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Rules|Play|Culture Framework & Course Overview. Foundations of Interactive Game Design Prof. Jim Whitehead January 9, 2008. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. What makes Portal a good game?. Demonstration of Portal Why is this game fun? What challenges does it present?

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rules play culture framework course overview
Rules|Play|Culture Framework & Course Overview

Foundations of Interactive Game Design

Prof. Jim Whitehead

January 9, 2008

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

what makes portal a good game
What makes Portal a good game?
  • Demonstration of Portal
  • Why is this game fun?
  • What challenges does it present?
    • What interesting choices does it give the player?
    • What kind of interactivity does the game permit?
  • How does it create conflict?
  • How does it tell its story?
    • Why is the fictional world compelling?
  • What else?
frameworks for analyzing games
Frameworks for Analyzing Games
  • It is challenging to tease apart the various issues that contribute to the excellence of a complex modern game like Portal
    • Portal mechanic, GLaDOS, level design, dark humor, weighted companion cube: how do these interrelate?
  • Useful to have frameworks for breaking the analysis problem into smaller pieces
  • A framework is a way of structuring knowledge on a topic
    • Creates an organized mental scaffolding that you can fill with facts and information
    • Analogy: memory palace
rules play culture
Rules | Play | Culture
  • One useful framework is
    • Rules:
      • The essential logical and mathematical structures of a game system. How one plays a game.
    • Play:
      • The human experience of interacting with a game system. How you feel while playing a game.
    • Culture:
      • Larger societal contexts that inform the game, and are informed by the game. How your background cultural knowledge affects how you react to a game, and how a game in turn impacts culture.
rules play culture for portal
Rules|Play|Culture for Portal
  • Rules
    • What are some of the rules of Portal?
  • Play
    • How do you feel while playing Portal?
  • Culture
    • What are some cultural influences on Portal?
    • How has Portal affected culture?
teasing apart effects
Teasing apart effects
  • Using the Rules|Play|Culture framework to structure the analysis of games:
  • Rules:
    • Clearly the portal mechanic and flinging behavior are key to success
    • Rules can be exploited to create puzzles
    • How can levels be constructed to create puzzles?
  • Play
    • What affect does the lunatic GLaDOS character have on the overall gameplay experience?
    • Why do people bond so strongly with the weighted companion cube?
teasing apart effects1
Teasing apart effects
  • Culture
    • Portal has spawned a modest fan culture
    • Why did this happen for this game, and not myriads of others?

“Now you’re thinking with portals.”

Weighted companion cube

even more simple pong
Even more simple: Pong
  • Demonstration of Pong
  • Let’s strip things down to their bare essentials
  • Pong is perhaps the most simple computer game that is fun and compelling to play

Source: Wikipedia

rules play culture for pong
Rules|Play|Culture for Pong
  • Rules:
    • Simple, but effective at creating a wide array of gameplay possibilities.
    • Two white lines, one ball. Where the ball hits on the line determines its subsequent direction (edge of the line: big angles, middle of the line: straight rebound)
  • Play:
    • Simple to play. Every game is unique.
    • Games are social: you can talk to the other player during a game, and it’s interesting for bystanders.
    • It is fun!
rules play culture for pong1
Rules|Play|Culture for Pong
  • Culture:
    • The game of tennis is represented elegantly in Pong. Instant familiarity.
    • As the first hit computer game, had enormous influence on broader culture.
    • For broad public, broke technical frame of reference of TV as passive viewing device, replacing it with the notion of TV as space for interactive play.
    • Broad awareness in popular culture
      • Saturday Night Live Pong skit (aired 11/15/1975)

Pong t-shirt from

now let s change the rules
Now let’s change the rules
  • With a simple game like Pong, it’s easy to analyze how rule changes affect the game
  • Consider Plasma Pong
    • Adds fluid dynamics to Pong
    • Improvement? Why or why not?
  • Part of the broader culture of the original Pong


course overview
Course Overview
  • Game project (32%)
    • Computer game
    • Created by teams of 2
  • Analysis assignments (24%)
    • Gamelogging (15%)
    • Multi-game analysis (9%)
  • Two exams (34%)
  • Final exam (10%)
  • Lectures featuring game demos and lots of participation

Donkey Kong rendered using ~6,400 Post-It notes on E2 building (2007)

course textbook
Course Textbook
  • Rules of Play
    • Katie Salen, Eric Zimmerman
    • MIT Press, 2004
    • Available at bookstore, online
  • “We hope this book will be a catalyst, a facilitator, a kick in the ass. Take these concepts and run with them, quickly, meaningfully, with the same kind of joy that the very first players of Pong must have felt.We’re all in this together. Are you ready to play?”
course website
Course Website

  • Syllabus
    • Readings, due dates, exams, kept up-to-date
  • Descriptions of all assignments
  • Description of project phases, deliverables, grading criteria
  • Tools you can use for your project
  • Lecture notes and podcasts
  • Supplemental readings
    • Including Koster’s “A Theory of Fun for Game Design” and Crawford’s “Art of Computer Game Design”
  • Bookmark this site!
    • Can also Google for “80k winter 2008” (bottom of page)
    • Can also find via my home page
library facilities
Library Facilities
  • Science and Engineering Library is developing a collection of computer games
  • Can check out NES, SNES, N64, PS2, Wii consoles (have 5 each)
    • Along with games of design distinction
    • Go to checkout desk with student ID to check out games
    • Need to reserve Wii - popular
  • Classic console lab
    • Important historical consoles
      • NES, SNES, Genesis, PS1, Saturn, N64, Dreamcast, Xbox, GameCube
      • Soon Japanese PS2
    • Get key from checkout desk
  • 260+ titles in collection
    • Deep collection of RPGs and Space Shooters (shmups/STG)
  • Created specifically for this class, so please take advantage of this resource

Science & Engineering Library

lecture notes and podcasts
Lecture Notes and Podcasts
  • Lecture notes will be posted on the course website after each class
  • Will also be experimenting with making podcasts of each lecture
    • Let me know how this goes
  • In theory, makes it easy to skip lectures
  • Many reasons to attend class:
    • Game demos
    • Ability to ask questions
    • Community of other students interested in game design
    • You’re paying about $35 per lecture, might as well get your money’s worth
computer game project
Computer Game Project
  • Work in teams of 2 to create novel computer game
    • Game Maker tool will be taught in class
    • RPG Maker will be taught in special section
    • Allows interesting games to be created without programming
    • Students last year were very effective in creating games using this tool
  • Phases
    • Team formation – January 18
    • Game concept document – January 30
    • Game prototype - February 22
    • Final game - March 10
computer game projects
Computer Game Projects
  • Will have two days of peer assessment of games in small groups
    • Receive lots of constructive feedback
  • Best games will be demonstrated to entire class
  • Will have external judges, commercial game designers
  • Best game will win a new Nintendo DS
    • Thanks to 2K games for prizedonation
weighted companion class
Weighted Companion Class
  • CS 20, Game Design Experience
    • Required for game design majors
    • Open to students in all majors
  • Main difference:
    • Instead of using game creation tools (Game Maker, RPG Maker)…
    • Will write game in C# using XNA Game Studio Express
    • Otherwise, all the same assignments as CS 80K
  • CS 20 has one extra lecture per week
    • Tuesday, 8:30-9:40AM, PSB 110
    • Covers C#, XNA
  • Students who have a strong programming background should consider CS 20 instead of CS 80K
    • Talk to me after class if interested
course people
Course People
  • Professor
    • Jim WhiteheadAssociate Professor, Computer Science
    • Office hours: Tuesday, 10:30am-12noon, or by appointment
  • Teaching Assistants
    • Gillian Smith, Anne Sullivan, Sheena Marquez, Ian Rickard
  • Readers/Tutors
    • Nate Emond, Amy Leek, Nic Kent, Chelsea Collins, Chris Ward, David Seagal, Alon Chanukov, TJ Reid, Trevor Prater, Chuck Chan
  • Take advantage of our expertise!
for next class
For next class
  • Read: Preface (pp. xii-xv), About This Book (pp. 1-9) of Rules of Play.
  • Read: Adventure as a Video Game: Adventure for the Atari 2600, Warren Robinett
  • Familiarize yourself with class website