Readings: Game Design

Read these two texts, check the referenced works, and try to explain how some of their principles apply (or not) to a game (or interactive artwork) you are familiar with.

Meaningful Play – by Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman

Towards Minimalist Game Design – various

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  1. ndesmorn

    There’s a game called the Impossible Game where the primary objective is to complete an obstacle course. The game takes a minimalistic approach by having only one action (jumping) and very few types of obstacles (spikes and platforms). Such simplicity enables interested players to immediately understand all the rules and start playing it. Since the only obstacles are spikes and platforms, the player might think that they could breeze through the whole game, since there are very few levels (5). However, they will soon learn that the sheer length of each level and the precise timing of some jumps needed makes the Impossible Game very difficult, as implied in the name. If you mess up once at any point of the course, you start at the beginning. The combined difficulty and simplicity of the game makes players want to keep trying again and again to achieve the goal: complete the course. The game even counts and displays how many attempts the player has gone through every time the player respawns at the start of the level. This kind of communication reflects the meaning of the title “Impossible” by showing how many times it has taken to reach as far as the player did. Often this number reaches in the hundreds. When the player finally beats the long difficult level, they feel awesome. After hundreds of frustrating attempts, relief would wash over them. The buildup of emotion to the final completion of the level is the defining feature of the Impossible Game. Such a feature is what makes completing the objective of the game have so much more incentive.

  2. Josh Archer

    “Meaningful Play” by Salen and Zimmerman, preposes that games deigned around a quantitative process of feedback between the gamer and the game itself, help to arrive at an experience with meaning for the gamer. Examples used in the article include Pong, and Chess, both games where the player interactions are constantly shaping the outcome of the game spontaneously. Within the rules of each game the gamer is also receiving essential feedback as to the function and importance of there actions. While both Pong and Chess are examples of games where this trade of information is fairly comprehensible, I believe that the definition preposed in Salen and Zimmerman’s article leaves room for meaningful play in games that have less obvious informative feedback.

    An example of this I believe is the game Exquisite Corps, where the main Idea of the game is to create, with out any collaboration, an entity composed of three separate parts by means of drawing. In this game situation no quantitative feedback is given until the very end when the creation is revealed to both players. This game creates meaningful play through the absence of feedback and thrives on the nebulous qualities of miscommunication, all to enhance the creative processes of which the game is about.

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