Creativity in Games

I’ve decided to write a post reflecting on the weekly seminars I’ve participated in throughout my module and the first post will be in response the session on creativity in games.

A number of ideas have been presented about what constitutes a creative experience in games. Any such review of game theory might be remiss without at least an acknowledgement of the work on Flow Theory originally proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi http://Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Collins. Chicago.. I’m also mindful of the work on Self-Determination theory by E.L. Deci and R.M. Ryan, particularly as it pertains to behaviour and engagement within games.  http://Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum.

There are multiple facets to consider. We briefly discussed a systemic perspective on games, particularly with regards to the use of industrial systems and grind mechanics. We covered fear and tension in games and examined whether they are fun and/or cathartic. We also looked at Narrative in games and I feel an acknowledgement of the ludic narrative of the player is an especially important factor in examining gameplay experiences.

In response, I’m prompted to ask a question I’ve long considered as being quite key to creating games: Do they have to be recreational artifacts? Can they in fact offer outcomes other than ‘fun’, such as learning, health and well-being. One particular complication involves that of personal taste. Simply put, no two people are alike, their tastes can wildly differ and they can even change on an internal, intrinsic basis, moment to moment. This makes designing a user-centered experience particularly troublesome (although in my opinion, no less worthwhile) endeavour.

The session also looked at whether fun can be delayed and whether delayed gratification is either comparable or desirable to an immediate reward. Such a notion does in fact challenge the somewhat controversial work on Operant Conditioning undertaken by B.F. Skinner http://Skinner, B. F. (1963). Operant behavior. American Psychologist, 18(8), 503. .

It also raises the question of how you challenge individuals. Perhaps games can be about choices or decisions, rather than fun? Perhaps there may be a serious application, as I mentioned above. Perhaps they can be about tackling real world problems, such as illness, learning or conflict?

We also discussed taboo subjects, the central learning pillar being about how to handle controversial or even potentially offensive topics with care and respect.

My main take-away’s from this session were to think about a broader definition of a game. To think of the audience, its purpose, the specific experience or experiences it is designed to engender and prompted me to reflect on practical ways to tackle a long-held notion I’ve yet to respond to; Can games act as Panacea? I.e. can they meet a real or perceived need and how can we define that need and still judge the successes and shortcomings of a particular game on that basis. I will continue to reflect on this notion throughout the module.

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