gaming studies field are always discussing this subject. One thing is certain: there’s no absolute answer for this question. A game can be defined in many ways and videogames – specifically – become so complex platforms that is very difficult to reach one single idea about “what is a game”.

The good point is: there are lots of good visions about it. In an excellent presentation made at DiGRA’13 keynote named “The Ambiguity of Game Studies: Observations on the Collective Process of Inventing a New Discipline” the author Janet Murray discusses (among other things) what is a game.

The graph below, from the book “First Person" shows one (of many) interpretations of this subject:

I strongly recommend the complete reading of this presentation. You can find the slides HERE.

quarta-feira, 13 de novembro de 2013

Using fear as narrative in video games: origins

In the last few years we had lots of iconic survival horror games launched around the world for video game consoles. Just to give a few examples, we can bring to our discussion Silent Hill 4: The Room (Playstation 2, 2004), Slender (Parsec Productions, 2012) and Alan Wake (Microsoft Game Studios, 2010). All these games are very scary and possess sophisticated features in their narratives but it’s important to look to the past to understand the origins of horror in video games.

One of the first horror narratives in video game was used in an Atari game named Haunted House (Atari, 1982). With very limited interface and resources, the game creates a classic horror movie atmosphere with a house full of bats, phantoms and traps. The player commands a pair of eyes in the dark trying to find pieces of an ancient ark.

You can check a game play video below:

The game is very simple and there’s a fundamental detail that puts the player inside the gaming reality: the illustration on the cover of the box. The drawing dialogues with the player about the ambient of the game, and it’s possible to understand better the game mechanics (a good text about this subject could be found here).

quarta-feira, 6 de novembro de 2013

Recreating game mechanics

One important thing about game design is the ability to learn from games. The act of creating a repertory full of different references and mechanics is fundamental for the work of a game designer.

With great knowledge of these points it is possible to recreate game mechanics. To demonstrate this, I will use as an example in this post a game that I created: ÁLMOK.

ÁLMOK is a card game for 2 to 4 players that uses an oneiric world as a scenario. Players need to find combinations of dreams to escape from a nightmare dimension.

The game mechanics were based in the classic memory game, with some modifications. In the original memory game, the idea is to find a pair of equal images, but in ÁLMOK, the players need to find three of a kind. After a player finds a “combo” of three cards, he or she earns a special coloured gem. Each gem has a special power (like discard cards from the table, see hidden cards, etc.) that could be used in the turn of a player.

So, in essence, it’s a memory game, but we have some “turbo” modifications.

The game is played with a 64 deck of cards in a 8x8 grid that offers a major challenge for the player’s mind.

Ceilikan Games launched the game in Brazil in February 2013. The art made by me and ÁLMOK means “dreams” in Hungarian language.

At this moment, I’m working on a translation into English for the rules and a print and play version to make available for download to non-Portuguese speakers. Wait for news!