Monday, October 18, 2004

Meaningful Play

For your game critique this week, please evaluate a game you play by asking the question: Does meaningful play happen? To what degree is it meaningful, compared to other games? Which game design elements make it meaningful (or not)?

Handball has meaningful play. As a kid the king of the playground was usually whoever could kick some serious ass at handball. Within a game, the stakes at hand make the game meaningful. You could either win the match and go on playing or have to wait in line forever again until you got your turn again. All of your indivuidual actions within the game or on the sidelines makes you involved to the point of building a reputation. Pink elephants for example are an element of the game that makes playing more meaningful. This gives the option to the player in the front of the line to be able to run across the court and distract players already in a game. This is an option to the person in the front of the line and taking it has its consequences. If you get hit by the ball while doing a pink elephant than you are not next to play anymore, you have to go to the end of the line. Also, by practicing this sort of sabotage for the players in their game you can become an enemie with a player or gain a reputation as disctracting.

Also, the ability to excel in the game regardless of your skill at hitting the ball makes the game more meaningful. For example, if you are a bad player when it comes to beating a player with too much power at hitting a ball, you can beat them with brains. There is usually a star player and you will end up watching him beat all these people throughout the game. The fact that you wait in line and watch all the matches before your next can serve as research for play. By learning a players classic moves you can beat him from observation and reaction. Hence you are always in play in the game and all your involvement has meaningful outcome.


Blogger Jane said...

This is really interesting, Jacob-- I don't know this particular version of handball, but you've done a great job of describing the different layers of meaningful decision making that happens. I agree with you that the ability to overcome lack of athletic prowess through close observation and wits makes the game meaningful in a way that many physical games aren't-- all the result of a particular design choice, the lining up and "actively" waiting your turn. Pink Elephants-- great analysis here, too. Thanks for teaching me about this game!

October 19, 2004 at 9:36 PM  

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