Serious Games: Attributes of games
May 20, 2009
Elearning | Serious Games

Attributes of games


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Posted by ellen at May 20, 2009 12:00 PM

 Games of emergence vs. games of progression

    Jesper Juul notes that games, in particular computer games, present challenge to the player in one of two ways: "Emergence" (simple rules combining into interesting variation, and "Progression" (serially introduced challenges). 
    • Emergence: a number of simple rules combining to form interesting variation

    • Progression: separate challenges presented serially


    Chess, board games, card games and strategy games are good examples of the emergence type of game. A small number of rules combine to create enormous variation. These games tend to be played over and over, with infinite strategies. 

    Progression games present a fixed sequence of events, with each challenge requiring a predefined set of actions to complete it. The old game Myst was a good example of this type, as are many adventure games.  


    Interactions by the player(s) which change the course of the activity distinguish games from passive activities like reading stories and watching movies. In the case of toys and virtual worlds, the rules/storyline becomes so flexible that there is no one game: the activity is shaped by the whim of the player.



    According to Chris Crawford, a noted game designer and game researcher, games subjectively represent some piece of reality. Games don't physically recreate the situations they represent, but they become subjectively real to the player through fantasy. A game creates a fantasy representation, not a scientific model.



    "Challenge" can mean very different things depending on the game. It can be the mystery to be unraveled, a problem to be solved, or it can involve more perceived conflict and risk to the player: beating the clock, defeating opponents, or keeping your own character alive in the face of multiple threats. It is possible to have a very challenging game with little perceived in-game risk, but usually conflict and competition come into play.
    Some players simply prefer less risk overall: they want to explore and experiment without the external pressure of competition. Game researchers distinguish between intrinsically motivated players (those who prefer exploration) and extrinsically motivated players, who prefer competition and risk. Players who are intrinsically motivated will want time to look around practice and not be hurried through the game in pursuit of points or to beat the clock.

    However, studies indicate that up to a point more challenge and more conflict improve retention and cognitive learning. Beyond that point, if a game is too hard, players will feel like they are going to fail and lose motivation.




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