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Lesson 5: Track B Summaries

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Schedule   ::   Lesson 5   ::   Track A Summaries   ::   Track B Summaries

Koster, R., Chapter 7: The problem with learning

Reading summary/quotes:

The author explores the phenomenon of cheating and finding loopholes in games. He also lists elements that successful games tend to incorporate and how they enhance a game’s desirability.

Koster makes an interesting point on page 116. He says people like games because they are unpredictable. And yet in real life people crave what is predictable. People don't like the unpredictable because it could mean death, loss, or something else 'bad'.

Koster mentioned previously in the book that games let people play in a safe environment. Games give them the unpredictability in a safe environment. If a player is hit by ball lightning, the worst thing that happens is that the player has to start the level over again.

“Not requiring a skill from a player should be considered a cardinal sin in game design (p. 124).” Otherwise everyone would just sit around and roll dice for enjoyment.

“Our brains may unconsciously direct us to learn, but if we’re pushed by parents, teachers, or even our own logical brains, we often resist most mightily (p. 110).

Cheating is a form of lateral thinking. “If you cannot choose the battle, at least choose the battlefield. When a player cheats in a game, they are choosing a battlefield that is broader in context than the game itself (p. 112).”

“If the lesson taught by a particular game comes up in the real world, the cheat may not work. Cheating may not prepare us correctly (p. 114).”

“Players and designers often make the distinction between “cheating” and “exploiting a loophole.” ... “Unsurprisingly, exploiters are often the most expert players of the game (p. 114).”

Humans like progress... predictability... safe unpredictability to alleviate tedium (p. 116).

“Successful games tend to incorporate the following elements: Preparation; A Sense of Space; A Solid Core Mechanic; A Range of Challenges; A Range of Abilities required to solve the encounter; Skill required in using the abilities (p. 120).”

“Failure must have a cost. At the very least these is an opportunity cost, and there may be more. Next time you attempt the challenge, you are assumed to come into it from scratch – there are no ‘do-over’s.’ Next time you try, you may be prepared differently (p. 122).” This quote is interesting as it relates to social promotion in public schools

“Looking at these elementary particles that make up ludemes, it’s easy to see why most games in history have been competitive head-to-head activities. It’s the easiest way to constantly provide a new flow of challenges and content (p. 122).”

“The most long-lasting games in the past have been competitive because the lead to an endless supply of similar yet slightly varies puzzles (p. 123).”

“Not requiring a skill from a player should be a considered a cardinal sin in game design (p. 124).”

“No system should be in the game that does not contribute toward that lesson (p. 126).”

Discussion points/questions:

  • “Once you learn something, it's over. You don't get to learn it again” (p. 126). But can you learn different aspects of it? Learn new things about the concept?
  • Just a few chapters ago Koster wrote that learning was fun. Now he is saying that learning is hard work (p. 111). How are the two compatible?

Contributors: Tom Caswell, Marion Jensen, Jennifer Jorgensen, Jon Scoresby, and Tim Stowell
Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2008, May 20). Lesson 5: Track B Summaries. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License
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