Archive for the ‘theory’ Category

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


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.

Ludic Metaphors
November 10, 2005


“This game is a biting commentary on our vapid consumerism; our desire to acquire possessions at all cost. It’s about how we can only become whole people through the ownership of things. Things we don’t need or even want. We just roll over them, adding to our stature and self-worth.”

Ron Gilbert blogging on Katamari Damacy

One of the concepts I had been exploring lately has been the one I’ve decided to baptize as Ludic Metaphors. And probably the clearest way to explain this is taking Sid Meier’s definition of a game:


“A series of meaningful choices to reach a goal”

Well.. that very same definition could be applied to life itself. Properly designed games bring us Meaningful Play (Eric Zimmerman dixit); yet a game able of speaking us with the subtleties of metaphors expressed through interactivity, can transcend its ‘Magical Circle’ and touch our soul and mind, like any true art form.


Like many, I’ve been playing Shadow of the Colossus lately. And there’s a very interesting detail in this game that I really liked: Each time you access to the save menu -and hence, transcend the Colossus universe into our reality-, your character kneels and starts praying. He’s literally communicating with you, a superior being that controls his destiny, his god. He gives prayers to you so you can make him accomplish his destiny safely. That’s a nice Ludic Metaphor.

Homo Ludens and the Origin of Play
November 1, 2005

We have only to watch young dogs to see that all the essentials of human play are present in their merry gambols. They invite one another to play by a certain ceremoniousness of attitude and gesture. They keep to the rule that you shall not bite, or not bite hard, your friend’s ear. They pretend to get terribly angry. And -what is most important- in all these doings, they painly experience tremendous fun and enjoyment.

Play is older than culture.

Johann Huizinga, Homo Ludens (1936).

Organic Games
October 24, 2005

When I was a little kid that enjoyed playing Super Mario, I often wondered why did that world always looked the same. It’s not like our world where we have Autumn and the leaves fall from trees or Summer where everything has a brighter color. Every time the NES was turned on, all the trees, clouds, mushrooms, etc. looked just the same way they did the last time I’ve played. And death, was just an illusion.

How could a game be if we could build an organic virtual world? Where its elements, probably in a simple way, can evolve, die, get born and playing Organic Mario in January wouldn’t be the same as playing it in August. What if our character gets old as time passes by and he dies like an ordinary tamagotchi?

The emotional bond of players with game worlds are weak, basically because the artificial universes presented are infinite in time. If something goes wrong, we can just re-play anything, anytime. Instead, if we limit the existence of the world to a finite time, every action we take might become more meaningful in the same way that our very own existence in the real world is a struggle for meaning due to its finite length.

Games as Essays
October 17, 2005

There’s a literary genre that I often enjoy reading: Essays. Usually for philosophical purposes or simply to express a personal view of life and the world, this genre has a very open structure and a wide range of topics that can treat. And today, there’s no other form of expression that can do this so well besides Literature.

Do games have the potential of becoming Essay tools in the future? The ability of computers to simulate worlds and intelligence -to a certain level today- through the use of pure logic, make me believe that philosophical gaming could be a very interesting approach to our medium. We could express through a game our own analysis of the world and prove them with proper game rules.

Even more, as artists and thinkers, we can create games that just let the player define his views on the world and see those expressed on a virtual arena, giving power to the people to think.

Realism vs. Style
September 8, 2005

“The larger question at hand, however, is perhaps unanswerable: Is the point of gaming to recreate reality, or should it go beyond realism, into the realm of art?”

An article at Slashdot debated on this issue by analyzing a very well-known game such as Zelda.

We all know how Nintendo tries to struggle against their karma of “kiddie games”. For sure, that may have been an important fact to mature the looks of our hero Link.

Yet the debate on Style vs. Realism is an important one. If we take a look at the history of pictorial art, it took several centuries for artists to get the necessary knowldege and technique to paint realistic landscapes and human figures. It wasn’t until the renaissance period that fundamental concepts such as perspective and the chiaroscuro where discovered. Since then and till the late XIXth century, realism was the norm. Modern art, broke all those concepts and brought us abstraction, simplified forms, style.

Videogame technology has been obsessed with realism almost throughout all its history. As we discover the techniques that we must master in order to express ourselves in this new medium, realism seems to be our main concern. Yet, once we may achieve this goal, abstraction and style shall emerge. Movies have went through this same process and not only in the visual sense, but also in the narrative styles of their screenplays.

As independent developers, we have to be vanguardists. We shall see further and try to experience with our own particular style. We must not be part of the industry’s main obsession with realism, but a true alternative. Plus… considering not every indie developer has the budget to get a “realisitc” engine, we have no other choice. Smile

Different Cultures, Different Games?
August 25, 2005

“Japan would never produce Doom 3

Those words came from an interview IdleThumbs staff made to Ron Gilbert. And it got me thinking if afterall there’s a real cultural identity behind games.

This industry has emerged (as it inevitably should) in the rise of the digital era. That means, the era of communications where Globalization has become the best description to the cultural and economical process the world is suffering.

So, the National Identity of a game, it’s not very discernable. If you think about “Max Payne” being developed in Finland, you wouldn’t notice a single difference with any standard american game. At least: the most classic difference you may establish in the industry is between Occidental and Oriental games (a.k.a. American & Japanese). Some unexplored regions of the world like Latinamerica or even Africa still have something to say in the field of videogames.

Should there be a National or at least Regional identity so we could at least talk about a “French Touch” in games? After knowing that Ubisoft will work for the America’s Army project -what the hell happened with “Liberty Fries”?- capitalism seems to keep erasing the differences among cultures. And games, as the most genuine cultural expression of these days, are a clear reflection of this process.

Defining Art Games
August 22, 2005

As its cultural impact increases, the gaming industry is starting to diversify: “Serious Games”, “Mobile Games”, “Casual Games” are some of the new categories that had emerged in the last years to use as a reference for gaming works that reflect particular ways of playing or specific uses of the game.

I would like to propose a new term: ART GAMES. You’ll probably recognize it from the section of this website, but I would like to give a better definition of what an art game is to me.

Originality, Vanguardism, Has-something-to-say could be some adjectives that I find suitable to the concept. To me, these are mainly games that are aware of how much interactivity as a “language” can express beautiful metaphores and paint fantastic landscapes in our minds and hearts. It has nothing to do with the simplicity or complexity of a game, or its platform, or its genre. It has to do with how much can a game transcend from its mere entertaining function to breed some meaning to our lifes.

Of course: many might disagree with my views on Art Games. So c’mon and let me know: What is an Art Game for you? Which Art Games would you recommend playing and reviewing on this site?

Sports from a Game Designer’s view
August 16, 2005

Western culture brought back to life during the XXth century something that seemed forgotten since the Greek times: Sports. It’s undeniable the huge cultural impact these had since the conception of the Modern Olympics by Baron Pierre du Cubertain on Athens 1896.

Sports are usually games that require the use of the body, but games after all. It’s interesting to read on how the design of Football (Soccer for all americans out there), Basketball or Golf had evolved throughout the years and adapted to different environments and playing styles.

What do you think about videogames considered as modern sports by some in our industry? How the sports of the future will be designed?

Two new Art games to check: Loop and Chess!