quarta-feira, 30 de abril de 2014

Monument Valley: business model and creativity in mobile gaming industry

Independent games for mobile platforms are a path for creativity and innovation inside the current gaming industry. Mobile stores like App Store (Apple) and Play Store (Google) changed the ways to distribute and stock digital content. With a few clicks and a Wi-Fi connection, it’s possible to download a great amount of data, including games and other kinds of entertainment.

Few weeks ago, a puzzle game named Monument Valley (Ustwo, 2014) debuted, causing a huge buzz in specialized sites/blogs. The game uses the “error” of perspective from M.C. Escher’s paintings to create visual puzzles and enigmas. Check the gameplay and game’s aesthetics below:

It’s not a new resource in gaming mechanics. Even God of War used this kind of “visual error” to create puzzles for the mighty Kratos. So what’s new? It’s a new way to tell an old story. The minimalist aesthetic along with the zen atmosphere of Monument Valley creates an unique experience to solve Escher’s illusions on a smartphone/tablet screen.

The gaming concept is another good feature; the slogan of Monument Valley is “an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness”. Because this game is not a simple abstract puzzle game, there’s a mysterious plot in each chapter and it’s exciting to advance each stage and discover new aspects from the world with such impossible geometry.

Quickly, the game became a phenomenon and balanced with mastery some questions like aesthetics, screenplay, gameplay, and advertising on the Internet. Some players complained that the game is too short, but it is understandable that a small studio chooses to release a game with fewer stages, but with high quality in the right time. Ustwo Studio now has a huge player base to increase the dissemination of new games or expansions to Monument Valley.

Mobile platform is a way to a new gaming market. Especially in countries like Brazil, that doesn’t have a formal gaming industry. Even small productions are gaining space in this huge market. One thing is certain: to innovate and be successful in mobile gaming is necessary a lot of training. It’s important to create games, put them online, observe weaknesses, improve good features and exchange experiences with other publishers. To better understand the creative process of an independent game like Monument Valley, check out the mini-documentary below:

I think the most interesting area for studies inside the wide gaming industry is mobile. With the advances in smartphones and tablets we have awesome platforms to develop new experiences. Let’s discuss more and more this sector through here.

terça-feira, 22 de abril de 2014

From the past: ICO

Ico is a 3D adventure game developed by Team Ico (2001) and published by Sony for PlayStation 2. I played this game many years ago and am, at this moment, playing the HD version for Playstation 3.

I really like to replay some games years later to observe things that I didn’t notice the first time. From 2001 to today, I have read many books and studied a lot about gaming concepts and game design, so this is a singular opportunity to discuss some important features of this game with an updated view.

The story of the game is about Ico, a boy who was born with horns, which among his people is considered bad omen. Ico is locked in an abandoned dark fortress, where he must explore and run out from. During the exploration, Ico encounters Yorda, the daughter of the castle's queen. The queen has an evil plan to possess the body of Yorda for eternal life and Ico needs to take the girl out of the fortress. The main mechanics of the game is created with puzzle-solving and some combats against demoniac shadow creatures (it’s truly creepy).

You can check the gameplay and game’s intro below:

The game breaks a paradigm of the gaming industry by presenting an interface devoid of tutorials. By controlling the character, the player must try the buttons and add knowledge from other games he/she played for solving puzzles and traversing the scenarios.

Sometimes it is quite difficult to visualize how to solve a puzzle or what sequence of commands must be clicked. However, this is not a defect, it is a gaming feature. Ico works with the idea that we must explore the environment and learn from it. The game operates on a very strong procedural logic/rhetoric inside its interface.

As Bogost says (2007, p.3) “just as verbal rhetoric is useful for both the orator and the audience, and just as written rhetoric is useful for both the writer and the reader, procedural rhetoric is useful for both the programmer and the user, the game designer and the player”.

So, it’s good to have a chance to discuss old games with new observations. I’ll try to do this more frequently from now on.


BOGOST,Ian. Persuasive Games. The MIT Press, 2010 (paperback) http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/persuasive-games

quinta-feira, 3 de abril de 2014

Horror games

I love horror games. Since the primordial experiences, like Haunted House (Atari, 1982), Friday the 13th (Atlus, 1989) and Splatterhouse 2 (Namco, 1992) to the sophisticated Outlast (Red Barrels, 2013), I’ve always had a special interest for this particular genre. Maybe because I’m a big horror movies fan or maybe because fear is a good kind of element to be used in interactive narratives.

Sounds weird, but unlike other game genres, e.g. role-playing, first person shooters, puzzle, action, sport games etc., horror games focus on stimulating the player in a negative way (NIELSEN; SCHØNAU-FOG, 2013, p.45). Nowadays it’s not unusual to find a horror game as frightening as a horror movie, and one key feature in them is the player-narrative interaction.

In the context of horror game design, it has been possible to identify three specific elements as Nielsen and Schønau-Fog (2013, ps.52-53) propose: 1) a deep narrative that allows the player to invest emotions into the character; 2) a deep sense of freedom to establish a connection and a deep grade of immersion on the player; 3) and – finally – the player should feel like a victim rather than a contender. Another point to highlight on horror games is the use of “illogical architecture to turn houses, gardens and streets into great mazes which would make no sense in the real world” (NIELSEN; SCHØNAU-FOG, 2013, p.45, 2013, p.45).

The love for this subject, the inspiration on the words of Nielsen and Schønau-Fog and many other authors led me to write a book about horror games. It’ll be launched in April and the title is “HORROR LUDENS: FEAR, ENTERTAINMENT AND CONSUMPTION IN VIDEOGAME NARRATIVES”. Check the book’s cover below with Marcelo Braga’s illustration.

The main idea of my new book is that fear is one of the most ancient feelings that surround the existence of man, and, historically, it was a fruitful base so that writers, filmmakers and many other narrators could grow inspiration for their pieces. And the game universe pertains this ground. In this book, we seek to discuss, through an empirical look, the horror games panorama in contemporary times, while promoting a reflection over the billionaire worldwide industry of games, the horror genre intake and its many mediatic ramifications.

The book is in Portuguese, but I intend to publish some parts in English here on the blog. Make sure to visit for more news. Go gamers!


NIELSEN, Danny Langhoff; SCHØNAU-FOG, Henrik. In the mood for horror: a game design approach on investigating absorbing player experiences in horror games. IN: HUBER, Simon; MITGUTSCH, Konstantin; ROSENSTINGL, Herbert; WAGNER, Michael G; WIMMER, Jeffrey (Eds.). Context Matters! Proceedings of the Vienna Games Conference 2013: Exploring and Reframing Games and Play in Context. New Academic Press: Viena, 2013.HH