Sunday, November 4, 2012

Some Criteria for Excellence in Computer-Based Entertainment

Several years ago I did a survey of certain genres of computer game to better understand where they had come since my involvement in that industry, before it was an industry, years ago. I was looking for notable examples of the following sorts of things:

1. The illusion of intelligence

Either the game itself had some function or response that made one think that it was actually paying attention to what was going on, or the computer generated entities within the game, either opponents or allies, exhibited behavior that seemed to indicate that they were aware and responding rationally to the events.

2. A strong subjective impression of a different world or period

A good book or film will often take us to another world, real or fictional, and make us feel a part of it to some degree. So I was looking for that same sort of feeling or impression from a game.

3. Something is learned from the experience

By playing the game in a certain scenario, something is learned that is applicable to real life or to understanding a historical situation. Historically, the armed services of a nation will run "war games" or simulations because they can be so useful in learning about the sorts of things that are hard to imagine in advance. Although the popular press and imagination makes fun of these "games", thinking them frivolous, experience has shown they can be very valuable tools for planning and training.

4. Something surprising (and interesting) happens

Events and policies often have "unexpected consequences". A classic example is the question / issue of whether a minimum wage increases unemployment for certain kinds of workers. If it does, that would be an unexpected consequence. Suprising, interesting and plausible in retrospect.

5. An excellent use of an advanced technology

A game that uses a technology in an unexpected or particularly skilled manner.

6. A particularly humorous or ironic situation is created

The game has some situation or appropriate use of technology that is particular funny, or ironic, or sarcastic and indicates that someone actually thought about the game, its characters and its situations.

7. An excellent user interface.

A user interface which is beyond what you normally find, or which demonstrates some creative or appealing approach to the problem of what we see of the game and how we interact with it.

8. A fabulous concept.

A game with an idea that is so great you wish you had thought of it yourself.

9. A strong personal vision.

A game that in some way demonstrates the values or ideas of an individual or group of people who are collaborating, in a way that indicates some style or aesthetic that is clearly their own.   A writer such as Hemingway or Faulkner falls into this category and people can have a lot of fun trying to recreate or satirize their world view.  

A game that has even one of the above to some degree is an exceptional game.

In a future post, I will go over some examples I found of these (most of these) in recent games.

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