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Lesson 6: Track B Summaries

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Schedule   ::   Lesson 6   ::   Track A Summaries   ::   Track B Summaries

Koster, R., Chapter 5: What games aren't

Reading summary/quotes:

In a previous chapter, Koster talked about what games are. Here he talks about what games aren't. He contrasts them with stories and shows how games are not stories. He talks about how at the heart of games they are patterns. A good gamer looks past the 'scenery' elements and finds the patterns. He then dissects fun.

“People tend to dress up game systems with some fiction. Designers put artwork on them that is suggestive of some real-world context (p. 80).”

“Much evidence shows that media have some effect on how we act. If media didn’t have an effect, we wouldn’t spend so much effort on using it as teaching tools (p. 82).”

“By and large, people don’t play games because of the stories. The stories that wrap the games are usually side dished for the brain (p. 86).”

“Are stories superior? We often speak of wanting to make a game that makes people cry. ...Getting emotional effects out of games may be the wrong approach – perhaps a better question is whether stories can be fun the way games can (p. 88).”

Koster says that Marc LeBlanc has defined 8 types of fun:

  • Sense-pleasure
  • Make-believe
  • Drama
  • Obstacle
  • Social framework
  • Discovers
  • Self-discovery and expression
  • Surrender

Koster defines fun as:

  • Fun is the act of mastering a problem mentally.
  • Aesthetic appreciations (the pretty parts of the game).
  • Visceral reactions – relates to the physical mastery of a problem.
  • Social Status maneuvers – changing our self-image in a community.

“Aesthetic appreciation, like fun, is about patterns. The difference is that aesthetics is about recognizing patterns, not learning new ones (p. 94).”

“The lesson here is that fun is contextual. The reasons we are engaging in an activity matte a lot (p. 96).”

Being in the zone, flow (p. 98).

“You can find flow in countless activities, but they aren’t all fun. Most of the cases where we typically cite flow relate to exercising mastery, not learning (p. 98).”

“Fun us about learning in a context where there is no pressure, and that is why games matter (p. 98).”

Discussion points/questions:

  • Do you have to win to have fun according to Koster’s definition?
  • Are stories merely something that players wade through to get to the core game?

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 6: 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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