Blog & Dev.Log

Objects & Their Properties

A classic among young adults and those who enjoy dark humor, Cards Against Humanity is a game that is popular for a number of reasons. In addition to the hilarity of the card combinations, it can be played for hours, there are an immense amount of possibly card combinations, and it can accommodate a handful or a large group of players. These are impressive features, given the simplicity of the objects needed to play and their properties. Here is a table of the objects in CAH and their properties:

White CardsColor (white), phrase or word (used to fill in blanks or respond to prompts on black cards)
Black CardsColor (black), statement with one or more blank spaces or a prompt

How do these simple aspects translate to what was described at the beginning of this post? Based on what is known about game objects and properties this would seem to be a difficult task. Often it is only objects with more complex properties that result in unpredictable and intricate relationships (Fullerton 130), which commonly makes for a more interesting game. Based on this logic, CAH’s limited objects with rudimentary properties should result in game that quickly becomes tedious. However, as I described at the start of this piece and as anyone who has played CAH will tell you, this is far from the case. How CAH achieves this is by using quantity and quality. There are 500 white cards and 100 black cards in the base CAH set, and there are numerous expansion packs that can be bought to add to this. Although there are some cards in the base CAH set that are comedic icons of the series (e.g. “David Bowie riding a tiger made of lightning”, “Firing a rifle into the air while balls deep in a squealing hog”) many of them are rather mundane when not pared with a black card (e.g. “Men”, “Soup that is too hot” “A tiny horse”). While most of the prompts from the black cards are funny, not all of them are obviously hilarious (e.g. “ _ + _ = _”). Because there are so many cards, it is uncommon for players to have cards with related subjects at the same time and even more rare for them to be able to use them to coherently respond to a black card (a rare example being the time my friend had the cards “bisexual” and “the only gay person in a hundred miles”, which she then used to fill in the blanks of “I didn’t realize I was _ until I was_”). As a result of this, even the more boring white cards become funny because they are used alongside subjects that have nothing to do with them. Also, by having so many cards CAH can be played for long sessions and with many people.

While studying game design, I sometimes feel like to create a game that is advanced and dynamic each aspect of that game must be intricate and complex. However, as CAH shows, games do not need to be complicated on all levels to be interesting. By getting creative with a game’s resources, including its objects, game designers can create unique and entertaining experiences.

This post is based on Exercise 5.1: Objects and Properties (“Choose a board game you have at home in which you are able to clearly identify the objects and their properties. […] Make a list of all of the objects and their properties in the game you have chosen.”) from Chapter 5 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 131).


Dillon, Josh et al. Cards Against Humanity. Chicago, IL: Cards Against Humanity LLC, 2011. Card Game.

Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 5: Working with System Dynamics” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

Goals & Feedback

For this post I chose three games and examined their goals and feedback. I believe the examples I chose show how a game’s goals influence how effective its feedback is.

Beat SaberCorrectly hit as many incoming blocks for
the entirety of a song
Display system showing when a player
misses or incorrectly hits a block
Civilization VI Become the most dominant civilization in
science, culture, religion, or military
Ranking system, reactions from NPCs
The Sims 4Simulate lifePositive and negative emotional states

In Beat Saber the feedback is more physical than in the other examples. When the player successfully strikes the incoming blocks a satisfying buzzing is felt in the hand controls. The controls also buzz when the player strikes the blocks in an incorrect way, but the sensation is different and not as satisfying. In addition to this physical feedback, there is also a counter that keeps track of combos and misses. At least according to screenshots and gameplay. Truth be told, I was unable to see anything other than the incoming blocks while playing Beat Saber. Granted part of this is due to me being nearsighted (the Oculus Rift can pose challenges to those of us with poor vision), but my unlucky genetics and/or long time screen usage is not totally to blame. The numbers are small and placed near the center of the screen. Considering players are focused on hitting the blocks, which are coming at them from the center of the screen, it is easy to not notice the counters.  And as I learned within my first 10 seconds of playing, it is important to keep track of misses. Should the player miss a certain number of blocks the game will end. If the counters were moved to the corners and enlarged it would be easier to notice them, which would allow them to serve as better feedback.

When you’re beating boxes with sabers there’s not much time to look for numbers.

The main feedback source for Civilization VI, a leaderboard, is standard and effective. However, while it is a minor feedback feature, the player’s relationship with other leaders (which can reflect ranking in the leaderboard) and how it is tracked is interesting. While leaders’ current disposition towards the player is indicated by icons on their portraits, figuring out what their feelings will be as the game progresses is not as clear. There is no visible bar showing where on the ally-enemy spectrum leaders lie. In gameplay, this means that after doing trades or giving gifts to a leader who hates me, there is no way to see how much (if at all) it improved our relationship. Some may see this as a feedback drawback, but I’d argue it adds to gameplay. By not giving too much detail of leaders’ feelings, Civilization VI forces the player to keep track of their previous interactions and rely on what they know about that historical figure in regards to what will please or displease them. For example, Gandhi is easily triggered by a military focused playstyle (fun fact: I once had Gandhi denounce me after I built two warrior units in a row, even though at the time those two units made up my entire armed forces). (Note: there is a DLC that adds an option for a diplomacy victory that I assume relies more on alliances and relationships than the base game, but I have not played it myself and was unable to determine via research if it adds anything to the feedback system).

Several trade agreements later, Catherine De Medici is still mad at me for conquering Dijon.

The feedback in Sims 4 at first doesn’t seem like it’s that bad, but like many aspects of that game it falls short. While there is a UI element that displays sims goals and wants (referred to in-game as “whims”), there is little indicating what will make sims unhappy besides the obvious (lack of sleep, food, etc.). In previous Sims games the UI featured fears as well as wishes and goals. I would argue this was a better feedback system as it clearly indicated what would make sims unhappy. This is significant because not all players want to make their sims happy. The goal of the game is to simulate life, and life is not always pleasant. Many a time while playing Sims 2 I intentionally made my sims fears come true to create more drama and realism. By foregoing the display of fears, Sims 4 gives less feedback to players making it harder for them to achieve the game’s goal of simulating life, whatever that might mean for the player.

In Sims 2 you can want and be afraid to have a baby. If that’s not an accurate simulation of life, I don’t know what is.

This post is based on Exercise 4.4: Goals and Feedback (“Pick three games and list the types of feedback generated in each. Then describe how the feedback relates to the ultimate goal of each game.”) from Chapter 4 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 100).


Beat Saber. Prague: Beat Games, 2019.

Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 4: Working with Dramatic Elements” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. New York, NY: 2K Games, 2016. Video Game.

The Sims 4. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts, 2014. Video Game.


Beat Saber screenshot – “How To Download And Install New Custom Songs On Beat Saber – Summer 2020 Update.” UploadVr,

Civilization VI screenshot – taken by the author.

The Sims 2 screenshot – “When you want to have a baby but it is also your fear” Reddit,

How Do You Change a Game’s Aesthetic?

All games, at least ones deemed successful, are enjoyable to play. The most common way games achieve this is by having an aesthetic (defined by Hunicke et al. as “the desirable emotional responses evoked in the player” [2]) that falls somewhere under the broad umbrella of fun. This near universal aesthetic of games has caused me to have the opposite of fun this past week.

As part of an upcoming class assignment, I have been tasked with changing the aesthetic of an existing board game. My originally idea for this assignment was a variation on Cards Against Humanity, mainly because it’s the closet thing to a mainstream board game I own. In original CAH players compete to make the most hilarious and/or offensive card combination, but in my version they would work together to make the most wholesome combination. However, upon reflection and consultation with the course’s professor, I realized that this would not be enough to change the game’s original aesthetic. After rereading Hunicke et al.’s “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research” I concluded that CAH might not be the best game for this assignment. This is because CAH’s mechanics (i.e. the cards and their hilarious statements) are designed to be funny. For example, the CAH card that reads “David Bowie flying in on a tiger made of lightening” is amusing regardless of what context its used in. If I wanted to change CAH’s aesthetic I would most likely have to change the cards themselves. Since the assignment called for changing a game’s aesthetic and not it’s mechanics, I went back to the drawing board.

This setback led me to ponder upon the thoughts expressed at the beginning of this post. If the majority of mainstream boardgames make the player feel like they are having fun, how can I change that? The answer came to me while reading “Personality and Play Styles: A Unified Model” by Bart Stewart. In his article Stewart attempts to categorize the different types of gamers and their playstyles. While personally I felt Stewart’s approach to categorizing play styles too rigid and limiting, it did illustrate a fundamental truth: we don’t all find the same things fun. This made me realize that although I might not be able to change a game’s aesthetic on a macro scale, it can be achieved on a micro scale. Take for example a game where players compete to make the most eloquent sentences. The fun of the game would come from players using their intellect and speaking skills in competition. Now consider a second version of the game where the sentences players make are what an animal would say if they could talk. In addition to this, players must guess what animal each of them is representing. Both versions of the game are fun, but not all people would find both fun. Hopefully by playing (pun intended) with how a game entertains its participants I will be able to successfully alter its aesthetic while still keeping things fun.


Dillon, Josh et al. Cards Against Humanity. Chicago, IL: Cards Against Humanity LLC, 2011. Card Game.

Hunicke, Robin Et al. “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research.” Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 2004.

Stewart, Bart. “Personality and Play Styles: A Unified Model.” Gamasutra, 1 Sept. 2011,

The Effectiveness of Procedural Rhetoric

In middle school my classmates and I would spend our free time in between classes playing video games. However, the school IT department was relentless in blocking any sites that might distract us from academic work. Amidst this student vs. IT cold war, word started spreading about an unblocked game that allowed you to manage a McDonald’s. There was great rejoicing among the student population upon this discovery of a new unblocked game. I was particularly excited to try it out, since my health-nut mother forbid our family from patronizing the golden arches. Little did I know when I started up McDonald’s Videogame that I was about to get schooled on the dark side of fast food. I recall when I cut down my first swathe of rainforest thinking “it will be OK, more forest will just grow back,” only to realize too late that there was no way to replant the destroyed resource. The longer I played the game, the more ethically questionable choices I was forced to make. Eventually I decided on a strategy of intentionally sabotaging my operation. If I don’t have enough meat to make burgers or intentionally serve illness-inducing food, surely people will stop coming and I won’t need as much, right? Wrong. I asked a teacher if the game accurately depicted how McDonald’s works in the real world, and to my horror she confirmed the game’s accuracy. After that day, I never begged my parents to take me to McDonald’s again.

How does this tale of youthful ignorance relate to the dry academic title of this post? It’s because when my classmates and I played McDonald’s Videogame we unknowingly came into exposure with procedural rhetoric, or “the practice of using processes” (in this case videogames) to persuade. (125) In his article “The Rhetoric of Video Games” Ian Bogost gives a thorough explanation of what procedural rhetoric is and why it is useful. While Bogost does mention how not all games have intentional procedural rhetoric, he does not touch on what might happen if an audience is unaware of procedural rhetoric’s presence. Based on my own experience, I would argue that regardless of whether or not an audience is conscious of procedural rhetoric it will still work. In fact, the persuasive power of procedural rhetoric could be enhanced by the audience being unaware of it’s presence. This is because if they were aware, they might not be open to the process or hold bias. For example, if my classmates and I had been told McDonald’s Videogame would teach us about the ethical ills of the titular fast food giant, we likely would not have been keen on playing it. This is because the implied educational intention contradicted our reason for playing video games (i.e. as a way to take a break in between being educated). While Bogost does not highlight it in his article, I believe an audience’s awareness of the presence of procedural rhetoric can influence it’s persuasive power.


Bogost, Ian. “The Rhetoric of Video Games.” The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 117–140.

McDonald’s Videogame. Molleindustria, 2006.

Reflection on Beat Saber

This week I got to play a game I had wanted to try for some time. I had read about it, scrolled through screenshots, watched let’s plays, and even listened to versions of popular songs as they appear in the game. So when I finally got the chance to play Beat Saber I was excited, but also slightly apprehensive. Would it meet my expectations? I doubted it. This was not the first time I was playing a game after being exposed to it via other media. I knew from past experiences that enjoyable second hand exposure to a game doesn’t always equal me enjoying playing the game itself. However, with Beat Saber my expectations where not only met, but exceeded.

I was impressed with the number of songs that can be downloaded and kept at the same time, as I was under the impression that space would be an issue. The movement of the sabers was surprisingly fluid compared to other VR games I had played. I enjoyed the added challenge of dodging walls and other obstacles, a gameplay feature I was unaware Beat Saber contained. While playing I also experienced a sense of nostalgia. This may seem surprising since Beat Saber is a modern game played on a relatively new device. However, several aspects of it brought back memories of playing Dance Dance Revolution on the PlayStation 2. Both combine gameplay with music, indicate direction via oncoming arrows, require the player to use their whole body, and feature stimulating graphics. It made me happy to know that features of a game I enjoyed as a kid continue to live on in newer games.

While Beat Saber contains many admirable qualities, the ones that I most wish to emulate when making games are not part of the gameplay. These are wide-spread awareness and hype among the gamer population. Besides the obvious marketing advantage that this would provide, it can also make the game easy to understand to first time players. For example, before I even put on the VR headset, I knew what the UI would look like, what the objective was, and how to move the controls. This low-entry bar for player engagement makes a game more enjoyable. When players don’t have to spend a lot of time learning gameplay mechanics, they can focus more on meeting the game’s objectives. I would hate to make a game where players can’t even finish the tutorial, and by having players be aware of how a game works prior to playing it the threat of this can be minimized.


Beat Saber. Prague: Beat Games, 2019.

10 Games & Their Objectives

I have always thought of myself as a gamer with a diverse taste. So when I came across an exercise in Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games that challenged readers to define the types of games they like by objective, it seemed like a chance to test this perception of myself. Before I made a list of the games I like and their objectives, I speculated that there would be some similarities, but the biggest thing that would stand out would the differences between games. The following table shows 10 games I enjoy, a description of their main objectives, and the categories those objectives fall into.

GameMain ObjectiveObjective Type
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimFinish quests, clear dungeons, and explore the open worldCapture, Exploration
MinecraftBuild using resources gathered from exploring the worldConstruction, Exploration
Cards Against HumanityCollect the most black cards by coming up with the funniest card combinationOutwit
The Sims 4Simulate life and create buildingsConstruction
Lego Indiana Jones: The Original AdventuresComplete levels by defeating enemies and solving puzzlesCapture, Solution
Sid Meier’s Civilization VIBecome the most powerful civilization via culture, religion, science, or militaryCapture, Construction
Mahjong MasterClear the board by matching tilesAlignment
Assassin’s Creed IIComplete levels and missions using stealth and combatCapture
TennisWhen the ball is hit to you, hit it back at your opponentForbidden Act
Bar TriviaWork with a team to correctly answer questions about pop cultureOutwit

One of the things that struck me when compiling this list was the difficulty in narrowing down objective type. Many of the games have minor objectives or gameplay elements that could be classified as a sperate objective type. For example, in Minecraft there are monsters players can combat (i.e. capture objective), and in Assassin’s Creed II there are side missions involving chasing targets (i.e. chase objective). I also found it difficult for some of the games to pinpoint what objective category they fall into. With tennis I originally thought it fell into the capture objective, but after reviewing Fullerton’s descriptions of objective types I decided it was more in line with forbidden act. This is because the rules of tennis impose physical limitations that players must follow (e.g. don’t go into the opponents area or go over foul lines, hit the ball towards you opponent, etc.), which I felt made it more akin to the examples Fullerton gives for forbidden act objectives (e.g. Twister, Don’t Break the Ice) and her description of them as “involving stamina or flexibility, and sometimes just plain chance.” (Fullerton 71)

Based on the results of this exercise I feel that although the games I choose are diverse in their objectives, as was expected. However, upon reflecting as to why I gravitate towards these games, I found that it was not because of my desire to play a diverse range of games. Instead, I’m drawn to each of these games because of my desire to be creative, explore, and use my intelligence to solve problems. Even when I play a physical activity based game like tennis, my strategy to beat my opponent is to study their body language and moves to find a weak spot I can exploit. I take a similar approach when playing games that are primarily capture based, like Assassin’s Creed II and Skyrim. Another similarity I noticed was that most of the games have more than one type of main objective, as well as minor objectives of various types. My preference for games that are not unanimous in their objective I think reflects a larger trend in gaming, by both players and game designers, towards more dynamic and diverse gameplay by way of multiple different objectives.

This post is based on Exercise 3.4: Objectives (“List ten of your favorite games and name the objective for each. Do you see any similarities in these games? Try to define the type or types of games that appeal to you.”) from Chapter 3 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 73).


Assassin’s Creed II. Montreal: Ubisoft, 2009. Video Game.

Dillon, Josh et al. Cards Against Humanity. Chicago, IL: Cards Against Humanity LLC, 2011. Card Game.

Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 3: Working with Formal Game Elements” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda, MD: Bethesda Game Studios, 2011. Video Game.

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. San Francisco, CA: LucasArts, 2008. Video Game.

Mahjong Master. GB Games, 2013. Android App.

Minecraft. Stockholm: Mojang Studios, 2011. Video Game.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. New York, NY: 2K Games, 2016. Video Game.

The Sims 4. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts, 2014. Video Game.

Game Objectives: A Reflection

While reading Chapter 3 of Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, I found the section that explores game objectives to be particularly eye-opening. I was surprised by how many games have multiple objectives, and especially how often these objectives are very different from one another. For example, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has relaxing exploration, logic-based solution (e.g. solving puzzles to advance through dungeons), and combat required capture (e.g. clearing out enemy encampments) objectives. While at first this seems contradictory, it makes sense for a game to have diverse objectives. If a game had one just objective or all its objectives were achieved by similar means, then it would be boring.

I feel multiple objectives are especially important to consider when designing video games. This is because many video games are intended to be played for multiple years, possibly indefinitely. The more objectives there are, the more things there are to engage players and keep them entertained. In addition to expanding its playable lifespan, diversity in objectives can also help a game appeal to a wider market. For example, compare Stardew Valley with Animal Crossing: Wild World. What makes the objectives in Stardew Valley more effective than those in Animal Crossing are their diversity.  Stardew Valley’s objectives include managing a farm (a construction objective), developing relationships with NPCs (a narrative based objective), and advancing through dungeons (a capture objective). Objectives in Animal Crossing, on the other hand, are mostly limited to collection, hence limiting gameplay options. In contrast to this, a player in Stardew Valley could choose to ignore the NPCs, or spend their time fighting in a dungeon instead of farming.

That said, it is important that objectives make sense within the context of a game. Just like Fullerton’s example of having sushi being an object in Diablo III, certain objectives do not make sense (or would be hard to pull off) in certain games. Consider, for example, an FPS that also had a social farming element (a la asking friends for help in FarmVille), or a team competition style game that had individual players renovating their own house. Granted such features could improve immersion or allow players to feel they are influencing the narrative (e.g. a war shooter where you have the option to repair a village you’ve captured), but it is important not to lose sight of or stray too far from the main gameplay experience players are there for.

This post is based on Chapter 3 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton.


Animal Crossing: Wild World. Kyoto: Nintendo, 2005.

FarmVille. San Francisco, CA: Zynga, 2009.

Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 3: Working with Formal Game Elements” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda, MD: Bethesda Game Studios, 2011.

Staredew Valley. ConcernedApe, 2016.

Games & Their Challenges

The Sims 4 – Challenge: Being a Simulation

As the name implies, the objective of The Sims 4 is to simulate life. However, this can become challenging when I’m not able to do everyday things like drive a car, go to a hotel, or go grocery shopping. These are just some of the features that are present in previous Sims titles but are not in Sims 4. What I find interesting is these challenging features of Sims 4 don’t appear to be intentional, but rather a consequence of poor game design. Since players were not expecting to encounter this type of conflict in Sims 4 due to precedents set by previous games, the challenge was not welcome.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery – Challenge: Time Management

Unlike players of The Sims 4, players of Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery were somewhat aware of the type of challenge the game might contain. Being a mobile game, microtransactions are inevitable. However, upon release players were not happy to learn that most missions were practically impossible unless they purchased energy via microtransactions. The other way to get energy is waiting, and since missions have a time limit this often means they could not be successfully completed. My technique for dealing with this was to set a timer on my phone to notify me when I would have enough energy as well as enough mission time left. The actions performed in the game were not challenging, but I found the added burden of re-organizing my real-life schedule to accommodate the game’s energy system to be challenging and ultimately not worth it.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Challenge: Don’t Get Caught

Multiple times while playing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag I rage quite because I couldn’t get into a fortress undetected, or kept getting caught while tailing an enemy, among other frustrating incidents. However, unlike the previous games discussed, I was OK with this. There are several factors that made the challenges in Black Flag more palatable than those in Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery or The Sims 4. For me, the biggest factors that made the challenges in Black Flag enjoyable were their expected presence, cause, and solution. Black Flag is not a casual game, and I knew going into it that I would be faced with potentially difficult levels and missions.  When gameplay became challenging, it was due to me not knowing what to do, how to do it, or just fumbling the controls. Finally, with time and effort, I was able to beat the game’s challenges. This last aspect I believe is the most important. Challenges in games are not bad, as long as it’s possible for players to overcome them while remaining immersed in the game’s world.


The games that I choose for this entry are ones I enjoy playing, but also find challenging. Upon writing and reflecting, I found the challenges in these games stemmed from different sources. Although not something I consciously had in mind when selecting the games, this diversity ended up offering more insight than if the challenges had been uniform. I believe this diversity better illustrates how challenge can be done right, and how it can go wrong.

This post is based on Exercise 2.6: Challenge (“Name three games that you find particularly challenging and describe why.”) from Chapter 2 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 39).


Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Montreal, QC: Ubisoft, 2013.

Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 2: The Structure of Games.” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Culver City, CA: Jam City Inc., 2018.

The Sims 4. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts, 2014.

What is a Game?

At the beginning of the second chapter in Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games it’s foreshadowed that later in the chapter a definition of “game” would be presented. “Oh great, another lengthy description of a simple word,” I thought, jaded college student that I am. Near the end of the chapter the anticipated description was given, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was not only brief, but relevant. Fullerton describes a game as having three elements: “[1] a closed, formal system, that [2] engages players in structured conflict, and [3] resolves it’s uncertainty in an unequal outcome.” (48) Though they are separated into three parts I feel that each of these elements share some similarities.

One of the most striking similarities was the connection to the player. In a game, players agree to and are aware of the challenges that come with each of these three elements. Players willingly choose to enter a formal system, to engage in conflict, and accept an outcome that is unequal and uncertain. Taken out of context, this seems like an irrational thing for someone to agree to. However, players agree to it because they are conscious of another similarity between the elements: their relevance to the game’s world, or “magic circle.” (37) The closed, formal system establishes the game world as distinct and unrelated from the real world, while the later elements set up the rules by which the game world is governed and what the players will do while in it.

After reading this chapter, I have a far greater appreciation for how the different elements that make up a games are interconnected. It’s almost as if a game is an amalgam of multiple interconnected symbiotic relationships. Fullerton sums it up best (albeit in less flowery terms): the elements that make up a game rely on each other, and a game is really the sum of its parts. (47)

This post is based on Chapter 2 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton.


Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 2: The Structure of Games.” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

Game Designers & Playtesters

While reading Chapter 1 of Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, I was pleasantly surprised with how she described the role of a game designer. Being a textbook, I was expecting a technical description of the various duties a game designer carries out. Instead, I found it focused not so much on what a game designer does, but on how they should do it. Fullerton advises aspiring game designers take a playcentric approach. This approach puts emphasis on playtesting, which should begin early in the development process so feedback can be taken into consideration before the project gets too far along. (Fullerton) Overall, I agree with Fullerton’s recommendation of using a playcentric approach and the emphasis she puts on holistic teamwork. However, the chapter is not without flaws.

One critique I have of Chapter 1 is it does not go into the specifics of what it takes to execute a playcentric approach. For example, who should be the playtesters? My initial thought was playtesters should be members of the demographic that are most likely to buy the game. Identifying that demographic, however, is not clear cut. Many gamers play multiple genres, and the gaming community is increasingly diverse. Singling out only one group would be logistically difficult and possibly hinder large scale commercial success. An argument could even be made for using playtesters who prefer other games or were picked randomly, as this could help tap into new markets. Who the playtesters are will have some influence on their feedback. Consider what would happen if someone who had never played an FPS was a playtester for a new Call of Duty title, or someone who has never used a console playtested an Xbox exclusive. With the significant role playtester feedback has in a playcentric approach, the selection of playtesters is important.

How my dad (who had only played mobile & PC games) held the controller the first time he tried to use an Xbox. Photo by me.

Chapter 1’s advice to future game designers is good, but it could have gone into more detail. That said, I am hopeful in later chapters Fullerton will expand on what has been presented.

This post is based on Chapter 1 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton.


Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 1: The Role of the Game Designer.” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

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