Salen & Zimmerman (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (Ch. 3, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13)

Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2003). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. The MIT Press.

Chapter 3
The goal of successful game design is the creation of meaningful play.

Play is situated within the game but play doesn’t come from the game itself but from the way the players interact w the game in order to play it. Meaningful play emerges from the interaction btw players and the system of the game, as well as from the context in which the game is played.

Playing means making choices and taking actions. The designer should try and make the choices as meaningful as possible.

Two notions of meaningful play:
1) descriptive – meaningful play resides in relationship btw action and outcome;
2) evaluative – when those relationships are both discernible and integrated into the larger context of the game.

Players must be able to discern whether or not a choice lead them closer or farther from winning. Must know the consequences of one’s actions — this requires the player knowing the meaning of each action. Actions have consequences that are woven throughout the game (a great example of this is Go).

Chapter 7
Lusory attitude – the peculiar state of mind of game players

“A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome” (p. 80).

Chapter 8
What can digital technology do? Traits of most digital games:
Immediate but narrow interactivity
Information manipulation. Karen Sideman points out that with digital games, part of the play is discovering the rules (contrast w board games).
Automated complex systems. Innerworkings hidden (what Dunnigan calls the ‘black box syndrome’ of computer games)
Networked communication

Chapter 9
The Magic Circle – defined as a special place in time and space created by a game. Separate from, but still references the real world.

Lusory attitude – allows players to “adopt rules which require one to employ worse rather than better means for reaching an end” (cited from Bernard Suits).

“From somewhere in the gap between action and outcome, in the friction between frustrated desire and the seductive goal of a game, bubbles up the unique enjoyment of game play” (p. 98).

One should design structures that can create and support the magic circle, as well as qualities that affect the lusory attitude and the possibility of meaningful play.

At the heart of games are rules, the space of games framed as formal systems.

Chapter 11
“Rules are the logical underbelly beneath the experiential surface of any games” (p. 120). The formal system of a game, the game considered as a set of rules, is not the experience of the game. When looking at games from the point of view of rules, we are less concerned w player experience than w the rules constituting the experience. Rules are the ‘formal identity’ of a game” (p. 121).

Characteristics of game rules
limit player action
explicit and unambiguous
shared by all players
fixed (do not change)
repeatable & portable

Chapter 12
Three levels of rules:
Operational – rules of play, essentially
Constituative – underlying formal structures; logical & mathematical in nature
Implicit – unwritten rules. Concern etiquette, good sportsmanship, etc.

The identity of a game emerges from the interaction btw operational and constituative sets of rules.

All three levels work in concert to generate the formal meaning of a game.

Elegant rules allow the player to focus on the experience of play rather than the logic of the rules.

Chapter 13
In digital games, the game rules regulate game logic, player action and outcome, scoring system, structural arrangement of the game space, etc. — the formal structure of the game.

Operational rules for digital games include the use of input devices, certain external or representational event that impact player interactivity and formal game events.


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