More on the Gamer Personality Survey

Okay, so far some interesting  information is emerging from the gamer personality survey here.

My categories still need  some honing but seeing a lot of overlap in certain areas– for instance as expected, the people who come from Shamus’ site (Shamus regular readers) tend to be similar to him in their  reasons for playing games in general.   This was expected.  A lot more Story/Aesthetics players than I would expect if I  went to the EA games or XBox Live forums and asked them to choose.

The following are the  characteristics that need renamed or broken up based on where I am seeing confusion over terms.  Down the line I want to add higher level categories that combines the more detailed ones so they can be grouped by type.  For right now I am just trying to figure out phrasing and types and make sure I am not missing any.  Also eventually I want all the characteristic titles to line up so you could use them interchangeably in a sentence and have them make sense; i.e. “I play for____ “or “I am a ____ player” or “I love to____”.

I think Goal needs to be divided into designer created goals and personal goals .  Also Goal needs agame breaking added to the explanation because game breaking is a type of internal motivation.

I think Comfort needs to be divided into Nostalgia and Comfort.

Achievement needs a better explanation.  For instance grades in school are achievement based.  So is being on the honor role.  I need to clarify that and make it clear that it is different from goals.  (For example– grades and honor role did nothing for me in school but I made it a goal to read all of the books in the young adult section of our library in a summer and did.)  Maybe just focus on Achievement and Goal with Goal being personal motivation and Acheivement being  the arbitrary?  Not sure about that.) And all of these would be lumped under motivation.  Maybe intrinsic motivation vs external?

I need to rephrase and divide Reflex into Brain related and Physical– probably go with Chris’ Kinesthetic plus something tho imply brain tickling of some sort.  Need to think on that some more.   (Suggestions welcome.)

Explore needs a  better explanation that includes not just exploring a world but also exploring all the possibilities.

Risk needs clarified (and I think rephrased.)  All risk involves some form of gambling (taking a gamble that you won’t fail against some random event) however there are varying levels of risk.  Some people want none at all (i.e. turn off all random events if possible.)  Some prefer a little bit, others prefer full out gambling.

Optimization needs clarifying.  Optimization is almost a subset of goal but is important enough to be on the same tier.  Makes me wonder if Goal needs to be a higher tier description of a group of these, not sure.)  Optimization would include trying to perfect the game play, trying to fill your box in minecraft perfectly, replaying to find all the best solutions, etc.

So that is where I am right now and what I am considering.  Input welcome.  I also plan on going back and recording the results so far so I can see the patterns emerge better.  I need to simplify and clarify the characteristics so far,  read back through the comments I have already and garner more once I have clarified things.  Down the road I want to have a hierarchy if I can see the pattern, and possibly come up with questions to help a gamer decide which elements are key (if the person is the sort who doesn’t naturally analyze things.)

Regardless I think it is a healthy conversation to have and ponder since it reminds all involved that we are all in gaming for a variety of reasons and just because Joe Schmoe next door  doesn’t think story is important doesn’t mean his reason for playing is any less valid.

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A Gamer Survey for YOU

I am taking a survey of sorts based on something Shamus and I have been discussing off and on for years and now more recently thanks to James Portnow’s panel “The Genre Divide” at PAX East this year.

Shamus and I have spent a lot of time talking about gamer personality and why people play games.  Each individual plays games for a variety of reasons and plays different games for different reasons.  What I am trying to come up with is a basic list of reasons people play games (video and unplugged).

Mr. Portnow had a decent list of about 12 reasons which had been developed by a group of academics.  I don’t have that list because: a. I forgot to write it down, b.we had to leave early to get to another panel, c. the panel is not available online, and d. I can’t find the paper the list came from. Feasibly I could contact Mr. Portnow and ask but instead I would like to continue with the list that Shamus and I already have combined with what we can put together here with your help (and your friends– this  is where you get to ask others to come here and respond.)  This way I can clarify my list and make it more dynamic and possibly even useful (which is my goal.)

Here is the list so far (no game names because everyone plays for different reasons.  Instead, I want to focus on why you play a specific game.  Instead of thinking about what type of game it is think about why YOU play it.  Most people play for fun.  My question is: what makes it fun for you?):

Escape: Pretending to be someone else or getting to place yourself in a world or situation you couldn’t do in real life.  You see this a lot in dating sims or games where you get to be a fantasy creature or live in a fantasy world.  This could also apply to any time your character is in a situation you personally couldn’t be in and which you put yourself into personally.

Story: Treating a game as an interactive story to be worked through rather than just something to read or watch like a movie or book.  This includes people who love using a walk thru so they can just go through the game or even those who enjoy watching a game over someone else’s shoulder.

Goal: The urge to beat a specific challenge or set goals and overcome them.  This can be the arbitrary ones set by the game designers or ones set by the individual. Arbitrary goals set by designers could include saving the princess or collecting all the stars.  Personal goals could be deciding to beat all the levels in a game with the top score or getting all the power ups.  This also includes people who set out to “break the game”.

God Complex: The urge to create something– applies to sandbox games as well as simulation type games but also to any game that lets you play god.  Sandbox games are good for this but also simulation games.

Aesthetics: This can include sound effects, visuals, anything you sense or which spawns a specific feeling.  Some people adore horror for the feeling it creates, others adore highly stylized art and music, still others prefer lifelike imagery and the more realistic or movie like the better.

Comfort: Some just like the same old and don’t like new things.  Others want to relive an old favorite for the sake of the feeling it gives us.  Going back to replay  favorite games or levels or  finding a game similar to a loved game.  This includes nostalgia playing, playing sequels (if you are playing for that same old feeling and not for continued story), or going back to a game when you are feeling a certain way because it comforts you.

Achievement: Some people play not just for goals or overcoming a challenge but specifically for a feeling of achievement.  Often this is the person who loves a specific type of game because that is what they are good at.  It also includes those who just want to unlock all the achievements because it makes them feel good.  People who do 4square fall into this category. 🙂

Reflex:  Any games that makes you work either physically or mentally, they tickle the brain or  get your body moving.  Puzzle games fall in this but so do fighting games and Wii and Kinnect games that make you move. These people play certain types of puzzle games in order to get their brain working a certain way or certain exercise games to get their body moving.

Explore: The ability to see and do new things, to open up new sections of a map or new levels.  This is the urge to see what comes next and what can I find.

Compete: Playing against others (or against the computer).  These are usually the people who love PvP but occasionally you will find someone who just loves beating the computer.  Sports games fall into this one as well.

Social (now broken into Social and Bonding): Playing for social interaction (and I would say this too could include npcs) .  Includes those who play MMO’s to be with their friends, those who play social games and want you to be their neighbor or are constantly sending requests.

Bonding: Playing in order to be close to someone.  This would include playing online with people you know or playing  on a couch side by side, and group play– one person controlling and the other helping make decisions.

Risk: This can take the form of gambling but also any time the player just enjoys the randomness of a situation or game.  This sort of game play includes most card games like solitaire, any gambling type game, any grab bag events in game.

Added the following:

Zen: Playing in order to get in the zone.  Usually involves playing something  that you have no real goal, you just want to play and do and not think.  Often the game play can be a background noise to other things going on in the room.

Self-expression: This would include people who spend more time with the character design than the actual game as well as people who behave in deliberate ways within the game in order to express themselves.  Also would include those who  always design characters that  think and do the same way they think and do.

 Craft: Playing in order  to keep up on some element of a game.  This includes playing a game  in order to be able to talk about said game with others in a coherent manner and people who produce content, whether writing, art, videos, or games themselves, playing in order to keep up on what is out there.

Optimization: Playing for the urge to organize or find the best path or solution to any given problem.  This includes micromanagement.

Empowerment: Playing in order to be the strongest or kill or whatever said game allows.  Mindless vilence fall sinto this category.

Novelty: Playing something because it is new whether just a new game or a new experience.

Fandom: Playing a game because you like the same content from another medium.  This would include video games of card games, pen and paper games, books, movies.

*Most people play for many reasons.  For the most part there are usually 3-4 primary reasons and 3 secondary and then elements that are “meh” or even disliked or hated.  What I am looking for is  why individuals think they play in order to look for patterns (which I am already noticing).  And lots of words is understandable– we are analyzing WHY.

Now my questions to you:

Why do YOU play?  

Which elements do you not like (had hate but apparently that is too strong for you all. :))?  

Are there any reasons to play I am missing?  

Anything you would rephrase or add to?

There are several elements that could be divided into two– if so what would you call them?

Real Women Wear Armor

A dear friend of mine (who is geekily awesome despite her hair tossing, unassuming wallflower persona ;)) Cat sent me this comic and website this morning. The comic is hilarious (well it is to me though it might also be my precaffiene inability to think straight doing the laughing). The site, Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor: ladies that actually dress for dealing damage is beyond awesome. It makes me want to get my art on and start doing female characters dressed to suit. Sadly I have 4 boys and a half-orc to draw and paint before I can get anywhere near such a project so instead I will spend my spare time perusing this awesome tumbler site.

The artist behind this is Grace Vibbert (aka Milesent)

Gamification and Education

There has been quite a bit of talk in the last year about gamification (a word I hate — it sounds cheesy, manipulative, and underhanded.)  Last weekend at PAX East I got a chance to enjoy James Portnow’s panel on Gaming and Education (Educating Through Play:  The Future of American Education).  As a former elementary and special education teacher turned unschooling facilitator (not only for my own children but for 500 + families via a Facebook group not to mention a well read unschooling website I own) I find the whole topic fascinating.  This is especially true since I spend several hours a week explaining to nervous parents that games aren’t evil and in fact are a wonderful natural way for children to learn.

Games give the child a natural reason to learn and develop the basics like reading, writing, and arithmetic.  But games also provide a natural way to develop higher level skills like problem solving and trigger deeper interests and thought processes.  At least once  a week I explain how my own children have learned all the subjects that schools insist must be force fed naturally through playing games of all sorts, including the dreaded video games.  It is a subject close to my heart to say the least and I am anxiously awaiting the panel to be uploaded so I can share it.

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Es working through all the information on the dinosaur display at the local science museum.

Back to gamification.  Two of the panelists were using games and gaming as a means to facilitate natural learning through interest, which is awesome.  The other was gamifying college.  Now her explanation was fine and interesting and its great that it worked for them.  However, this is the bit that bugs me: school is already gamified.    In fact school even uses the same vocabulary as gaming (or visa versa since schools were around before video games):  achievements, levels, metrics, tests, pass, goals.  Grades and grade levels are in fact school gamified– grades are an arbitrary set of goals established by the designers (in this case usually the writers of the curriculum  though occasionally they are set by the teachers or administrators depending on the school system).  Grades naturally motivate a certain subset of students who are drawn to that particular sort of game.  On the other hand, grades do not motivate those of us who prefer setting our own goals or who see through it all as a game created by people who are trying to “trick us” into learning things they think we need.

One of my beefs with school was that I felt manipulated by the arbitrary rules, star charts, and grading.  It was all a game and it didn’t matter because I prefer, even in playing video games, to set my OWN goals based on my current interests.  I like to look at the possible goals to choose from and work towards a specific goal completely and totally until I reach it and then move on to another goal.  (This drives my kids crazy.  For instance just yesterday I finished a goal I had set in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. It was an arbitrary goal but it was the one I chose to work towards at this time in the game– I could have instead been working towards getting any of the many other possible goals, but this was the one I chose at this time.. )

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Shamus and Issac watching a cut scene in a video game together.

Unlike video games, where I can choose whether I want to play towards the goal of moving to the next level or finding out how badly I can fail, school insists that all members be working toward the same goal– basically playing the same game in the same way at the same speed.  It doesn’t make sense.  Sure there are certain types of jobs out there where you need people who work the way the school system does but honestly most jobs nowadays require you to be intrinsically motivated rather than motivated by arbitrary things like star charts or grades.  The thing about life is that, just like choosing the  games you play based on what you are good at and what you hate, you can choose which direction your career takes you.  Frankly, unlike school where the “game” is already in place and you have to join whether you choose or not, life is full of goals you can choose for yourself, and we need to be prepared to make decisions and know ourselves well enough to choose wisely.  By gamifying school  we are just adding to the problem of kids getting all the way through and not knowing themselves and who they are well enough to make decisions for their future.

Instead of gamifying school even more, and adding even more arbitrary goals let’s focus on helping each child move in the direction they particularly need to go, based on their interests and natural skills.

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Rach and Es trying to work through a specific song together perfectly (as "twins" in Dance Dance Revolution).

Having been in the school system and seeing the many different sets of goals I can say, yes, the goals are arbitrary and all depend on who is making them.  There is no one skill set that all children will need since each person is an individual.  We all have different things we are good at.  As we grow up we will all go in directions that naturally utilize our known skill sets.  You wouldn’t expect a fish to be excellent at climbing a tree.  You would never expect a fish to even attempt it.  So why expect a child who is naturally excellent at sports and other physical activities to spend their entire day sitting in a classroom and missing recess because they didn’t sit still long enough to finish a math page?  Meanwhile, if you asked that child to figure out those same numbers in regards to their favorite sports team they could answer in seconds.

By allowing children to pursue their actual interests and play games; whether pretend, board, card, video games, whatever– kids naturally gravitate towards games they are good at and therefore find fun, we allow them to grow and learn the way they learn and grow best.  This allows them to gradually  move into the areas and subjects they find more challenging without fear.

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Issac and friend playing Super Mario Galaxy together.

For example: My kids love that I play video games and that when I am playing I research the ways to solve the problems, set goals for myself, and often get them involved in the research.  For games like Harvest Moon we print up charts and organize information in order to better play the game and not waste time (I am a walkthru player– I play mostly for the story and to set my own goals within a story). Yesterday my oldest was helping me figure out  how best to work through the next part of the game which requires a lot of farming.  She spent 20 minutes figuring out which would be the best crop, how much area I would need to plant, how much money it would cost to buy the seeds plus the fertilizer, and how much money I would make in a month by shipping out whatever was produced each day (some crops are every 2 days, some every 3, some every 4) in order to reach the next goal and then wrote it all down for me so I would know when I was ready to move to the next season.  I didn’t ask her to do it, I just asked which seeds would be best to use (info the walkthru already had available.)

She is 14 and if I had asked her to do that same amount of math on a worksheet there would have been much misery.  She hasn’t done a worksheet since she was 8 and other than occasional discussion about how to figure something out based on real life experience– like baking, shopping, coupons, etc. she has no experience with math as recognized by kids in public school.  However, she was able to figure out each aspect correctly, quickly, and in her head and put all the information into simple coherent notation so I would know when I needed the information.  She solved it because she wanted to and was interested.  She knew it wasn’t even information I was interested in yet but that I might want it eventually and she decided that she wanted to figure it out.

Carnegie Science Center

Es playing a video game at the local science center-- note that she is the only female there, and yes, she won the game.

We have many similar stories since that is how my kids have learned– by doing what they love and gradually learning to do the things they find hard because they want to do what they love. (For those who are sure this is a special case; all three have learned math, science, history, spelling, reading, writing, geography, etc and all into the deeper higher level high school and college subjects, all out of natural curiosity, through video games, board games,  tv/movies, and even occasionally books.  In fact, my husband and I have also delved deeper thanks to media and our kids’ interests.)

So, instead of gamifying school even more– which it is with its grades and levels, achievements and star charts, and divisions based on age and ability, it is better to allow each child to play and grow in the areas they already excel, doing the things they are good at, and in doing so allowing them to approach the things that are outside their comfort zone naturally.  And no, I don’t have an answer for public schools except maybe to look at the model for Sudbury schools or at least to allow for differences and focus on the skills the kids have instead of on those they don’t — there is a reason we unschool and that I encourage those who can to do so.

Another Website?!?!?!

On the way home from PAX East yesterday, Mr. Awesome-pants and I were discussing why I wanted to start a blog specifically about gaming.  I have had an awful lot of blogs over the years (currently have 5 aside from this).  The biggest question was what I would write about, and why.  I have a lot I want to talk about but mostly it comes down to these four reasons:

  1. I want to have a place to rave or rant about games I love or hate.  My current sites are not good places for that– it would completely confuse or even alienate a lot of my current readers who are definitely not gamers.  At best they would smile and nod and then wait for me to get on with blogging about my normal stuff.
  2. I want to add my female voice to what is still a mostly male dominated area so that when my girly geeklings grow up it will be easier for them to have a voice.  This is especially important to me after meeting Susan Arendt (Shamus’ awesome editor at the Escapist) and realizing just how few over 25 female gamers are out there (and me in my mid-30’s).  Most of the girl gamers out there are chicks in the child sense of the word and I want to pave the way for them even if it just means adding my voice to the few.
  3. I want to legitimize myself as a girl gamer.  Way too often the term “gamer” is associated only with those who prefer certain genre of games– say first person shooters or keeping up with the latest from Bethesda, Rockstar, or WoW or whatever an individual feels makes them a hardcore gamer.  I love puzzle games (current obsession: Professor Layton and the Unwound Future) and have wasted entire days on Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon (my daughter picked up an old Gamecube version of Harvest Moon yesterday and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.)  I am done apologizing for considering myself a gamer because I spent an entire weekend trying to beat World of Goo (which I did btw) and am currently obsessed with Walk It Out (willingly walking 3 miles just to fill in an area– yeah, that IS gaming.)
  4. Finally I want to have a place to go on about my specific passion when it comes to non-movie/tv entertainment media which includes but is not limited to games and books–the art and story, but especially the art.

As you may have guessed, the final reason is why the blog is called game-story-art.   I am not great at creative titles and wanted to get the point across quickly.  I am passionate about books and games (video, card, board, pen and paper– you name it) and I am doubly passionate about the need for excellent art and story to make these work.  Sure you can have a game that is driven solely by the mechanics of said game– chess, checkers, tic-tac-toe and on the other end of the spectrum poker, war, and plain old dice but those are not nearly as compelling as D&D, Magic: The Gathering, and The Longest Journey.  A game can have wonderful game mechanics but if the illustration style sucks you lost me.  On the other hand you can have a potentially amazing game, like Starship Titanic , and despite the shockingly horrific, crashing every 5 minutes bugs, deliberately finish the game because the art and story compel you (if someone wants to go ahead and make a patch for that game I would love you forever).  In general I would rather play an adorable game than one than one with the best game mechanics in the world.  I realize my husband Shamus Young disagrees with me slightly– to him game mechanics and intuitive play are quickly followed by story in importance, but he is a programmer and writer and I am an artist who loves to read.  The artist in me looks at a game cover and expects the story and game mechanics to fit the art. I like my games to be playable and have stopped playing games that were boring or just outright stupid (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles comes to mind) but most important is a visually compelling game with an interesting story to tell.  I will happily play a game using the strategy guide at every step in order to play a good story with great art (like Tales of Symphonia which I never could have gotten through without the strategy guide at my side.)

So here it is.  My own personal “write about games and books” space.  I have no idea how often it will be updated and make you no promises– a lot of that depends on how often I get close to a game or read a book. 🙂

D&D

Now to go convince Shamus that he NEEDS to finish his book so he can DM for us. My assasin is desperate for some action.