PHASEgaming

Jason Pook's Games Design Blog


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Jenga- Game Theory

Jenga is a tabletop game which requires skill physically and mentally, it was created by Leslie Scott in 1983 through a game that had she had played with her family in the 1970’s. The rules of jenga are that you have a set of 54 blocks, stacked 3 across each time rotated when piling up. This creates the Jenga structure, from that then each player is to remove a block at a time and place it on top of the structure, with each move the structure gets taller and loses stability. This requires alot of physical skill in patience, control and balance accompanied by mental skill of judgement, composure and resilience. To end the game the structure will fall over and whoever it was that made it fall over is the loser of the game, you them rebuild and that player is eliminated until a winner is determined.

Flow:

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s theory of flow applies to jenga when you are playing its been going on for a while so the tower is high but you have the skill to remove another block. Jenga covers most of the flow chart just like Tetris, it gets harder as the game goes on with each block that rises there are less and less options to take a piece without knocking the structure over.

flow

You begin in any area jenga is never easy the game can be over in the first block if you dont have the hand stability and control to remove a piece, most would start in control as the challenge level is in the middle and everyone should have high skill at the start to be able to remove a piece. Whilst you play though and it gets far on the immersion can emotionally drive you crazy, begging for the tower to fall over on your opponent so it doesn’t come back round to you, that’s the thing soon as you have taken your move you worried its coming back around the tension to keep composure on your turn combined with the wait for your turn if people take time makes for an immersive experience.

Categories of Play:

For Roger Caillois’s ‘categories of play’ Jenga would fall under primarily ‘Agon’. Agon is games of competition, with Jenga you are competing against other players to try survive your turn and place your block carefully on top to build the structure, the goal is not to be the person who makes the wrong move and collapses the statue as then you are eliminated as the loser.

It also falls under ‘Alea’. Alea is games of chance, in Jenga sometimes you slowly wriggle out that seemingly impossible block with a sweat on your brow to place it on the top, the structure wobbles a bit and you call for everyone not to move. There is a chance you go for the wrong block and have to move it as you have touched it dependent on the rules (I normally play a feel is alright but push and you have to move it), also the chance other people make a mistake and not you could keep you in the game when you know you will struggle on your next move.

Bartle Test:

To link this into Bartle’s test which defines you as a player through a series of questions this type of game being puzzle based and score based would appeal more to an ‘achiever’ style of player rather than the others due to the achiever always wants to win, in jenga the only goal is to survive and hope the other players knock over the structure before your turn. Other than that the categories of players cant apply to jenga.

When we played Jenga in the studio it was arguably the greatest game of jenga I had ever witnessed, the tower just kept going and going on the first round Me, Barrie, Rinalds and Phil wasn’t letting up. Rinalds pulled off some things I didnt think was from this universe he must have manipulated physics to make that structure balance but it worked, this was similar through every game we was all somehow masters of jenga and control the final game was myself and Rinalds, seeing what he had done it felt optimistic that I would have any chance he appeared to be raised in a school and purely taught jenga. But after grueling turn after turn he made a mistake and I won, the euphoria was uncontrollable. This clearly can be a game for fun or serious competition, we started the exercise to analyse the game for game theory and then it turned into a serious competition which was almost hysterical at times as we had no clue how the game could continue. The level of flow and immersion in the jenga game when it was at this stage of anxiety and unknown when it would go was a psychoanalytically available to analyse our behaviors. Jenga allows the player to engage in mental and physical challenges as the difficulty increases the emotional reactions to the game increase with it, this could both effect the player positively or negatively it could overwhelm them into making a mistake by panicking on their turn or motivate them further to win the session.

Here is an example of the emotional reactions towards an insane move on Jenga:

As you can see after performing this crazy move the lady celebrates in disbelief the emotional reaction to completing a move in this game is there with every move which makes it a great immersive and re-playable game.


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Chess- Game Theory

 

Moving onto board games I played Chess. Chess is a two player strategy board game in which the objective is use your pieces to attack the opponent with the goal of placed the opponents king in checkmate. Check mate is when the king is in a position where it cannot be moved into a safe place or blocked by any other piece, you can put the king in ‘check’ at any point but its only check mate if the check cannot be stopped.

Flow:

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s theory of flow applies to Chess as the tactical board game requires alot of planning, tactics and intelligence to dominate the board. In a game where both opponents are highly skilled that is when flow occurs, chess will always vary in the flow chart purely dependent on the opponents skill level. If the opponent or yourself is a beginner to the game and is unaware of the rules of the game and the individual piece rules then the requirement to teach them to play will have you or your opponent relaxed until they improve their abilities. My experience in chess is high as I have played it majority of my life and actually won a chess club tournament a few times at junior school, so when I came up against Brad who claimed to be also highly skilled in chess due to his strategies in the game it induced flow, this turned into control mid way through as he unknowingly was forced into a mistake costing him his queen and from that point I never let up and won. Flow continued into my next opponent which was my tutor Paul who is a experienced chess player, this was a much closer game but I eventually got him in check mate.

flow

Categories of Play:

For Roger Caillois’s ‘categories of play’ Chess would fall under primarily ‘Agon’. Agon is games of competition, in Chess it is a 2 player game so you are competing against the other player at all times wanting to be more strategic than them to win the game.

It also falls under ‘Alea’. Alea is games of chance, Chess can fall into chance dependent on if the opponent makes a mistake in the game. Rules of Chess state that one you have let go of your piece if its been moved that is the end of your turn, so if someone makes a move lets go then realises the mistake its too late. So chance can play a part but personally id say its all technical ability.

Bartle Test:

To link this into Bartle’s test which defines you as a player through a series of questions this type of game being strategy based board game is more an ‘achiever’ style of player rather than the others due to the achiever always wants to win, in chess your aim is to place the opponent in check mate or force them into forfeit on impending defeat.

Killer can also apply, Chess is a strategy game to simulate a war field its your army of pieces against your opponents on a battlefield, the way to win is to be the more strategic player by defeating your opponents pieces then eventually the king. By taking an opponents piece to attack their ranks is an offensive strategy a killer would employ.

Socialiser can also apply due to the game being a 2 player activity. Chess is now also a sport hosting big tournaments and a world championship so social presence comes into it if you go professional, otherwise its a social experience between you and another player if challenged to a game of chess.

Chess for me immerses you in the chessboard, even when its not your turn your constantly thinking a few steps ahead planning how you can take your opponent down with various strategies. Personally I like to use my line of pawns as a line of defense but due to the movement of the Jacks and Knights they are available to get out from behind the line of pawns if I should so chose, this allows an offensive but still defensive method of play. I find chess mentally simulating as it tests me and my intelligence in one versus one basis through strategies, this passion for chess and being a constant game in my life since being young has had an effect on other games I enjoy today, like Sid Meier’s Civilisation series.

 


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SSX- Game Theory

 

SSX is a snowboarding game which required you to race whilst pulling off tricks, the main part of the game is the tricks as you gain boost and amount high scores through landing the tricks. It was released in 2012 by Electronic Arts (EA) for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as the latest addition to the SSX series. It features single and multiplayer online, so online leaderboards and co operative trick races etc could be done to compete against eachother.

Flow:

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s theory of flow applies to SSX through score and skill, In SSX you have to use skill, timing and control to pull off the jumps, grinds and tricks to the highest of quality and gain large scores, the more combinations of tricks you landed it would fill up your “Tricky” meter and once this was full you would activate in when you wanted to pull of your characters most ridiculous stunt for massive score. To achieve flow it required alot of practice, the skills were performed by a combination of precise analog stick movements and buttons this wasn’t picked up easily as alot of memory was needed. Otherwise you was just doing your best you could by randomly attacking your controller to see what happened. When you was on a big downhill mountain with alot of jumps and grinds and you could pull off your best tricks (different ones each time as otherwise your score was knocked for being repetitive) then you really enjoyed the game and hit the big scores.

flow

To link to the diagram for SSX one game mode was a deadly descent now this would involve the most dangerous snowboarding downhills possible it had a different theme each time such as trees, rocks and darkness” some would require flying with wing-suits to get over huge chasms in the mountains. Every time I played these it Anxiety, I had high skill level on the game but when it came to a deadly descent you never knew what was coming and if you switch off at any point it was over and restart the drop. Soon as you reached the bottom the sense of achievement overwhelmed you as it was done, over and you had won through skill, luck, and persistence most of the time from failing. Then flow would occur on your favourite downhill where you knew how to hit the big scores but wanted to beat your previous 64 million score as your friend ad just text you his 66 million score.

Categories of Play:

For Roger Caillois’s ‘categories of play’ SSX would fall under primarily ‘Agon’. Agon is games of competition, Your goal in the game is to go down the mountains to gain as much score as possible through tricks and be awarded with medals for your efforts, this would give you credits to buy better gear and improve your downhill performances. Also the online multiplayer allowed you to race against other players or friends to get to the finish line but you had to do this in style as boost only came with completed tricks otherwise you would be slow, then the leaderboards visible to see how your friends did on that particular single player mountain would want you to beat their score or even boost your own so they have no chance.

It also falls under ‘Alea’. Alea is games of chance, on the deadly descents as I explained it required alot of skill to time jumps and avoid obstacles but you never knew what was coming around the corner, when its hundreds of trees and your just hoping to make it through without being knocked of your board and restarting.

Illinx can be applied in the boost feature or damage. Illinx games of vertigo/ confusion, when you boosted it blurred the screen around you distorting your vision, then if you landed a stunt badly or hit an object your screen would flash red as if you was hurt. Also on one deadly descent if you stayed in the shadows too long you was too cold and your screen would freeze over distorting vision more and more until you failed as your character had frozen to death.

Bartle Test:

To link this into Bartle’s test which defines you as a player through a series of questions this type of game being score/skill based it would appeal more to an ‘achiever’ style of player rather than the others due to the achiever always wants to win. You always want to win the race but to do that you must also do it with tricks in style to gain boost and score. The added multiplayer features increase competition through leaderboards and co operative play.

‘Socialiser’ also applies as the game is multiplayer, mainly through the leaderboard system that compares your scores to your friends or the world if you change the settings. You are trying to achieve but also scoialising with other people by submitting a score or time to a mountain track.

SSX has always been one of my favourite games, despite the tricks being rather gravity defying and unrealistic the game is simply awesome. The challenge of learning the tricks to maximise player experience and achievement is the type of game I get fully immersed in, when it required time to learn and master the game its always rewarding for me to complete the game. Currently I no longer own SSX due to selling it to a friend but after replaying it for Game Theory I will be reinvesting in a very good game.

Here is some gameplay of SSX with all the features I have explaining with tricks, racing and score from GameSpot’s YouTube channel: