Wednesday, April 21, 2010

EXP Podcast #74: Perspectives on Play

When playing games with others, the already-challenging task of learning the systems and rules is compounded by having to learn about the other players. Differences in techniques, skills, and expectations definitely keeps things lively, but what happens when problems arise? This week, inspired by Alex Martinez's article about how cute little Sackboy precipitated a big ugly fight between him and his wife, we look at what happens when players see things differently. We discuss how games approach the challenge of accommodating players of different skills, goals, and play philosophies while also touching on some of the ways players communicate with each other. As always, if you want to add your perspective, jump into the comments!

Some discussion starters:

- How much is a player's enjoyment impacted by their "gaming literacy" and how much is influenced by how they approach games generally? Are there certain games at which you are not skilled but still enjoy because of their dynamics?

- What games do a good job of accommodating both highly-experienced and minimally-experienced gamers? Do they do this through levelling the play field or by quickly and efficiently educating the newcomer?

- How can players reach an agreement about what they want to get out of a game?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 35 min 44 sec
- "Little Big Trouble," by Alex "Spaz" Martinez
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. I haven't read that article yet but I was wondering - is this really a conflict of experience levels? I had games with inexperienced partners who don't take a game seriously. They didn't think about what they were doing or simply messed around. This can be quite annoying. So I could imagine the same conflict with the sides reversed.

    But I am certainly too patronizing when I watch inexperienced players play.

    Btw, I doubt the Prince of Persia Doppelgaenger Boss was designed to cater to inexperienced players. It seems rather a reference to the first Prince of Persia. In the old 2D Prince of Persia you had to fight against your own shadow. The solution was not to fight him but to put away you sword and run into him. Also an unintuitive move but certainly a very cool puzzle.

  2. You guys should get your show listed on! They provide free streaming hosting of your most current episode, that is accessible via mobile devices such as the iPhone. I'll be subscribing via iTunes when I get home, but you should check out Stitcher. (I don't work for Stitcher, and this isn't an add or anything. I've been listing my podcast there for a few months now and I love the service.)

  3. @ Krystian

    True, non-serious players can be frustrating as well. But, if both players understand the rules that govern the game world, at least it doesn't seem as one player is taking advantage of the other's ignorance.

    @ Beers

    We will definitely look into it. Thanks for the suggestion and we are happy to have you as another listener!

  4. Ah, good memory about the original Prince of Persia Krystian.

    I agree that the fight probably wasn't meant to cater to those with less gaming experience, but it was designed in such a way that played on the instincts and fears of veteran players. Hanah didn't view jumping off a cliff as an intrinsically "bad" thing because she wasn't raised on Mario and was thus able to see right through the puzzle.

    On a somewhat related note, the more I think about that game the more impressed I am with it. I should probably buy it to make sure they make another...

    Hey Beers,

    Just wanted to echo Jorge's thoughts and thank you for stopping by!

  5. In my opinion, the very main objective of playing games is to have fun. But, it seems that’s not the case as nowadays games are becoming more and more competitive amongst gamers, and it kinds of creating the divide between the ‘hardcore’ gamers and the ‘casual’ gamers.

    For now, I’m going to share my first experience when venturing the world of Defence of the Ancients (aka DOTA). At that time, there
    was just Dota1, the days of custom World of Warcraft maps. How I got into this game is because of my friends’ persuasion. Having no friends other than them, I cannot afford to decline them, thus I gave in and joined them.

    When starting this game, I thought it is just a normal game where we can just stay cool, relax and supposedly have fun. My friends was kind
    and patient enough to tolerate my plays. I was naïve enough to believe a little practice is all I need. After playing a few rounds, it was then my friends finally can take it no more.

    I was wrong. In fact, each round of 40 minutes I played in my life was pure hell. Last hit properly! Weren’t you paying attention to the map!? Why would you go back into the fray?? My inability to multitask is a strain as I lead my friends to losing, and my friends flaming me isn’t that much of a help.

    “OMG why are you so bad at this?”, my one friend exclaimed. That is when I’ve had it and I quit playing with them. Because of my inexperience in the game, my friends treated me as though we’re not on the same league, although they didn’t really show it. Even though I quit playing Dota with them, I still occasionally play with bots. Still suck at that time.

    It was not after 2 years I decided to play Dota2, and give it a chance. To my surprise, I enjoyed the game I once hate after much, much
    practice and the effort I put in, also thanks to friends I made later who are really kind and is willingly to teach me. It is thanks to friends of the
    latter, I really enjoyed playing Dota2.

    Now thinking back, the problem is that my friends back then and I were moving at a different pace, and apparently there was no effort is done on either side. My friends aren’t that of helpful in teaching and say it is simply common sense, which that statement indirectly hurts me, a lot. On the other hand, I didn’t really done my homework and take the time to explore the gameplay that makes it interesting to my friends.

    The point I want to make is that, there is no accommodation for both highly-experienced and minimally-experienced gamers, unless there is effort done and empathy on both sides. Then that is when we can truly enjoy the game and have fun.