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Chris Crawford - The Art of Computer Game Design

Chris Crawford - The Art of Computer Game Design

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We are a long way from a computer game comparable to a Shakespeare play, a Tchaikowsky symphony, or a Van Gogh self portrait. Each of these artists stood on the shoulders of earlier artists who plunged into an unexplored world and mapped out its territories so that later artists could build on their work and achieve greater things. We computer game designers must put our shoulders together so that our successors may stand on top of them. This book is my contribution to that enterprise.
We are a long way from a computer game comparable to a Shakespeare play, a Tchaikowsky symphony, or a Van Gogh self portrait. Each of these artists stood on the shoulders of earlier artists who plunged into an unexplored world and mapped out its territories so that later artists could build on their work and achieve greater things. We computer game designers must put our shoulders together so that our successors may stand on top of them. This book is my contribution to that enterprise.

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Published by: diderot on Jul 04, 2007
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So far I have discussed motivational and enjoyment factors as if they were absolute quan-

tities whose significance is independent of the individual player. Such is not the case; the

response to a given game depends heavily on the personality of the prospective player.

How are we to deal with the personality differences that dominate the individual's

response to games?

One academic solution to this problem is to postulate the existence of a very large num-

ber of personality traits that determine the individual response to a game. We next pos-

tulate a like number of game traits that, taken together, completely define the psycho-

logical profile of the game. Next, we measure and catalog all of the personality traits of

any given individual, presumably with an omniscient "personalitometer". Then we

measure all the game traits of the game in question with an equally powerful "gamome-

ter". We then perform a matrix multiplication of personality traits against game traits.

Sometime before the sun enters its red giant phase, our monster computer returns a

number telling us how much that person will enjoy that game.

This approach will for the moment remain a gedanken-experiment. We must devise sim-

pler, admittedly less reliable means of coping with individual differences. One alterna-

tive route is to observe and catalog groups of game-players, and identify the game traits

valued by these groups. This method is made difficult by the youth of the computer game

The Art of Computer Game Design

22

industry. We can at this time identify only a few broad, vague, and overlapping groups of

players: skill-and-action enthusiasts, D&D enthusiasts, and strategy gamers. There

remain several other game types, but they have not attracted so large a following as to

present us with a definable group of players. The passage of time and further research

will certainly give us more information with which to work.

Individual tastes in games are not static; as a person changes so do the tastes. The fol-

lowing analogy with music illustrates this point.

As children, we are all exposed to music in a variety of forms, but it has little impact on

us because our tastes are poorly developed. We sing and dance to simple songs, but a full

appreciation of the emotional range of music eludes us. The power of music arises from

our ability to associate musical expressions with emotions. It takes years to develop these

associations, and they are made in the context of our experiences. For many in my gen-

eration, the first deep contact with music came with rock 'n roll in the 60’s. The pound-

ing beat, simple themes, and short durations were easily grasped by our adolescent and

unsophisticated minds. We could understand this music. Moreover, the act of listening

to and enjoying this music was itself an educational experience. As the range of our musi-

cal experience expanded, we learned more complex components of the musical lexicon

and developed a wider range of associations. Soon we were able to understand and

appreciate other musical compositions previously inaccessible to our untrained ears.

Rock music changed to reflect this maturation; some of us stayed with rock. Others

moved to jazz, country, or folk. Like some others, I moved from rock to classical in a

series of stages. As I moved along this evolutionary path, the lessons of one stage enabled

me to understand the material of the next stage. Other people followed their own paths,

exploring and learning the areas of musical expression that most appealed to them. The

common experience was that our musical tastes evolved, no matter what direction we

chose. Rock music was the broad base we all shared, the entry point or ,junk out of which

sprang many branches.

Just as rock 'n roll was the entry point into the world of music for an entire generation,

so will skill-and-action games be the entry point into the world of games for the whole

population. Like early rock 'n roll, skill-and-action games have broad appeal, and are

easy to understand. As people become more sophisticated with games, their tastes will

evolve down different branches. Like rock 'n roll, skill-and-action games will not go

away; they will change to reflect the evolving taste of the public. We can see this hap-

pening already. The early arcade games are tame pussycats compared to the rip-snorting,

fire-breathing games of 1982. Had TEMPEST been released in 1977, it would have intim-

idated and repelled players. Times change; people change. Skill-and-action is here to stay

and will always provide an entry point for new players, but the public will not stand still.

Many people will move on to explore other areas of game-playing.

The Art of Computer Game Design

23

People play games for many reasons. In this chapter, I have touched on a variety of these

motivations. I readily admit that my treatment of the subject matter is thin, speculative,

and uncompelling. People are complex creatures; we will never fully understand human

motivations to play games. Yet me must appreciate the importance of these motivations

and at least try to understand them if we are to master the art of computer game design.

The Art of Computer Game Design

24

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