The Art of Game Design

Book by Jesse Schell. Great stuff, I can’t read it without hearing Jesse’s voice. He’s a great orator. I had already gone through quickly. It’s always good to re-read academic books years later. There are points though, that I think are changing quite dramatically.

On demographics

Jesse pins the 25-35 bracket as peak family formation, which is pretty far from what is going on these days. I’d say this is the bracket where people stop playing games because life is stressful as hell or it’s when they play 24/7 because life is stressful as hell.

That’s quite a change. the 35-50 bracket is the peak family formation now. But it is also a bracket that has other properties that it didn’t used to have, like a much higher number of single people or couples with no kids. It extends into the 50+ bracket. Those people want games that last, games with legs. Games you can come back to anytime without feeling left out. Games that are more about mechanics than stories because after over three decades on earth, if you consumed a decent amount of entertainment, you already have experienced most stories. Games that are almost more like adult toys than games.

On males and females

Jesse starts straight up by affirming that males and females are different. Man, do I disagree. The only thing that makes us different is appearance, a bit of extra muscles for men and a bit more fat for women. That’s it. We all love different things. Woman or man, it doesn’t matter. Some women adore competition, some men don’t give a damn. Sometimes it even depends on the time of the day. I might be very competitive at 10am but will just say “nah I’m good” at 930pm. Unless I’m on a dance floor. Shit varies.

On the physical front, women have been closing the  performance gap since they can train as much as men now. Tennis women serve as fast as men these days. This is really new. But it’s that simple. More similar training, closer physical performance.

I think it’s weird to claim “we’re different, duh” on the basis of what society has created, our old habits and traditions. If you take all of that away, humans are quite similar. That is, we’re diverse. Gender doesn’t really matter. I think it alleviates some designer pain: not thinking about women VS men when designing is liberating. But it requires more work: it’s harder to encompass a much bigger, mixed crowd. This is good for the future I think.

On architecture

Jesse writes “the human mind is very weak when it comes to translating 3D spaces into 2D maps.” I guess I’m pretty good at that. I can navigate and translate 3D to 2D and 2D to 3D in my head quite easily. I’m always one of the first in a group of people looking at a map in a mall to understand where to go. I never get lost. I can go somewhere once and remember how to go back years later. I navigate my future house in my head as I’m pleased. It’s cool! But how to monetize this though… I digress.

On audio

“audio can be incredibly powerful”. No, audio *is* powerful. It definitely is. It’s a physiological thing. Your eyes go to sleep, your ears are on 24/7. Ears and being able to listen and survive are deeply connected. Ears are wired in ASM and eyes are like some weird mix of shaders and C#, whatever. That’s why audio feedback is more visceral than visual feedback, and why we should spend a lot more time on audio than textures but anyway. As Jesse is saying, sound brings life to touch interfaces, making them a lot more enjoyable. The problem is battery life: yes, playing a sound on a speak every single time you touch a screen drains a battery like crazy. Nonetheless, audio y’all.

On curiosity

Jesse goes “in a sense, curiosity makes you “own” your learning”. That’s how I feel too. I’m curious as much as I can, wondering about many things. I think curiosity is something that you’re more or less born with but does the environment shapes us. I nurtured curiosity by growing up in the 80s and 90s, when you didn’t have a choice but wait for tiny bits of knowledge to come once a month, through a bunch of magazines.

Kids and teenagers today don’t know what’s like to be curious, they’re constantly overwhelmed. Not their fault, all of our screens are busy. They used to be black with a few white characters. Now new generations rarely know what’s good in owning/groking something, because they don’t even know the feeling. Abundance is a bitch.

The Art of Game Design.

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