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In this article, game writer Sande Chen discusses the necessity of interesting choices in the realm of romance.
In the book,How Games Move Us: Emotion By Design, by Professor Katherine Isbister, discusses the dating sim Love Plusat length as an example of emotional design with non-playing characters (NPCs). Love Plus traces the journey of a budding romance, but unlike in real life, there's no fear of actual rejection. The player will always end up "loved" because the NPCs, even when snippy, are always in love with the player. As in romance novels, lovers rejoice after many trials and tribulations.
The player has a choice of 3 different girls, who will react differently according to their personalities. During the initial phase, the Friend Zone, there may even be Jealousy Events as 2 girls discover they both share affection for the same person, the player.
Alas, this brings us to that popular conflict in the realm of romance, the love triangle.
Within the mindset of "a series of interesting choices," we wouldn't want each potential lover to be the same. We want a fulfilling love but not the same one. Each branch of the narrative should lead to love, but because of who we are and our personalities, the journey is not the same. I wrote about this relationship distinction in Interchangeable He And She when discussing a hypothetical change to replace all female pronouns with male ones to include a gay romance option. If the story doesn't lead to love, then it's a tragedy, but one that should be brought forth by clear decisions driven by character traits.
Otherwise, the ending feels forced. The author hadn't taken the care to find a logical means for breaking up the love triangle without making someone act out of character or become a sudden, unmotivated asshole. In the world of linear storytelling, I feel cheated out of a good story when the prince who had been such a caring and devoted childhood friend suddenly becomes a backstabbing fiend so that the girl can fall in love with that other guy in the last 10 pages of the novel.
I find the most interesting love stories are when I'm not sure where the story will go. Both potential lovers are good choices and therefore, it's a very hard choice for the protagonist. I'd be equally happy with either choice as long as it's understandable.
That's often the problem with OTP (One True Pairing) stories. There may be a love triangle, but there's no comparison to the OTP. The other person is such a bad, bad choice that who in their right mind would prefer that person? We start to wonder what's wrong with the protagonist that he or she can't see the obvious. By recasting the protagonist as player, it's easier to see that we would want each potential love affair to be a serious potential love affair.
Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.
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In this response, Claire Baert describes her fascination with citizen science games and poses some questions about the practice.
This morning, like most days, I woke up early, had a latte, turned on my computer and opened Gamasutra. Like most days, I'm looking for articles discussing how games can help advance scientific research. But this morning, for the first time, I found the article I was waiting for. A blog post by Sande Chen, featured by Gamasutra, and [re]titled: Why designers should embrace 'citizen science' . This was the trigger for me to start this blog, to write about citizen science games and share my passion with the Gamasutra community. In this first post, I willintroduce many of the citizen science games everyone can play to advance science, and briefly introduce the different topics I willcover in the next posts.
My story with citizen science games began in 2013, in a small game studio in the UK. I was researching free to play, casual browser games, and was doing a quick play through the tutorials. Between Farmerama and Grepolis, I had listed a game I had never heard of:Foldit. First surprise, it's a client game. Second surprise, I'm taught how to mutate a protein to form more hydrogen bonds, not that casual. Third surprise, I'm doing real science. (Fourth surprise, first thing I did when coming back home was downloading Foldit on my laptop.)
I quickly became fascinated with the concept of citizen science games and started searching more of them. Not any kind of serious games, but specifically games that allow us, players, to contribute to authentic scientific research, without any scientific background. Games in which we provide valuable scientific data, accelerate research by analysing data, or solve complex scientific problems. Games that help diagnosis and cure diseases or that can answer important scientific questions.
After learning how to fold proteins inFoldit, I learnt how to fold RNA molecules inEteRNA and DNA molecules in Phylo. By playing these puzzle games, we are helping eradicatediseases. On my phone, I shoot at parasites in MalariaSpot to diagnose malaria in blood smear, I'm growing a microbe colony for Colony B. I'm mapping the brain in EyewireandMozak, advancing the field of neuroscience. I also dared join the quantum computing field, moving quantum atoms in Quantum Moves, optimising quantum algorithms in the prototype ofmeQuanics and solving quantum error corrections inDecodoku. All these steps are important to build quantum computers. Recently I've been showing off my navigation skills (ahem) in Sea Hero Quest, (and in VR!), to provide data to scientists researching dementia. With almost 3 million players, Sea Hero Quest is the largest dementia study in history.
Screenshot from Sea Hero Quest -VRI loved the concept of citizen science games so much that about 2 years ago, I launched a website dedicated to them. It's called well Citizen Science Games. For thecontent, I contacted many scientists and journalists, which led to the opportunity to join one of the team. I am now bringing my experience from the game industry to Stall Catchers, in which we annotate blood vessels to help answering questions about Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists have started harnessing our love for games to conduct scientific research, sometimes on their own, sometimes with game designers and developers. As Sande Chen reported in her post, they have been using different design approaches: integration, gamification and separation. Most of the games mentioned above are examples of integration. The gameplay was designed around a scientific problem. Stall Catchers uses game elements: we get points, accuracy feedback, climb leader boards and participate in punctual competitions. To illustrate the separation approach, I will use the example of EVE Online. EVE Online is the first (and only) mainstream games that integrated real citizen science activities, Project Discovery, to the game. We are looking for exoplanets by analysing luminosity measurements of stars. By reaching more than one millioncontributions in one day, Project Discovery became one of the most successful online citizen science project. This is also one of the rare citizen science game having a few articles on Gamasutra, which recently covered the launch of the second round of Project Discovery and an awesome GDC talk by CCP andMMOS.
Project DiscoveryThere is an increasing number of citizen science games. They generate tangible results and publications and can lead to important discoveries. Scientists write about design, mechanics, difficulties, pitfalls, discoveries, results, recommendations. They try to understand what motivates people to engage with these games.There is also some controversies. Do games attract or retain participants in citizen science project? Shall citizen science be gamified? Are games compatible with serious and rigorous traditional scientific research? All these questions find some answers in papers and will be discussed in future posts.
How could more studios embrace the concept? What scientific problems could be brought to existing games? What game genre would be best fitted for citizen science projects? What would be the best ways to integrate them? By starting this blog, I'm hoping to raise awareness about citizen science games. I'm also hoping to establish contact andstart discussions with designers and developers interested in the genre.
And finally, I'm a big fan of this quote so I have to share it. It was written by Dara Mohammadi who was a scientific adviser on Sea Hero Quest: "As a planet we spend 3 billion hours a week playing online games. If even a fraction of that time can be harnessed for science, laboratories around the world would have access to some rather impressive cognitive machinery."[This article originally appeared on Claire Baert's blog on Gamasutra.]
Claire Baert has 10 years experience in the video game industry and now focuses on citizen science games. She launched http://citizensciencegames.com in 2016.