New Page for my System of Interactive Forms

Just a quick announcement, I’ve added a page that clearly explains what my system of interactive forms is and why it’s useful.  After years of working with it, I actually feel even more confident in it, although I have made some minor tweaks and have learned to explain it much better.

If you’ve read my book, you’ll notice that this is a much more detailed version of the same chart.  I’ve now added the “value” property to it, which I think helps illustrate why it’s generally a good guideline to hone in on one of these forms when approaching game design.


Let me know what you think and if you see any room for improvement or other explanation.

  • Guest

    This second post was redundant and can be removed. The Disqus system is not working the way I expected it. :/

  • Sure! Great suggestion, thanks.

  • Erenan

    IMO, your use of Fencing as an example for how this System of Forms might be used to identify, reduce, and remove internal conflicts between values might be a poor choice. To suggest that reducing the emphasis on execution in Fencing will improve it in terms of the value of Understanding specifically might technically be true, but I have serious doubts about whether this would actually improve fencing from the perspective of what it’s actually about. Within the scope of this system (as far as I understand what you’re saying), it may perhaps be better to guide it back outwards towards a pure “contest” rather than inwards towards “game.” However, I don’t really think that would be advisable in terms of what Fencing is really about as an activity in general without regard to whether it is or should be a game or merely a contest.

    I submit that it may potentially be dangerous to view these four groups as being ideal goals. In other words, Understanding and Measurement don’t necessarily conflict with one another in practice. It is often desirable for an activity to emphasize both values. Fencing is such a scenario, in my opinion.

    What would Fencing look like without any decision making? I guess you wouldn’t have to try to anticipate what your opponent will do and react appropriately. Instead, your actions would be predetermined, and it would be reduced to a contest measuring who has greater skill in performing those specific actions.

    On the other hand, what would Fencing be like if you attempted to reduce the amount of emphasis it places on measuring execution ability? It would be something like Rock, Paper, Scissors, I suppose (comparable to actual implementations of Fencing in many video games, such as the swordfighting sequences in Pirates! Gold).

    I think Fencing would be worse in either scenario.

    All this not in an attempt to discredit your ideas, but rather to suggest that

    1. In general theory should be used to support common sense and real application, not the other way around.

    2. More specifically Fencing is maybe not the best choice as an example.

    In any case, I think your ideas are fascinating, and I enjoy reading about them. It is possible that I have misunderstood what you are saying, and if this is so, I hope you can clarify. I’m planning on buying your book sometime soon, so maybe this will help me better understand your theory.

  • Not sure if you saw the latest version but I did remove all “examples” from the graphic itself, because I wanted to avoid people thinking that I’m being descriptive.

    >>I think Fencing would be worse in either scenario.

    This brings up an interesting and more controversial point, which is actually that I’m not sure there is anything so fantastic inside of fencing that we can really hone in on. So like, some systems, the best they can do is be a mess of forms. That’s not a rejection of my forms, but if anything, more of a rejection of these systems.

    Fencing, as well as most other sports, are a result of folk traditions and folk design, not a carefully constructed system like some of those we’re starting to see in our day. So, yeah, if you break Fencing apart, you find that there kind of isn’t even some kernel of “true form” to it, it’s just this messy thing inherently, and so yeah.

    This exact discussion, btw, is the reason that I didn’t include many specific suggestions. Maybe I should remove fencing altogether, because of the above described problem.

    My lens is a lens for creating new games, not for necessarily fixing old games, some of which, IMO, can’t be “fixed”. They are what they are and there’s nothing to focus in on.

  • FWIW, I’ve removed the fencing example. I’ve kept the sumo wrestling example because I think it’s a good illustration there, and I’m not suggesting that we could improve sumo.

  • Erenan

    The current graphic is the only one I’ve seen on that page, so I guess I saw the updated version. Fencing and Sumo Wrestling are the only examples I saw.

    Yes, I agree with you completely. I think your piece is better for having removed the Fencing example, since as you say, your emphasis is more on the design of new games than on fixing old ones. I’d say this System of Forms would be most useful in early design phases prior to any significantly costly implementation work. Good for evaluating ideas as being potential for especially effective games/contests/puzzles/simulations, good for identifying what specific characteristics might be responsible for an idea not being suitable, good for honing in on how to improve those ideas, etc.

    I guess my main point is that the use of a theoretical system is valuable, but it would be foolish to follow its principles blindly, like hunting for parallel fifths and pruning them out without actually considering the effect of the music. I agree that we stand to benefit a lot from some functional theory, and I hope that we see more and more of it as time goes on. Please keep working toward this end!

  • Nahil

    It should be clarified that these forms deal with a mechanical, goal-based type of play. Even the seemingly goal-less Toy form is seen as a form in which the player has the implicit goal of exploring the system. These forms aren’t meant to encompass a discussion about every intention a designer might have when creating a system. For example, many people create and play games to evoke a fantasy simulation aspect. They might like pretending to be in an interesting world and creating stories. But these forms Keith has constructed, even the Toy form, don’t address that type of play, and they’re not meant to. These forms are focused on mechanical attributes of systems and the mechanical goals a player has within them.