Experimenting with PGDI: Doors — Part 1 of 3

I started TAing last week. It’s a terrifying experience when I have to get up and talk, but sometimes it can lead to some strange ideas. You see, the professor I’m assisting (Brenda Laurel by the way) had the students read my own essay that compares genre to PGDI as a tool for gaining literacy in games. That piece wasn’t on my blog yet, probably because I wanted to go and revise it once before I put it up here, but the students read it (at least it seemed so), and wow did they have questions. One of the more interesting comments that came up was this idea of using game-centric methods on other pieces of interactive media. Popular game genres are pretty bad at that, since they describe a very specific type of medium. The thematic genres we’ve borrowed from cinema and literature (sci-fi, romance, etc.) are better at it, by far, but then we’re already using them to do that.

PGDI, though, might be more flexible. Since PGDI started as a games studies method, it would be interesting to be able to apply it to other kinds of media. It is particularly helpful when looking at something like Coffee: A Misunderstanding by Squinky Kiai, an interactive piece that introduces elements of plays and improvisation to the gamespace. So, I got to thinking, what kind of interactive media could I test PGDI on? Well, it happens that the students are reading about affordances for class, as well, and for affordances, we have a piece by Don Norman from The Design of Everyday Things. In the reading, Norman opens by talking about doors that have a problem with perceived affordances (e.g., doors that push from the left, where the left and right are indistinguishable). Since I have doors on the brain, I came up with the idea, why not try to apply PGDI to describe a door? Sure, most people don’t see doors as media, but they are interactive and they are things that are designed. I think that PGDI is robust enough to wander out into other areas of art and design. Let’s see how it holds up. This will be a piece in three parts. The first part will deal with the Social and Participation components. The second part will examine the Mastery and Immersion components. Finally, the third part will tackle the Customization and Progression components. The format for this will be similar to my treatment of Catherine through PGDI (Part 1, Part 2).

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What We Make Will Be Interpreted

Today, Nintendo issued an apology to its fans about not including same-sex marriage as a possibility in the game Tomodachi Life. This is essentially the end of a journalism and marketing snafu that started last year and has been bubbling on the internet for a few weeks now, since the announcement of the game’s release outside of Japan. I’m going to give a very brief description of the events that transpired, but I’m not going to go into detail. If you want that, Christian Nutt has written a very good article about what happened and why it’s important. Please see his article if you want to know more. It started with some Japanese players making opposite sex Miis in Tomodachi Collection: New Life and making them look like the same sex so that they could marry, which was misconstrued due to a bad translation that the game included same-sex marriage and that this was a bug that Nintendo intended to patch out. The game never included same-sex marriage and it wasn’t removed, but because of the bad translation and rumormongering, Tomodachi Life was on everyone’s radar. So when it was announced for western release in April, a petition spawned to have Nintendo include same-sex marriages as a point of equality, to which Nintendo offered a response, which was received very poorly. Two days after the response, was when Nintendo issued their apology and pledged to make future Tomodachi games more inclusive, stating that they could not retroactively redesign the game to allow same-sex marriages. That’s about all I’m going to say about the situation. Again, if you want a more in-depth look at the issues here, take a look at Christian Nutt’s Gamasutra piece. He explains it better than most I’ve seen. Instead I’m going to talk about something that comes from Nintendo’s first response: “Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of ‘Tomodachi Life.'” This is going to be about understanding what happens when you make something and put it out there.

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Catherine, as Described by PGDI – Part I

In today’s post I will be describing the game Catherine through the framework of my model, the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI). Earlier this month, I described the mechanics present in Catherine, based upon a playthrough I completed. To describe the game, I will be using the descriptions provided by my recent posts on PGDI. This will be the first of two parts, and it will be focused on describing the Social, Customization, and Progression components of Catherine. I will do so based upon my field notes and recorded gameplay. The scale I will be using for components is: none < weak < fair < medium < strong <total. A score of none means that the game does not exhibit the component in any way, while a score of total means that every aspect of the game exhibits the component. Few components will be none or total.

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PGDI: Descriptions of the Social Components

In a previous post, I described the general categories of the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI). In this post, I will be explaining the components in the social category: Community, Competition, Cooperation, and Multiplayer.

Social

The Social Category

The components in the social category all have something to do with interacting with other people through games.

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