Greg Costikyan: I Have No Words & I Must Design

What I enjoy about this article is its objective: to provide game designer with tools to analyze games. This is not a minor attempt from someone from the industry. Academics love analyzing games but industry articles are almost always a recipe. Here Costikyan is making a call to game designers and to the game industry for a “critical language”.

All sciences come across with the need of a critical language. It usefulness relies on the refinement of the understanding of the object of study, and a consensual vocabulary.

However, if the article successfully achieves such high goal is another story 🙂

For instance, he starts by defining game, and what is not game. He establishes that game is not puzzle. But rather than not a puzzle, is the “static” characteristic of them the opposite of games. He agrees that almost all games have a puzzle-solving component. It’s the interactivity and state changes what define a game for Costikyan.

He is overexcited about game is not a story. I believe that is due to what was happening back in 1994 when he wrote the article. Interactive narrative was trendy. I don’t think he denies the narrative aspect of games, he overemphasizes that an interactive narrative is not a game just for being interactive. This is not the only part outdated, it is pointed out computer games as solitaire, no social activity. Although he mentioned the possibilities of network games, and its socializing aspect. This last envision is what we now recognized as MMO.

There is a section about information and how it should be displayed by the interface in order to give to the player the information he needs and too much. Raph Koster also talks about information and how getting information is part of playing a game. He considers that getting information outside the game, such as reading walkthoughs is a way of cheating.

  1. Kaige says:

    Costikyan is always a good read. Raph Koster too. (btw, there’s no L in his name).

    Have you read Costikyan’s newer manifesto stuff?

  2. Typo fixed! Thanks!

    Yeah, the intention of Manifesto is laudable. However, there is a new site of the same team, Play This Thing, kind of the same thing. Manifesto is more community spirit, whereas Play This Thing is more indie store window. Supporting independent developers is like helping game development to inhale oxygen. Playing them too 🙂

  1. […] 22, 2008 Doug Church makes the same claim Costikyan did five years before him, but he goes further. Both of them are concerned about the need of a […]

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