A talk I did at NYFA

I did a little talk at the New York Film Academy for a game design class a couple of weeks ago.  I liked how it came out, and so I decided to make it into a video.  It’s sort of a new way to approach my philosophy, and I hope I’ll be able to reach people who I hadn’t been able to reach before with it.  Enjoy!

  • Ideas that are actually game-changing.
    Specially about the decision making subject.

    Great talk!

  • keithburgun

    Thanks Dan!

  • alasta

    How did the people you were talking to respond to this? I felt like you were more clear in this than previous things.

  • keithburgun

    There weren’t a lot of people there, but the response was super-positive, actually. I do think I’m better at this kind of stuff in person, where, if at any moment I lose you you can make a confused face and I can respond.

  • alasta

    You said: “Go/chess is so simple you can explain the rules to go in 5 minutes”. I like this quote from SriK (DavidCaruso):


    “Also chess is not simple “rule-wise,” only the player’s moveset is simple (just like most 2D action games are very simple control-wise and the complexity comes from level and enemy design, whereas the complexity in chess comes from how the different pieces’ moves interact with each other, both of which are things not included in the basic “how to play” manual and therefore sometimes confuse people into saying these games are “simple.”)”

  • Karry

    I wasnt aware Mexico and Brazil made RPGs and boardgames. What are they ?

  • keithburgun

    Mexico and Brazil? Who said anything about those?

  • Curly

    If you add a goal to a fantasy simulation, like killing the Ender Dragon in Minecraft or the scenario modes of SimCity, you don’t end up with a puzzle. There are many alternative routes to those goals with no clearly correct solution. They’re systems of ambiguous decisions. But they don’t seem to be contests either, since there’s only one player and no score. Do you have some other meaning of contest in mind than competition between two or more players? Or do those systems somehow become contests even in the absence of a way to measure the relative performance of players? Or do they not fit into your hierarchy at all, and are they necessarily riven with internal contradictions as a result? Thanks.

  • keithburgun

    >If you add a goal to a fantasy simulation, like killing the Ender Dragon in Minecraft or the scenario modes of SimCity, you don’t end up with a puzzle

    That’s because, if you look closely at those situations you described, you’ve added a lot more than just a goal. You’ve also added decision-making and competition (best explained as a win and loss condition, which isn’t the same thing necessarily as a goal).

    Those things you described, including scenarios in SimCity, are games by my system, because they are contests of decision-making.

  • Joey Green

    I’ve read many game design books here recently to teach myself about game design and totally agree with you that creating interesting decisions for the player is key to good game design.

    I’m currently in grad school and studying cognitive science this semester. I’m curious if you’ve ever looked into how fields like Human Factors or Human Computer Interaction approach decision making from a cognition perspective. I ask because I’m currently looking into this and find there is great information from cognitive science that could be useful for a game designer.

    1)How people make decisions?
    2)How people store rules?
    3)Just a comment, but problem solving always comes before rules are stored in memory. So problem solving is a player in decision making.

    Just wanted to chime in here on your blog, since it seems we are searching for the same type of information and wanted to give you a heads up that there’s a lot in cognitive psychology/science that could help form some of your opinions about game design.

  • Dasick

    I think Minecraft makes a good example of the need for your theory. Even though it is a Toy through and through, Notch added the Ender Dragon and a whole bunch of other stuff so that it can feel more like a proper game.

    Which, considering the nature and audience of Minecraft, is very bad design, since you’re loosing focus.

  • Dasick

    Good video. It sums nicely sums up your theory, and it’s a good way to introduce people to your ideas and other writings.

    I think that people reacted mostly positively to this presentation because it is far less “hostile” than what you normally write on your blogs. You also spent about 15 minutes (cumulative) on how you’re not discrediting software that doesn’t fit into your definition of game and how you can use a different word altogether 😛

    Speaking of words, if you want to make your ideas even more accessible, or if people are still getting overly defensive, try using the following definitions:

    Toy – Play-oriented game
    Puzzle – Completion-oriented game
    Contest – Performance-oriented game
    Game – Decision-oriented game

  • Agreed to a point Dasick. But, as a counter-point, there must be some point where you say, “Look no one is forcing you to listen to this. I’m talking about how I use these words, and if you get upset about it you should go soak your head.” One can be too apologetic about a viewpoint, especially when you often term it a “personal philosophy.”
    If someone wants to get all in a huff because you say “Minecraft isn’t a game” let them. That is not the kind of person who is going to be thinking clearly about game design, no matter how diplomatic you are.

    Using long convoluted terms to describe well used concepts is ridiculous. The point of language is to condense experience into transmissible chunks, not to be inoffensive. I think the Toy, Puzzle, Contest, Game progression (as defined above) works really well, and needs no apologies.

  • keithburgun

    Thanks Paul. I think you’re right, and will be taking this advice to heart in the future.

  • Dasick

    To be honest, I think that having to tip-toe like this is complete and utter… annoyance. Keith wrote in his book that even though he is presenting his opinions in a factual manner, the reader shouldn’t need encouragement to question what she reads. Agreed 100% but the problem is that the statement *needed* to be said.

    Personally, I believe that opinions that are really worth something are developed in a conflict, where both parties have something they believe in and try to argue and convince each other, and the both walk away with a different, but stronger truth.

    However, a lot of flack Keith is catching is completely due to presentation, and assumptions of malicious intent. If you can get people to accept or discuss the relevant concept, then it doesn’t actually matter if you call it a game, or a kgame, or a strategy game, or a tactics game, or a rogue-like, or a globule or whatever.

    I do think this is also a cultural thing. Like, apparently “Emotional Intelligence” or “Emotional Quotient” is a thing they started to test in workplace environments here in Canada, to determine how inoffensive you can get without becoming completely and utterly inefficient and useless. And everything being said, it *really* sucks (especially for conflict-minded, super-aggressive, incredibly handsome, manly macho men like me 🙂 ), but it’s outside the scope of game design and it’s part of a bigger cultural thing.