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Metal Gear Solid 2 works for me, as a start. There's certainly been some good meta-interactive-fictional work done... the ifarchive should have some pointers.


Wait, nevermind, I see you are asking for didactic teaching materials rather than experimental work confronting the medium. That I don't know nope okay bye.


I like that idea.

I wonder if it might be easier to write shorter games that only compare two or three disparate kinds of games to each other. For instance, it would be extremely difficult to write a game that effectively compares Doom 3 to Madden to Zork to Final Fantasy to Tetris and every other genre out there, but it might not be that bad to, say, hack the Doom 3 engine and embed a Z-Machine in it to compare thrill-ride FPS's to text-based Interactive Fiction. That way such an undertaking would be more like a "miniseries" of short games instead of one ubergame that tries to do everything.

Each "episode" in the miniseries could even focus on some kind of central question; for instance, one that compares Doom 3 to Photopia might ask the question "are games inherently visual and auditory experiences?", and another that compares, say, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to Tetris could ask the question, "do games tell stories?".

Mark W.

Jason Della Rocca of the IGDA commented on this exact same idea just last week.


I haven't read any of the texts mentioned in either post, but it certainly sounds like an interesting idea.


"...old men, young women, and children playing Game Boy to pass the time. At dinner I overhear a group of friends describing the merits of the running play in Madden. In class I see people waste time getting in a little Tetris while the professor describes media ethics."

Congratulations on putting your degree in postmodern narrative bs to good use. These 'stories' are diversions my friend. Twenty five percent of americans don't have a four year college education. Ignorance is the rule not the exemption. Meditate on the culture of passivity and nonchalance and then exhort its virtues.

How you pride yourself on confusing leisure for vocation belies the social ills of today: overmedicated kids short on attention and reason, addicted to hyperreality and spouting Baudrillard.

What you have here is an identity crisis in the guise of infantile paralysis.


I made a small game about games a few years ago:
Game Liberation.
It doesn't have the depth of Understanding Comics of course.


"Congratulations on putting your degree in postmodern narrative bs to good use. These 'stories' are diversions my friend. Twenty five percent of americans don't have a four year college education. Ignorance is the rule not the exemption. Meditate on the culture of passivity and nonchalance and then exhort its virtues."

What has always struck me about comments like this is the idea that videogames represent a 'passivity' and 'nonchalance' in those that play them. I'd argue the complete opposite. Of all the artforms there are, videogames require the least passive interaction. Even the slowest moving turned-based strategy game requires some amount of empathy from the gamer.

Yes, the games are diversions. But then again, when haven't college students distracted themselves? And how much worse is the person playing GameBoy on the subway than the one reading the celebrity gossip magazine? Is playing a good fantasy RPG less or more escapist than reading a fantasy novel?

"How you pride yourself on confusing leisure for vocation belies the social ills of today: overmedicated kids short on attention and reason, addicted to hyperreality and spouting Baudrillard."

Part two. I barely mentioned children. Despite your scary big words, you seem to be ranting about a possibly related subject, but far from the same subject. Are children overmedicated? It's possible. Then again, I never was nor have I met more than a handful that ever were medicated. And mind you, I'm a young-'un, just out of my teens with my rock music that scares the neighbors.

Also, blaming video games for society's ills or saying that society's problems only come from bored children is really amazing. I've heard that argument before. In the fifties there was a panel that partly attributed superhero comic books for raising violence, passivity, and even homosexuality - gasp, the ills of our times - in male children. Before that prohibition was based on the idea that booze had destroyed the fabric of the great nation we call America. And that's just in the past century.

While too much entertainment is a bad thing, that does not mean entertainment itself is a bad thing.


The genre of gaming that has always seemed to have the easiest time with self commentary is the text adventure, so I'd start with the IF archive.

Do videogames even have a large enough shared vocabulary to warrant such a work? Understanding Comics discusses how comics makes use of Art Theory and Narrative Theory. While games certainly make use of Art and Narrative, I think it's the (to use Janet Murray's term) Agency that really needs discussing, because that's really the point at which games start to become different. Unfortunately, Agency suffers from being a fairly young concept compared to "Narrative" and "Art," since humanity's other interactive arts are few and far between (improvisational theater and oral storytelling come to mind, but little else). It's not enough to make self-aware commentary on the concept of the "power-up."

So, here's a question: In the game-what-teaches-us-about-games what are the names of the levels?


Text Adventures are always great. Naturally, they'd go in there like Foopy said. Is the dark in Zork the same as the dark in Doom 3? Largely, I'd say yes.

Well, Grue, you're in the industry, so you're better suited to answer that than me.

Some ideas, though. But again, this is just me shooting ideas.

Level 0 - Tutorial/What are Video Games? - Are the old Tiger football LCD games video games? What about DVD-Movie games?

I'd say Level 1 - Level 1. The first level should be a commentary on the use of the opening level as a way of dropping the player into the game. A bit of a short introduction into introductions and how they create a relationship between the player and the action on-screen.

Level 2 - The Controller. A bit of play with the controller itself. Ever notice how in a good game you're one with the game and everything flows. While in a frustrtating situation, the controller is often shown as the object thrown? There's a lot more to the controller and control devices in a game than initially meets the eye, I think.

Level 3 - Levels, Chapters, and Acts. Do modern games still use levels? What's the difference between splitting a level into levels versus towns in an RPG? Is there some form of agency employed when a game tells you that you've reached a different level versus just having the time seperation of travel or seasons?

Level 4 - Who are you? Nintendo may have been onto something with their campaign. Empathy and agency are incredibly important in videogames. If John Carmack is right, why do fans of story-driven RPGs take such issues when the characters aren't realistic? Or why do realistic graphics versus cartoony (think Viewtiful Joe) complement the story as well as act as a visual style? Hell, why do gamers take to abstract games? In a game like Tetris do gamers adapt their own personality onto the action on screen? Do cartoon characters like the Puzzle Bobble dragons create a stronger link between the gamer and the game or act as a bridge to the abstract play?

Level 5 - Feeling a Little Flat - 2D/3D. An analysis of what 2D allows games to do and what 3D allows games to do.

Level 6 - Power Up! - The use of the power up as a tool to progress both narrative and agency structure within a game. From a mushroom to more money in a sports game to a level-up in an RPG, how does getting bigger and better and faster either permanently or temporarily act as a way to create a sense of accomplishment for the gamers? Why are games materialistic? The Sims, Doom, Zork, almost all games require getting more, better, greater.

Level 7 - Looking Good - The other side of the coin for Who Are You. How do character design and graphics affect gameplay? Does the blinking prompt of an IF game create a more thoughful and relaxed attitude towards the game versus a first-person shooter's claustrophic viewpoint? Do players sometimes wish to sympathize rather than empathize? For example, did many of the gamers that made Boob-Simulator Dead or Alive Volleyball sell empathize with the girls or want get to know them, biblically if you know what I mean? And what is it about controlling an attractive person versus seeing one that is unique to games?

Okay, I'm tired now. I'm stopping there. Again, these are my ideas, so feel free to tell me how stupid I sound. :-)

Dakota Reese

Survive + Evolve! (http://www.gameonweb.co.uk/goodies.htm) is an interesting piece in the vien of what you're talking about. It was done for the UK Game On exhibit.

The game is meant to teach video game history with each level mimicing a different stage of video game development.


"Wario Ware" seems to me to be a game about games. Each one of it's mini games encapsulates some small nugget of gameplay, a control mechanism or a graphichal trope, at times it's explicit such as when you play 3 second sections of FZero or Supermario Bros. other times implicit in a control mechanism, a graphical hint or a sprites behaviour. The final platform section is particularly good, the distilled essence of platform games, rendered in stick figures to emphasise the stripped down nature of the excersise. OK it doesn't really deal with the adventure genre or many developments since the mid 90s, and the emphasis is on Nintendo as you would expect, but overall, as a history of arcade gaming though the 80s and early 90s it's a brilliant primer.

Brian Yeung

Someone deconstructed WarioWare at the last GDC as part of the Experimental Gameplay Workshop but I can't find more info on it. Robin was there, though -- maybe she knows.


Here's a discussion thread of comics people talking about how Understanding Comics has influenced modern comics. Interesting in that it gives a view of the medium-term effects of what it is Mike is asking for.


I just followed the link ClockworkGrue posted, about the discussion of Understanding Comics (which is, in my opinion, a great work on comics). However, the second post caught my attention, and I will quote it here: "To me, "comics theory" is a bit like "music theory", it basically puts names to things that many artists already utilize in an intuitive way."

Can we apply this same principle to "Game Theory", or to game design in itself? That game designers actually use their instinct and experience to develop their games, with fine results, is unquestionable. However, the other way around raises a question: the study and theorization of games only serve as "name calling" or designers can actually learn something from it? Well...my bets are on the second...

PS: this is my first time around here, and I am already loving it!!

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