In this dreary time of year, with the sky bleak and pets and old people predictably getting sick during the Holidays, it leads us to reflect on the thing that truly matters:
How to get back in the game
I have spent a fair bit of time this year attempting to establish and set myself into some contributory position within the game design community. Prior to this I had an interest in the gamification of education. Both have met with some resistance, but then again, perhaps I’m not willing or able to put in enough work to make it happen. Sorry, pity party over (for now).
Why Duelmasters got me thinking
Duelmasters is a CCG that was initially a manga / rip off of Magic the Gathering that then got bought out by Wizards of the Coast / Hasbro (designers / owners of Magic) that then cost WotC money in its apparent collapse which they have now reformatted / rebooted in Kaijudo which is being designed by a kind of nemesis of mine, James Hata (he won several championships of a CCG I was playing back in 2007 called Universal Fighting System which features fighting game characters in a brutal often unbalanced slug fest 2 player game), who had secured himself, likely rightly so, a position as a game designer within a company I had attempted to (unsuccessfully) court for a position within several times.
Duelmasters features a lose-win mechanic: Like most CCGs having more cards in your hand is a good thing (options it affords you), and your ‘life’ in the game was represented by face down cards from your deck at the beginning of the game that, as you lose life, becomes a part of your hand. Take a point of damage > draw a card. Built right into the game.
So yes, you just made it past my defenses and smacked me in the face, but I get to draw a card! Better yet was the very probably chance that the cards that get smacked into your hand could sometimes be played for free in the middle of your opponents turn completely disrupting his turn, potentially buying you a load of time to recover your poor position.
Game Over: Insert 25 cents to Continue
Video games back in the days were good at getting your money. In Gauntlet if your Wizard when so far past “is about to die” you could just inset some coinage and return to the fray. An old friend I haven’t “seen” (In Real Life) in a while and I went to the local movie theater (only place with arcade machines in my hometown) and dumped 20 bucks on the first Gauntlet Legends. Though I wonder how I was able to beat Battletoads as a kid on NES without the Game Genie (this happened) because ‘press start to continue’ was not an option. Oh no, son. You start back over again FROM STAGE ONE.
Such set backs are undesirable, but you had an unlimited amount of time (cause, I mean, who really goes to bed or really needed to study to just give answers on tests you’d already known the answers to before the lesson was taught?) to try it again. And, crap, hit that barrier, again. And, SO CLOSE, again.
Now a days, with save points, or other noobs to pwn, failure does not mean game over.
Failure in Real Life: Reality is Broken
Again I go back to my favorite book that got me headed, cognitively philosophically, down this path (of madness?): Reality is Broken (which you can also, apparently, also find as a free downloadable PDF: I’ll let you find it yourself. I’ve linked a spot where you’ll have to use monies). In this she suggests that games have so many fantastic and desirable outcomes, methods of interaction, avenues of maintaining focus, that is perhaps important, nay, preferable, nay, NECESSARY to consider the gamification of anything where in which it would improve the system. (note: at present gamification has become entirely too systematic focusing mostly on badges, or, as some now call it, pointification)
This lead me to consider the gamification of education. Or at least the aspect of gamification where failure doesn’t mean failure.
I presently work at a Credit Recovery school: people have perhaps ‘failed’ at the previous game and are now playing a new game, one where we let people get new lives and hit the start button as much as they’d like (or at least until they are 22). I say perhaps because many people prefer this to the other system. These kids are not failures, no more or less than anyone that lost a hand of poker, rolled doubles too many times in monopoly (of all games, I reference THAT one?!?) or got in a fight and got kicked out of school. Wait… that last one wasn’t an analogy at all… It is a good school that can really do a good job for students that want to play the game.
That could lead me to discussing the merits or motivation of the learning process, but, no. Not today. Today I continue to talk of mistakes.
Non-Electronic Game Mistakes
Unfortunately, even as the golden age of pulp games and gamers continues to ascend, I have not seen many (any?) games that have a decent lose-win mechanic built in (that didn’t also have an entirely too large of an immediate swing in who was winning from one turn to the next: I’m looking at YOU Fluxx!).
I think this is an area that needs exploring in pulp games, or perhaps I’m missing some aspect of already established games that already has it built in, but at a more subtle ratio than is evident in video games or Duelmasters or the credit recovery school I work at…
So, Game Designers, fill me in or take the challenge!