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Game Thinking

Vitae ludum est.

It’s a simple attitude, but one that you might find serves you well. Life is a game, everything can readily be broken down into a simple set of rules, every challenge overcome has its rewards, every minute of every day breaks down into a game-like component if you regard it with the right attitude and it can make life easier to manage. Taking this attitude can also help you be a better games designer… apparently. I can only really speak from the perspective of the perpetual DM and someone who perpetually starts making board games and then abandoning the project, but I’m working on that.

I’ve worked in retail for quite some time. In the case of target driven sales, I had an achievement to pursue and a skill to apply, each conversation then becomes an instance in which I could increase my numbers, and that logic helped me overcome my natural anxiety and force me into a situation in which I would have previously been uncomfortable, now turned into something familiar, something comfortable.


With that in mind it’s incredibly easy to translate every encounter, in and outside of a structured environment as a set of rules, and from their easy to conjure rules that emulate life. I often heavily criticise Oblivion for its weird Simon-Says style interaction wheel, but rarely will you find a game give good options because social interaction is one of the hardest things to which we can apply numbers. For this we need skilled writers as well as games mechanics, people who are acutely aware of the impact of words, as well as people who can map the possibilities and find a means of navigating them.

The rise of Pokemon Go has quite literally made a game out of going for a walk, and has brought the need to explore and collect out of the screen (up to a point) and into the wider world. Satoshi Tajiri made the original versions of Pokemon because he wanted to share the joys of his youth, bug-hunting and and collecting in the rural areas of Japan slowly swallowed by urban advancement. What we see now is something with higher fidelity to Tajiri’s experiences translated into a game.

Games emulate life quite intentionally, we pursue accuracy in visuals and in behaviours of characters because it creates a more immersive experience, and because it is reality that inspires us. Crime, war, adventure, drama, horror, all stem from real-life experiences, there’s even a game about being stuck in traffic or keeping a pet. They help us to experience life through a new lens and break the complexities down into far more manageable chunks, and in so doing they help us discover more about these aspects of life than we’d have learned alone.


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