Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Games as Poems

Just came back from my Game Design class and just had to write a blog about today's class

Game Design and Production - INFR 2330

So today's game design class was really interesting. Normally it's a pretty interesting class, but today's class was even more interesting.

It all started off when we were told to move the desks and push them against the classroom wall, and then to take our chairs and set them in a (elongated) circle. It seemed kind of silly at first since it made it kind of feel like an elementary school class instead of a university class with all the sitting in a circle while the teacher talked in the middle. But hey, I'm all for having my classes be interesting, so I enjoyed it. Would've been so epic if there was a bonfire in the middle though.


So the topic of today's lecture was "Games as Art". The entire topic was focused on defining art and how it related to games. Later in the lecture the prof showed us a few art games that I personally thought was pretty cool. One of them was a game where you tried to bomb the terrorists as they walked around in a busy market place. Due to the nature of the bomb you inevitably caused a lot of collateral damage when trying to kill the terrorists and as a result killed a lot of innocent bystanders and destroyed many buildings.

The most interesting part of that game was the fact that after you shot a missile, the surviving civilians around the blast would run towards the blast zone and mourn those who died. After they finished their mourning, they morphed into terrorists. They morphed. Into. Terrorists.

Like this, but less tokusatsu. I love tokusatsu.

It kind of blew my mind actually. When I first saw the transformation I was just like, "What. Wait what.", and then I realized the entire point of the game. It wasn't to entertain the player on shooting terrorists, it was to spread realization that when we hunt the terrorists, we inevitably cause damage to the innocents which in turn fosters hate which leads to more terrorism.

Later in the class the prof read us 'The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. I actually remembered studying and analyzing that poem in my high school English class. I don't exactly remember the exact way I analyzed it back then, but in essence the poem was about the speaker talking about making a choice at a fork in the road and wondering about the outcome at the other path.

Huh. A few more trees and a darker setting and this is exactly how I pictured it in my head.

As a group, we analyzed the poem as a poem about wonder and curiousity. What if the speaker had taken the other path? Would his life be any different? Was it a better choice? Was it a worse choice? No one knows. The entire point of the poem was that the speaker has no way of knowing what awaited him or her at the end of the other path since he or she will never return to that fork.

It essentially represents the choices humans make in our lives. Everyday we make choices. Sometimes it's a small choice, like what we want to eat for lunch. Other times it would be a major choice, like choosing to come to UOIT to study Game Development. I personally always think about that. When I applied to university, my two main choices was between UOIT for Game Development or at Waterloo for Computer Science Co-op. I got accepted to both programs and well, you know which one I ended up choosing.

Not this one.

Would my life be different if I went to Waterloo instead? Definitely. Would it be better? I have no idea. In fact, I will never know. It's not possible to know. Keeps me up at night sometimes man.

In addition to analyzing the poem, we had to make a paper prototype that emphasizes the mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics that were apparent within the poem. This was kind of weird to me at first since it was a poem. I mean, how do you make a game about a poem? But as we analyzed the poem, it became clear to me that we could actually make a game out of the core concepts the poem was about. But what? I couldn't think of a good idea. I didn't want to make a stereotypical "Choose a path and stick with it" board game, but I couldn't think of a better idea.

Then, my group member Alex proposed that we make a game where we had a blank board with two cards on it face down. The player picks a card, looks at it and puts it down. The game ends and the player is never allowed to play the game again or to know what the other card was. At first I was like ".." but then I was like "That is a great idea."

I couldn't find a great picture.

So it was decided then. We decided to do exactly that, but I said that we should have a tally on the board that kept track of the choices the previous players made so that when you played the game you only have access to information on what previous players chose. I thought that it would be more in line with the poem since the speaker was analyzing the paths with the information he saw about what may have occurred there.

We decided to keep the game looking simple. We just literally had a white board with the word "CHOOSE" written up top with two cards we made out of construction paper. Both cards had a green construction paper backing and we stapled one piece of paper to each of them.

Simple, yet elegant.

Each member of the group took turns playing and then we gave it to our prof to play. Of course, since we made it we already knew what the other paper was, but it was still pretty - I don't know the word; it's hard to explain - but it was kind of interesting to play the game regardless. I kind of want to make a digital version of it. Should be really easy to make, but I don't know how to program it so that the player can only play it once. Actually I totally do. In a hacky way. Maybe I'll do that. Maybe I'll blog about it later in the week.

As for what's on the other side of the cards? Well, you'll never know unless if you play it.


  1. No way, I applied for that same program. Along with York, Carleton and Algoma. I don't think I would have been that passionate about making games or the industry if I picked one of the other programs...

  2. Yea. Throughout high school I always figured I'd go into like Waterloo or U of T or something and do Computer Science. And then I found UOIT Game Dev and was like, hey, this is exactly what I want to do. Ended up applying to UofT, Waterloo and Queens anyways though but here I am.