Anup Doshi

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We have some questions to guide you as you reflect on your experiences in this unit. Please think about them as you write in your journals. Please write as much as you like! The more reflective that you are about your experiences using the Values at Play methodology, the more able we are to get an idea of what this experience has been like for you. We'd like to hear about what it's like to use this methodology and what it's like to think about the concept of social values becoming embedded in video games.


Class 1:

1. What was the experience of using the Grow-a-game! cards like? Was it difficult to brainstorm values in the game that you selected with the cards? How so?

It was an interesting experience of using the Grow-a-game! cards. It gives you some powerful ideas to begin with. The constraints the cards provide are helpful; they provide you with a goal. There are four categories of cards - the value, the challenge, the verb and a game card. For our first excercise we chose to leave out the game card since we felt it would narrow some of the choices we could make about what mechanics, setting and mediums we can use.

We approached the activity with a playful attitude. In the end there were a lot of interesting ideas generated; some completely random and tangential from what we begun with. When we drew cards - at first it seems that we have three random unconnected words. We then started finding commonalities between the the challenge, the value and the verb. Some of the initial ideas that we came up with were mainly focusing on using the verb as a mechanic and the challenge as the setting for the game. But later when one of the teammates pointed out that we need to focus on trying to instill the value in the game so that when players played the game they could experience it rather than be told about it. This approach was arguably more difficult but felt like the right way to go. The hardest part was to get the player to feel the value by allowing the players a meaningful choice within the game.

2. Using the cards, how was it to try to use the mechanic to represent the value?

It is a hard job to use mechanics subtly to represent values. The solutions for problems in which we forced the mechanics to represent value felt less effective than ones in which the values were non-obivious and players would be led to discover the value as a part of progression of the game. For example using judging as a mechanic would be less effective than if the there was a way in which players felt judged by the game.

3. What was it like to explore values in games with group members? Did any emotions come up (for you or anyone else) as you spoke about games and values?

What was really interesting about group discussion of ideas was that sometimes we would build of each other ideas and other times someone would have a completely different take on the meaning of a card. When a challenge card came up for an issue you were passsionate about it showed in the ideas. A deeper understanding of the problem helped create a better game or a better argument for why something would or would not work. We had times when the cards that were drawn seemed to be difficult to gel together in a game. Though there was a lot of frustration, the challenge sparked debate and exitement. For me it was fun and exciting excersice, resulting in a lot of accidental discoveries, it got me think about values.

4. For the out-of-class video activity:

• How difficult was it for you to discover an example of this value in a game? Have you ever done anything like this before (analyze game elements for value content)?

The value I drew was democracy. Initially I thought it would be easy to find examples based the fact there are so many simulation games. I thought of games like rise of nations, where one of the win states is by not warring with neighboring regions but by conquering them through increasing the influence of your own religion, technology and wonder. This felt like a game more about diplomacy than democracy. So I looked up the definition of what democracy really means:"it is a system of government through elected representatives, equal right of representation, control exercised by majority, practice of social equality". Though it can be used in several contexts, it has a similar meaning in each. It was difficult find a game which had a direct connection with this value. Even the game 'Democracy' does not really instill a value of democracy. It is a simulation of running the government. By changing different variables and often choosing sides trying to maintain power. Though the game provides an understanding of the psyche of different demographics, it is a game of making tradeoffs to reach a win state. In retrospect a game which puts the player in the position of one of the demographics and letting him exercise a right to be represented would better instill the value.

I was pointed to game called "Red November" by my classmate. It is a cooperative board game in which players struggle to keep a submarine from sinking. This game has an indirect approach to the value of democracy. In pitting the players against the board the game creates a situation where players must agree upon certain moves as a team to survive.

I have never consciously tried to analyze game elements for value content before. Subconsciously I would know what values the designer intended to push with his or her game.

• Do you think that others might see this value represented in the game?

I think they would since the game gives the players freedom of choice yet when a majority agree to a certain action the player is compelled to do it.

• Do you think that the game’s designer(s) thought consciously about the value being reflected in the game?

I believe that the game's designers had thought of democracy or teamwork as the core of the mechanics. This game is based on another cooperative game (Shadow over Camelot) whose rulesets add a lot more complexity and deviate from the idea of democracy. This game focuses on the value better.

• How did you make the connection between game elements (narrative, rules, or mechanics) and the value?

The premise of the game is that the players need to work together so they can survive long enough for a rescue, which immediately puts everyone in a position where they must rely on other players as well as decide as a team whats best for everyone. This is a turn based game where the players can have pick up items such as fire extinguishers and other tools and use them to reduce the threat or trade them with each other. Also players must decide how long they wish to attempt to fix a certain problem or pick up items. Since this time affects how far the boards timer advances and affects everyone it becomes a point of discussion and players usually decide on the strategy as a team.

Class 2:

1. How challenging was it to discover the value that you are using for your prototype? How did you settle upon the value? What makes this value important to you? To society?

2. Values in games can arise from many sources: narrative, character representation and backgrounds, the game environment, mechanics (constraints and affordances), and underlying rules, to name a few. Which elements of your game design will represent the value that you have chosen? Why have you chosen these elements?

3. How have stakeholder values been appraised and integrated into your design?

Class 3:

1. How has your value been operationalized?

2. Were there any disputes among group members while trying to determine how to represent your value in the game? How did the disputes arise? How were they resolved?

Class 4:

1. How did your group handle conflicts around values representation in the game?

2. How did your group respond to critiques from other groups? Did you need to reconsider and design elements for values representation?

3. Write about your overall experience in this unit. What was it like to focus on embedding values as you designed a video game? What were the most challenging aspects of considering how to represent values? What were the most enjoyable aspects?

4. Have your thoughts or attitudes about the concept of values becoming embedded in video games changed at all since the beginning of the unit? If so, how? If not, why not?