30th April 2014

Game Design – Lenses #12 and #7

Yesterday’s work on clarifying what experiences I want the participants in my game to have means that I now have a reasonably clear problem statement from which to start my development of a game which will bring about those experiences.

“How can I create an face-to-face experience which can be run by one or two facilitators, which will allow people to learn to use business financial records and metrics to aid decision making for success in a new business start up?”

Hmmm… feels a bit wordy at the moment, but I think it captures the essence of what I want to do and the constraint which means it will be a viable solution.

I am reading “The Art of Game Design – A Book of Lenses” by Jesse Schell as I go through this process.  I can recommend this book highly as a way of clarifying the design process. It has certainly helped me to make a start on this project.  The book proposes viewing the process through a number of ‘lenses’.  Your project must be able to stand the scrutiny of each of these lenses if it is to be feasible.  The lens I am currently using is # 12; The Lens of the Problem Statement, which is about gaining clarity of purpose.

Schell suggests that the game designer should ask herself the following questions:

  • What problem, or problems, am I really trying to solve?
  • Have I been making assumptions about this game that have really nothing to do with its true purpose?
  • Is a game really the best solution? Why?
  • How will I be able to tell if the problem is solved?

I went through this process and came up with the following:

  • The problem I have been trying to solve is about helping people who are just starting out in business to quickly learn a few essentials skills about decision making which will give them a better chance of making a success of what they are doing.
  • I have made several assumptions, mostly based on existing business games I have already experienced.  I have assumed, for example, that a realistic ‘market’ mechanism should be at the heart of the game, and that a competitive ‘level playing field’ is the best way to deliver the game.
  • I think that a game is the best solution, as I want the experience to be about the actual reality of running a business – a simulated and time compressed situation in which the participants carry out the tasks and make the decisions they would in reality.  Therefore there are ‘rules’ and predetermined actions – a situation in which a game is very suitable.
  • The problem will be solved when the participants are able to use financial records and metrics to make informed decisions about their business practice, which will give them an improved chance of success.

OK – so I think my work has survived the scrutiny of Lens #12.  There are many others.  Yesterday, for example, I was using Lens # 1: The Lens of Essential Experience.  In the next few days and weeks as I document the process of development through this blog, I will detail how I have used other lenses.

The other lens I will look at today is # 7: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad.  It may be a little early for me to use this lens, as I don’t have anything even approaching a design yet, but I will use it as a way of starting to think about the elements which will make up my game.  The four elements of the Elemental Tetrad are:

  • Technology – materials and parts which make the game possible to play.
  • Mechanics – Procedures and rules of the game.  How the game works.
  • Story – sequence of events in the game.  In my game this will comprise tasks that must be carried out and the decisions the players will make, to run a business.
  • Aesthetics – How the game appeals to the senses.

All of these elements must work together to support the Theme of the game.  So let’s start by clarifying my theme.

As a starting point I will say that my theme is:

“Interpreting financial data and metrics for decision making to drive business success .”

The questions which Schell recommends we ask for this lens are:

  • Is my game design using elements of all four types?
  • Could my design be improved by enhancing elements in one or more of the categories?
  • Are the four elements in harmony, reinforcing each other and working towards a theme?

So, my problem statement, my theme, the work I did yesterday on Experience, and the questions posed by this lens, taken together, give me a basis for today’s work.

Today I will start to think about (and list) the technology, mechanics, story elements and aesthetics which will solve my stated problem by delivering the required experience within the constraint I have identified.


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