Friday, December 08, 2006

Monthly Review November 2006

This month has had numerous disparate advances in theory, from describing how we play to how we test theory. The following are a few high points.

System and Culture

At the beginning of the month, Matt Snyder discussed how recent "indie" designs seem to focus on explicit system, going beyond the mechanical to describing things at a social level as well. He contrasts this with more traditional design, which exploits common traditions of social roles and behaviors. A little later, Mike Holmes began a thread at The Forge asking how much system matters. Among the insights from this discussion was that culture has its own influence on play.

Cognition, Passion, and the Other

Moyra Turkington produced a series of essays presenting another way to describe how and why people play, based on two dynamic criteria: cognitive and impassioned and how closely a player relates to the object in the fiction, which may include as disparate elements as character, story, or system.

These are built on several concepts

  • Sockets are the aspects of play on which a player focuses, such as character, story, or social.

  • Payoffs are described as what we want out of the game, varying significantly between players.

  • Goals are described as what you work towards within the game, often but not always aligned with payoffs.

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