Malaby & Frasca

According to Gonzalo Frasca the concepts of simulation and representation are two ways of dealing with reality, that both coexisted throughout our culture, but representation and therefore, narrative has been dominant, mainly due to the fact that complex simulations require a level of sophistication that is near impossible without a computer. This not to say that it did not exist it was just less ubiquitous. With the recent and exponential advances in technology we have the tools to push simulation into previously unexplored territory. Simulation can now be used to model systems that were before too complex to deal with, providing a powerful alternative to representation through which to attempt to understand our world. Simulation does not necessarily have to be a tool for education, but also for art and entertainment including, and perhaps most notably, videogames. Unlike narrative, simulation offers a first hand experience of a dynamic system allowing for greater understanding of rules and relationships.

Probably a better way to understand the difference between simulation and representation is to compare their characteristics. Narrative usually presents a bottom-up sequence, describing a particular event from which we can infer rules and relationships. Simulation, on the other hand, present a top-down sequence, focusing on general rules which we can then apply to specific cases. Both concepts are commonly associated with education, however, simulation is greater tool for teaching complex rules because it allows for experimentation. An obvious example of simulation is the multi award winning pc game, The Sims. Comparing a game revolved around life simulation with a movie or TV show about coming of age, growing, learning, the key concept separating the two is behavioural rules. A TV show or film can show the mechanics of living, aging, relationships, in a narrative structure through which it is up to the viewer to interpret the rules. The Sims is a dynamic system that behaves like a family, like people, like life and also having the characteristics, while the TV show or film only provides characteristics.

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Fly Girl

Let’s make a game. They said. It’ll be fun. They said. And boy were they right! As someone who appreciates playing the odd game here and there ( or you know, all the time ), I am well acquainted with what constitutes a good game and the thought of being able to design one got my creative juices flowing ( kind of gross ). Of course, the idea of designing a game and the reality of it turned out to be very different. Majority of my gaming career has been on a console ( yeah, yeah, yeah ), in one form or another and so the games I prefer to play are open world RPG’s, but even when I was first coming up with ideas that seemed a little ambitious. So instead I thought back to all those years ago when my friends and I would stumble onto game websites and play just for the hell of it. And one game stood out above all the rest. Fly Girl. A simple, surprisingly fun and hilariously cringe worthy online game that keeps you entertained for hours. The premise is as follows. You are Fly Girl, a women in a mans world. Dressed to the 9’s or at least 7’s, you are out on the town, hitting all the popular night clubs ready to get your drink on, the only problem is that the only drinks are being held by men and they’re not willing to share. But they will have a crack at you if you get to close. No problem, I’m sure they drop their drink if you jump on their heads. See where I’m going.

flygirl-game
Fly Girl take a classic concept and puts a ( relatively ) modern spin on it. The concept is widely known, and therefore easily understandable and the goal ( collecting drinks ) is simple enough but the risk of being ‘grinded’ keeps things new and fresh, adding a challenging element, making the game 10 times more enjoyable. I wanted to incorporate this idea into my own game. To choose a concept that I already know has merit and adapt it to attract a new audience. So take a classic “stomp on the enemies,” add a University, some books, a couple of HD’s and voila. A game that can be played anywhere. anytime by anyone. Job well done. So how does one go about making a digital game? A few weeks ago I was introduced to the sortingh.at and after hours of playing ( pun intended ) around I stumbled across Stencyl; a program that allows users to create games without code. Like most programs it took some time, and several tutorials until I was ready to try my hand at actually creating but it was a nice change of pace dragging and dropping instead of typing. Although there are still elements of code for those who understand and wand to delve further into the design process, the idea of anyone being able to create a game with no required knowledge is one that should definitely be promoted.

Readings

In a time when people are constantly connected, own multiple devices and no longer have to go leave the comfort of their living rooms to be exposed to new things, video games have changed the way we play. Available to us at any where, any time, for any reason, video games have renegotiated the laws of virtual playing spaces. But does this mean that digital and physical play are fundamentally different? Keith Feinstein, President of the Video Game Conservatory embraces some classical conceptions of play (such as special exploration and identity formation), suggesting that video game play isn’t fundamentally different from backyard play. According to Sheila C. Murphy, to facilitate such immersive play, to achieve an appropriate level of ‘holding power’ that enables people to transcend their immediate environments, video game spaces require concreteness and vividness. The constant push for bigger and better within the video-game industry has been towards the development of more graphically complex, more visually engaging, more three-dimensionally rendered spaces, and towards quicker, more sophisticated, more flexible interactions with those spaces. Video games tempt the player to play longer, fully emerging themselves in the experience. To explore ancient cities, traverse the galaxy, fight in wars, accumulate outrageous sums of money, or solve crimes. Video games constitute virtual playing spaces which allow people to extend their reach, to explore, manipulate, and interact with a more diverse range of imaginary places than constitute the often drab, predictable, and overly-familiar spaces of their everyday lives.

Welcome to Kario Mart

Mario Kart? Try Kario Mart. It turns out trying to turn a beloved childhood (yeah, keep telling yourself that) video game into a fast, fun board game is not as easy as I originally anticipated. Though seemingly simple, board games have many elements that need to be accounted for. The board itself and the course/track, the mobility of players, obstacles and power ups to add variation and logistically, how all those elements combine to create a quick, smooth flowing, enjoyable game. Decisions including how many squares around the board and how many laps of the course? Where to place the event squares and what do they trigger? How many of each event, depended on how helpful or hindering the card was, while short cuts and obstacles had to be placed strategically and to greatest effect.

The general concept of the game mirrors it’s digital counterpart, however, in physical form we had to simplify many elements in order to make it easy to understand and play. We aimed for 20 minute races; three laps around the board, interspersed with advantages and sabotage, and I think we managed to achieve it, or something close. But for all the good talking does, what really helps to iron out kinks is testing the game. Unfortunate we didn’t get this far but to really understand how a game is played nothing can replace good ol’ fashioned experience. Our project was a team effort but I like to think I had a hand in making most, if not many of these decisions in an attempt to create a fun, fast, family friendly game that tips its cap to the mother ship.

Readings

As a female gamer myself, the issues surrounding gender in the videogame industry are something that I take particular interest in and as it turns out so do many others. The idea of gender representation is a hot button issue surrounding games these days with many experts weighing in ( Laine Nooney, Alison Harvey & Stephanie Fisher to name a few). Video games have long been known as a male-dominated media in most, if not all aspects; market audience, player base, and character representation. As such, both female gamers and characters alike are handled differently than their male counterparts.Mass Effect 2 (Miranda) Playable female characters are few and far between, while sexualisation practically slaps players in the face. But it’s not the physical appearance of a character that determines whether or no they are sexualized but rather how they are portrayed to the audience. The ‘male gaze’ plays a significant role in painting female characters as nothing more than eye candy for the player ( presumably male ) to fawn over and if you’re not into that sort of thing then that’s just too damn bad. It sends the message that if you don’t like admiring the female form then this game for you. The real problem, for me, is not when I become uncomfortable by the overt sexualisation, but rather, when I become desensitized to it.

Board Game Renaissance

So how does one make the best use of a three hour time period? I’m so glad you asked. The answer is simple. Board games. In this technological age where, toddlers are playing on tablets, and children are replacing pen and paper for a keyboard it’s nice to see that some things never change. That’s right, the board game renaissance is upon us. But what is it about rolling die and moving a piece of plastic around a cardboard cut out that is so entertaining to both adults and children alike? It’s inspiring to see that in a time of smartphones and social media, people showing an appreciation for the physical. These tabletop masterpieces provide an analogue antidote to an increasingly digital world.

King of TokyoCamel UpThere are two games I want to talk about specifically, and let me make it abundantly clear, I had never even heard of these games ( for shame ) before, let alone played them, so bare with me. The first is King of Tokyo, which for a game of this name, no one really wants to be in Tokyo, because Tokyo = pain. Being dealt damage every turn and not being able to heal – ouch! But alas being in Tokyo is how you earn victory points and gaining victory points is how you win the game. It was a relatively fast paced game that, when people started throwing claws (attack points) around got chaotic… in the best way. King of Tokyo is a strategic game with many paths to victory that players can choose and they all lead to Tokyo.

The second game is Camel Cup, or is it Camel Up? Regardless this game was an unlikely treasure trove that exceed every expectation I had, combining rolling dice (or placing them), moving pieces (or stacking them), and betting (yep betting). The goal of the game is to earn the most money from betting on which camel is going to win the race (Came Cup then, obviously), but the twist is when camels land on the same space they are placed on top of one another (so it’s Camel Up… obviously) with the one on top in the lead. This game, once you understood what was going on, is 30 mins well spent and keeps you guessing til the very end.