Exciting and Interesting Cool Things - Part 3

Why are casual games so popular? A very insightful blog post on Anyway Games outlines the true heart of "casual" in three basic principles that any game designer would do well to keep in mind: They offer a "complete experience" immediately, at any time, and consistently.
  • Immediately means you don't have to work up to the thrill. The thrill begins when you start the game.
  • At any time means the thrill doesn't come in spurts or need rebuilding after the game is paused.
  • Consistently means the thrill is there every time the game is turned on.
Read the full article.

Drum roll, please -

And now, for our feature presentation: The Princess Rescuing Application: Slides. This insightful presentation by Lost Garden's own Daniel Cook contrasts the way that princess-rescuing might be done as a typical software application, versus how it would be done as a game. As you may guess, Super Mario Bros. does a lot better than Microsoft Word when it comes to the business of saving princesses. What you might not immediately realize is that games can do much better than our usual applications even when it comes to more mundane matters, such as, say, word processing.

The key is in the learning curve, from novice to power user. Typical applications toss a confusing abundance of tools and options at new users, or simplify so much that no one can become an expert. Games on the other hand manage to ensure an enjoyable and reliable ride from utter noobness to l33t mastery. How do they do it? Learn the secrets of game-like application design, including Levels, Items, Inventory, and Quests. More inside! Download the slides.

And here's another Lost Garden article from early in the summer, asking that age-old question, What activities can be turned into games? As it turns out, almost any learnable skill can be turned into a game, if it meets the following criteria:
  1. Decomposable into simpler skills
  2. Skills can be nested
  3. Skills can be arranged in a smooth learning curve
  4. Skills are measurable
  5. Performance can be rewarded
  6. Skills are locally useful.
Daniel Cook examines these one by one. Read and be amazed! You will never look at a bathroom scale the same way again. Learn how to harness the power of games to "turn a commodity scale into one of the hottest consumer products of the year." All this and more can be yours, for the low, low price of one click.

"As more leisure games emerge that mediate and accelerate the acquisition of skills, there is going to be a economic incentive to spread the science and craft of game design far beyond our tiny game industry. Game design is not just about games. It is a transformational new product development technique that can turn historically commoditized activities into economic blockbusters."

Here's an interesting article. Do you ever wonder where people get the time to contribute to Wikipedia, post on their blogs every day or play games online? Well, according to Gin, Television, and Social Surplus they get the time from not watching TV (or, in my case, by not sleeping enough). If you add up all the hours of mental energy that are dissipated into the mind-sink of television, you will get a number close to "Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year." I don't know about you, but I'm happy to carve out a little slice from that cognitive surplus and deploy it towards something a bit more interactive, a bit more eye-opening, a bit more mind-changing, a bit more useful, perhaps. "People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share." Let's help them.

  • It seems like 3D in Flash just keeps getting more and more impressive. I can't say much for the content, but this little web experience has graphics and a presentation that I find amazing. Very stylish, very easy to use, and very well done within the limitations of Flash: The Eco Zoo.

For those of you who are willing to dig deep, this Motherload has buried the glittering jewels of addictive game design beneath its rough exterior. You want to know how to make a game addictive, how to ensnare your players in a devilish web of overlapping reward cycles until they have no choice but to do your bidding, even at two in the morning with a paper due the next day? Then perhaps you would do well to begin your study with Motherload. May only the worthy reap its precious secrets.

Oh yeah, in case you were wondering what I did all summer, here's your answer: Elmore City Dance Club. Ever wanted to diagram out an awesome dance step, and share it with all your friends? No? Well now you can, at the Elmore City Dance Club. I did all the Flash parts of the site, including this nifty embeddable widget. Behold!

...haterz want to be me, Soulja Boy, I'm the man, they be lookin' at my neck, sayin'

What? Why are you looking at me like that?