SUPERBUTTONKOALAPARTY

We’re co-throwing a big party in Hilversum, Holland next week, as a part of the DiGRA conference!

There will lots of music and games, including a live performance by legendary turntablist/illustrator Kid Koala. Awesome! And we’ll be exhibiting five of our own party games, including a public debut of two new games – Egg Party and Pillow Time.

More info here.

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Dark Room Sex Game at ITP

Last September, we rolled through New York City to throw our Brutally Unfair Game Bash at Babycastles. While I was in town, I stopped by ITP (Tisch School of the Arts, NYU) to give a talk to a “Games-Art” class co-taught by my friend Zach Gage.

The talk was about abusive game design, so of course I had to do the obligatory live demo of Dark Room Sex Game. Apparently, somebody caught the moment on video. Enjoy!

On GIRP, Birds, and Abusive Game Design

Here at the office, we’ve been obsessed with GIRP, a brilliant new online game by Bennett Foddy.

And fuck! After 34 minutes of careful keyboard calisthenics, I was finally grabbing for my prize – the very last ledge – only to have the fucking bird beat me to it. Thing is, I think I might be as amused as I am frustrated.

My colleague Lau, by contrast, is quite the GIRP prodigy, and can beat the game in ~20 minutes. Geez, I have my work cut out for me.

Despite my epic defeat, GIRP has quickly become one of my all-time favorite web games. And until something better comes along, it’s my pick for Game of 2011. I love how the visceral physics of the death-defying climb are closely paralleled by my own struggle to keep my sweaty fingers on the keyboard. As Foddy himself observes, “You have to grip the keyboard just like you would cling to the cliff.”

Many of us have experienced the so-called Tetris effect, where thoughts of the game start pervading our thoughts and dreams, as if our brain was still running the game. Well, no joke, I’ve started to experience the “GIRP effect” – when I close my eyes, I start thinking about and feeling the physics of swinging from ledge to ledge. My brain just can’t put the game down.

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On Self-Effacing Games and Unachievements

What is unfair if unfair is totally OK?

Right before GDC, some of my theoretical research on B.U.T.T.O.N. got published in a special issue of Game Studies (an online journal for computer games research). The name of the article is “Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now: On Self-Effacing Games and Unachievements.”

You can read it here.

Here’s an excerpt:

It can be deeply empowering, and even uproariously fun, to improvise and bicker over rules. By taking a more skeptical, confrontational stance towards the technologies with which we design, we might open up a fertile ground of underexplored design possibilities – hybrid forms where digital games are not so readily distinguishable from their non-digital predecessors. Drawing from the wisdom of folk games and children’s play, games like B.U.T.T.O.N. remind us that modifying and making rules is sometimes the most enjoyable game of them all – especially when done together.

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Gamasutra interview with Doug

Last month, I did a long interview with Leigh Alexander for Gamasutra. We talked about the collective, abusive game design, B.U.T.T.O.N., broken games, and more. Read it here.

Here’s an excerpt:

At its best, abusive game design can create a kind of playful meta-game — a battle of wits and willpower between designer and player. The kind of abusive game design that interests me most is “dialogic,” in that it facilitates a back-and-forth — maybe not a literal back-and-forth, but something that feels like it, as if you and the designer were “in each other’s heads,” so to speak. [...] Thus, counter-intuitively, I think abusive game design can help humanize gameplay. It confronts the conventional and reminds us that play is something deeply personal.

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The craziest soccer match ever played

It’s been a quiet week for Copenhagen Game Collective. The whole gang has been away at Roskilde Festival – everyone but me and Bernie, that is.

To fill the time, we’ve been watching the World Cup. Yes, this year’s tournament has been full of drama. But even this World Cup can’t compare to this insane story, about a 1994 match between Barbados and Grenada. Some footage here:

There’s a lesson here for game designers: a game system might sound good on paper, but remember to carefully think through what kind of nutty game theoretical incentives might emerge from it.

The World Cup, of course, learned this the hard way from the infamous 1982 West Germany v Austria match, in which the two teams colluded to let Germany win. After this incident, the tournament was changed so that the final pair of matches within each group are now played simultaneously.

More recently, at Euro 2004, Denmark and Sweden were accused of intentionally tying in order to ensure that both Scandinavian teams would advance, at the expense of Italy. This scenario is sometimes used to justify why FIFA, unlike UEFA, prioritizes “goal difference” over “head-to-head play” in its tie break criteria. But as the Wikipedia page on match fixing cogently argues, there’s no one perfectly satisfactory solution to these issues. These are problems that no technology, e.g. instant replay, can “solve.”

My adviser, TL Taylor, gave an excellent paper at DiGRA 2009 on this same topic, as it relates to e-sports. She argues that even through the computer game “handles” the rules through code, there will always be objections to and negotiations around the way the participants play. “Technology” is not a panacea.

An interesting example from this year’s World Cup is Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and his intentional handball against Ghana. Ghana went on to miss the penalty kick, and ended up losing the game. Call Suarez a cheater if you want, but his infraction was completely rational. He quite literally won the game for his team. Still, the handball feels especially cheap because it robbed Africa of its first-ever berth into the World Cup semifinals.

I’ve heard one good suggestion for a rule change: some commentators argue that this kind of clearly intentional handball should result in an automatic goal, rather than a PK. There is certainly precedent behind this suggestion, e.g. goal-tending in professional basketball leads to an automatic basket. But how does one define “clearly intentional”? The suggestion is a good one, but it certainly doesn’t “fix” the problem entirely.

Again: there is no such thing as a perfect rule-set or system. The job of a game designer is tough!

Update: Check out this New York Times article about Suarez’ handball. Apparently, Suarez is now boasting that he has the “Hand of God,” not Maradona. The nerve!

Grubby in Copenhagen

WarCraft III star Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen was recently here in Copenhagen for a day-long workshop on e-sports. He spoke on a great panel about pro gaming, along with Ryan Hart and Jonas “bsl” Vikan (Street Fighter and Counter-Strike pros, respectively).

You can watch it here:

The event was organized by my research group here at IT University of Copenhagen. The workshop was the “sequel” to a similar event that was hosted at Stanford last year.

It was exciting to see Grubby in person. I was even able to briefly chat with him afterward. He’s not only very articulate, but also very amicable!

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