Archive for June, 2007

Montessori Method
June 23, 2007

Last week, the famous Montessori Method celebrated its 100th anniversary. Created by Dr. Maria Montessori, it consists of a philosophical and educational method that aims to change the way we acquire knowledge when we are kids. Today’s educational system perceives children as “adults in little bodies” and the goal of this revolutionary dogma is to stimulate children to explore their own natural curiosity.

Why am I so interested on this? We live on an era of Information. We can get access to the history and theories of absolutely any subject through a simple search on Google or Wikipedia. And the biggest asset an individual can have in post-industrial age is Knowledge. At this moment of history no one doubts that Education is the key for survival; but in a world that has changed so much in the last 10 years, educational models haven’t evolved at all.

Like many others, I have constantly defended games for their huge educational attributes: The very essence of gaming is about learning. Dogs play to learn. We play to learn. A few posts ago I’ve mentioned a stat that says that people remember 20% of what they see, 40% of what they hear and 60% of what they interact with. Maria Montessori found a nicer way to express the value of Play through a very similar and elegant proclaim:

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I learn.

Montessori taught me the joy of discovery…It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori—if you give people this model for building cities, they will abstract from it principles of urban design.
Will Wright

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Results & Competition
June 17, 2007

On my previous post, Patrick’s comment on skill gaming made me think about the nature of sports. Videogames that rely exclusively on mastering a particular set of skills, are usually considered digital sports. Such is the case of Unreal or Age of Empires that are part of digital olympic events.

The nature of skill-gaming has a lot to do on exploring that primitive side of us humans. And it’s great that we have today an artificial instrument to express that animal thrive. These games (which probably is all of the mainstream stuff we’re used to) express one of the biggest issues of modern societies: You’re either a winner or a looser. You belong to an elite of talented players or you’re just another mere mortal.

Just like Tennis, one of my favorite sports: If you’re not part of the top ten, you’re close to being a nobody. And that’s the by-product of competition, the law of nature that rewards merit and talent, natural selection Darwin would say, class struggle is Marx’s interpretation for history.

Art is about transcending the boundaries of nature. This age of information is essentially about democratizing the access to knowledge, and the creative tools that once where only possible in big studios can now be used on any regular computer. What if games could democratize talent by going beyond mere competition? I find Will Wright’s games as an excelent example for games that don’t care if you win or loose, in his games, it’s the experience what is intrinsically valuable, and not the result.

Play is the act of becoming one with art, and games are capable of transforming anyone onto artitsts.

Results & Numbers
June 13, 2007

I hate Casino games. When I get work proposals from people that belong to the gambling industry, I just can’t stand it. The reason is quite simple: They’re all about results. They explore the most frivolous aspect of play and yet a very powerful one: Scoring. And when it comes to just winning points, the experience gets blinded by the goal. You get obsessed on getting more and more, and that can usually lead to dangerous compulsive conditions.

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From a philosophical point of view, I don’t believe in luck. Or at least, I don’t want to believe in luck. There’s always a reason for me, no matter how unexplainable could it be. So casinos are the anti-game for me.

Yet, most games today are somewhat in the middle of that battle between being either an Art or a Sport. An Experience of Play or a Pursue for Big Results. Example: Is quite easy to get abstracted from the astounding 3D enviroments after playing Unreal for a while by the moment you begin chasing anyone to kill him. And don’t get me wrong, I do love sports and I think we should have games like Unreal.. yet these kind of gameplay seems to be the only alternative in the mainstream.

And the true potential for interactivity relies on communicating powerful ideas through experience. People remember 20% of what they hear, 40% of what they see and 60% of what they interact with. We’ll be able to ever escape the primitive kill/eat/run metaphor in our games?

I just came from Madrid with exciting ideas and sketches.. I’ll see what comes from that..

Graphic Novels
June 4, 2007

My brother Richard (a.k.a. Liniers) is a very succesful cartoonist. His particular sense of humor and sensibility are expressed in a daily comic strip named Macanudo. Maybe because he’s 10 years older than me, he was more prone to draw with pencils than with computers. And for me, as the son of a digital era, coding games felt better.

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But his influence as an older brother, you might guess, was quite big. From him I learned a lot about the history of Comics: A modern art form that became widely popular in the last century thanks to newspapers and mass media. And if there is a thing nerds have in common is comics and videogames. (fact: both of us use black-framed glasses, what a cliché…)

During the last years, the latest trend in the publishing industry is Graphic Novels. Unlike the traditional notion about comics (quite similar to the mainstream notion of games), these stories portray more literary experiences for readers avid of art and good stories. Maus by Art Spiegelman, Blankets by Craig Thompson, Persépolis by Marjane Satrapi and Buddha by the great Osamu Tezuka are some of the recommendations of this genre I can make.

The term Graphics Novels feels as nice as Drama Games to me. I would love to see more approaches on this direction in our industry…