Games and Food

As a final assignment for my game design class I had the students write an essay on a serious social topic connected to gaming. Many of them chose to write about game addiction, so I have been reading and thinking a lot about the topic recently. And it seems to me that we are taking the wrong perspective on it.

Most of my students tried to compare game addiction to drug addiction, arguing with various degrees of success that the two were either similar or different, and drawing from this a further argument to say whether ‘addictive’ games were good or bad. However I think the comparison itself is invalid. Drugs operate directly on chemical pathways in the brain and create physiological dependencies with quantifiable withdrawal symptoms. The case with games is a lot less cut-and-dry. I would instead compare games with food.

Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 4:04 am  Comments (3)  
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Global Game Jam

Game Jam SydneyIn January next year we will be running a Sydney meet of the Global Game Jam at the Powerhouse Museum. Forty developers, designers and artists will be spending a weekend at the PHM working round the clock to create exciting new game ideas. There will also be speakers from the local and international games industry. It will be a very exciting event.

Details are still being arranged, but if you want to know more, watch the IGDA Sydney Facebook group or follow @GameJamSydney on Twitter. And tell your friends! This is going to be big!

Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 12:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Books: Playing For Real

Playing For RealPlaying for Real: A Text on Game Theory, by Ken Binmore.

In a text on game design you’ll often find a short advisory note somewhere in the introduction that distinguishes game design from game theory. Game theory has nothing to do with the entertainment industry and is best summarised as the mathematical foundation of economics. It attempts to provide a model of rational decision making in which players strive find strategies to optimise their payoffs. The ‘games’ analysed are usually very simple bargaining problems and are not exactly what we’d consider “fun”. Why then would I be recommending a game theory text on a blog about game design?

Published in: on November 13, 2009 at 12:24 am  Comments (1)  
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Books: Emergence


Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, by Steven Johnson.

Emergence is one of those slippery ideas that is hard to define, other than to say “I know it when I see it”. Loosely it occurs when a system containing many interacting “atomic” components exhibits patterns at a higher level of abstraction, especially when these patterns are hard to explain in terms of atomic interactions. So the behaviour of the air in a balloon is fairly easy to describe as the average of the movement of all its individual molecules, but the behaviour of an ant colony is more than just the sum of the behaviours of the individual ants. We say the latter is “emergent” while the former is not.

Published in: on November 6, 2009 at 7:55 am  Comments (1)