quinta-feira, 26 de fevereiro de 2015

Interactive fiction

Right now, I’m re-reading the excellent book Emergence in Games, written by Penny Sweetser. The author masterfully created a comparison table between some different kinds of games, like interactive fiction, linear gameplay, sandbox games and emergent gameplay. In this post, I want to focus on the first type of game in this group, to discuss some nuclear features about the category.

Sweetser (2008, p.54) defines interactive fiction in a clear way - the author says that interactive fiction “was the first step away from passive media, such as movies and books”, and remembers us that in interactive fiction, “the players are still very much the receivers of information, rather than active agents in the game world”. Here, player interaction is in the form of limited choices between transmissions of a linear story.

In interactive fiction games, “players have no real choices, impact, or control of the game world” and they “simply act out a pre-scripted path, playing a slightly more active role than if they were to simply observe the story from the outside” (SWEETSER, 2008, p.55). This kind of narrative is, in a certain way, very similar to the old RPG books with multiple (and delimited) choices.

Finally, this author (2008, p.56) presents us the idea that the “gameplay in interactive fiction can be characterized by the discrete nature of its interactions” and players “can only ever choose from a specific list of interactions in any one scene, such as typing a keyword, clicking on an object, or choosing an option from a list”.

To illustrate an example let’s take a look in the past to one of the earliest interactive fiction computer games: ZORK. Check out the video below:

In due course, I want to discuss in another post some other genres explained by Sweetser, to deepen these concepts.

Go gamers!


SWEETSER, Penny. Emergence in Games. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2008.

quarta-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2015

Playful mindset X serious mindset

Today I want to share one important idea from the book Pervasive Games;  the authors cite the work of psychologist Michael J. Apter about the differences between the serious and the playful mindsets.

“Michael J. Apter (1991) discusses pleasure and arousal in the context of playful and serious mindsets, claiming that people in a playful mindset seek pleasurable, aroused excitement and avoid boredom, whereas people in a serious mindset seek pleasurable, non aroused relaxation and avoid unpleasant, aroused anxiety. Basically, this means that being worked up while working in a serious mindset leads to anxiety, whereas being worked up while playing a game in a playful mindset is experienced as exciting” (MONTOLA; STENROS; WAERN, 2008, p.106)

Michael J. Apter’s (1991) visualization of how telic (serious) and paratelic (playful) mindsets operate differently.

This type of graph helps us visualize some interesting directions for creating games and how to observe player's behavior. I strongly recommend the full book. Check the references below.


Apter, M.J. (1991). A structural-phenomenology of play. In J.H. Kerr & M.J. Apter (Eds.), Adult play: A reversal theory approach. Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger.

MONTOLA, Markus; STENROS, Jaakko; WAERN, Annika. Pervasive Games: Theory and Design. New York: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2009.

terça-feira, 10 de fevereiro de 2015

The Swapper: a good game to observe puzzle mechanics

The Swapper is my new favourite entertainment. The game is a puzzle-platformer developed in 2014 by Facepalm Games, a small Finnish independent studio.

The game has awesome features allied to the puzzle mechanics and it's possible to see a perfect balance between narrative, scenario, mechanics and interface. Let's talk about each one of them.

The narrative is about a space traveller trying to get out of a mysterious abandoned space station. The dark scenario is perfect and there's an aura of fear and anxiety all the time.

The game operates in a side scrolling 2D and this choice of interface is determinant for the puzzle development.

The game mechanics is very clever. Your space explorer has a clone weapon and it's possible to "launch" a clone of your character in an unachievable part of the scenario to complete a puzzle. Check a video below:

Another weapon allows transferring your conscience to the clone to finish the puzzles. The Swapper is a good exercise of level and puzzle design to observe.

The main idea of the game is to collect some orbs to open panels and try to runaway from the space station.

Fullerton says (2008, p.324) that puzzles are also a key element in creating conflict in almost all single player games. There is an innate tension in solving the puzzle. They can contextualize the choices that players make by valuing them as they move toward or away from the solution.

The Swapper is my most played game of this year. Waiting for new content from Facepalm.


FULLERTON, Tracy; SWAIN, Christopher; HOFFMAN, Steven. Game design workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games. Burlington: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2008.