Anatomy of a Game Design

In response to “Hypocritical Mommy” from The Escapist Forum: I’d be in agreement with most of it, tho I’d say not to feel guilty that you get more ‘fun time’ than your kids, as I see it as a reward for responsibility, after all, kids get pocket money for doing chores, or pay for having a paper round, you work to bring in the money to run the house, along with running the house in all the other ways, therefore you ‘buy’ yourself more leisure time. Just the way I see it.

It could be explained in that way to the kid when they’re old enough to take on the concept.

‘Sure you can play another hour, go spend half an hour doing the washing up, or folding laundry, or walking the dog, and you earn an hour’s game time.’


Well now. This is quite an interesting article, as I, too, am a work-at-home with parental responsibilities.

But my opinion is also coming courtesy of my wife’s sagacious knowledge from her days teaching preschool and her early childhood development education.

Part of the reason why parental figures often need to impose hypocritical rules on children are simply because the needs of children as they develop are different to a fully-developed adult. The stimulation that needs to be addressed over the formative years focus on several avenues; for example, the ability to move an object from the left to right and vice-versa is imperative in childhood development.

If we were to follow the same rules, then either a)the child’s development or b)the adult’s development would theoretically be hampered.



Playing for the Story” from The Escapist Forum:

Playing Oblivion for me was no easy task. I found myself getting killed time after time, and it just became a bore. I tried active leveling, and it worked, yet there were still parts that just made me want to rip my hair off. My “pride” refused to make me slide the difficulty bar all the way down, so I just set it down when fighting a monster I found impossible, then resetting it after getting it done.

This is my Oblivion experience, too. I wanted so desperately to get into it, and there were a few moments (listening to The Slip, because the same few tracks got annoying after a while) where I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between my current dungeon and reality, but those moments were fleeting and outnumbered by constant death over enemies that seemed far stronger than I. Eventually, I just gave up with the entire affair. I pick it up every now and again, thinking “I”ll do it this time” but each new experience often never makes it out of the sewer.

But I agree with the article, and find myself in similar situations often. I always seem to get about 3/4ths of the way through a game before the actual gameplay begins to become boring. I did this recently with Persona 4 and simply forced myself through the last two dungeons to continue on the story – a God awful grind, but one I’m thankful for, having made it through and seen the ending to a close.

However, there are certainly some games where I play it now for the simple challenge. Excluding ‘arcade’ sorts of games, I play through Dead Space now on Expert just for the sheer difficult thrill of it. I suppose that, after already playing the story, I feel more inclined to challenge myself, but, until then, I do my best to make it through on normal… but always keep in the back of my mind the knowledge that “easy” is often a few clicks away.


That’s an eerily accurate description of my personal mindset – I’m not in any way bad at games, but I’m not playing them to be challenged, I’m playing them because I find immersing myself into the narrative framework of a universe to be a fulfilling experience. It helps if the gameplay is fun too of course, but purely skill-based gaming experiences are not even remotely appealing to me – as far as my brain is concerned, I might as well be playing an exceptionally difficult game of “Bejeweled”.

Mind you, I’m flexible enough that even the barest skeleton of a story will tide me over, but I literally cannot make myself care about a game that has no story at all – without that narrative framework, there is no meaning or purpose behind my actions, and any illusions I might possess that what I’m doing is not inherently pointless are quickly dispelled.

Finding oneself frustrated by seemingly insurmountable odds or dealing with the annoyance of frequently having to replay things because your avatar keeps shuffling off the mortal coil are therefore impediments to the reason I game in the first place, and the thus I happily play on easy all the time, unless that changes the game in a meaningful way that makes it less fun (like removing/altering things rather than simply changing stat balances) – if I could cheat and be invulnerable in every game then I would do it in a heartbeat, as dying typically makes the story stop and why would I want that to ever happen?

This flies in the face of the traditional truism that “success is more meaningful when it is achieved at great effort” of course, but one doesn’t read books or watch films to “succeed” at them: the point is the experience itself.

Gildan Bladeborn


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In response to “The Games That Bind” from The Escapist Forum: My girlfriend and I are currently in a long distance relationship, and World of Warcraft has always been something that’s binded us together… I’m an idiot, and will often forget what playing WoW means to her.. and in those moments, I don’t want to play it anymore. She’s kind of gotten used to me leaving the game for months at a time, but I always come back.

It really isn’t the same as the situation in the article (although, if our stars finally align maybe one day), but WoW has really been a binder in our relationship (and at times, when my dislike for the game erupts, has led to some of our biggest arguments).

A couple that games together stays together though.. She doesn’t have too much in the way of games, WoW is pretty much it for her, but I’ve been trying to expand her repetoire. She is constantly telling me she wants to play games on the 360, but she doesn’t own one.. So I keep telling her that when she comes and sees me, she’ll be able to play them all.. and I have a list.. and I intend to find those games when she does arrive and help her play them.

I posted this article on her facebook wall though, because I think she’ll really like it. Thank you for writing it 🙂


It’s great to see that sort of thing, as I’ve lived through it with my fiance. We have lived 600 miles apart for the 7 years we’ve known each other (we’ve been dating for two) with me in Ohio and her in Maine. We met each other for the first time face to face in March of our first year when she came down to Ohio for a week. The first thing she did was buy me Persona 4, which was released only a week or so prior, and we spent that week or so playing it since it’s Ohio and there’s absolutely nothing to do here.

It wasn’t a matter of her watching me play for the next 80-some hours either. We made choices on the day-to-day activities to play together, she made me a list so I could see when certain Social Links were open and when to raise stats, and we held each other in mutual tension and glee after the besting some of the most difficult bosses in that game, with mutual strategies.

Even now, as I prepare to graduate and move up to Maine to live with her, one thing we look forward to most is the release of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep so that she can curl up against me as we spend hours tucked in front of my PSP sharing a mutual love for games in our own way. She loves the stories but is terrible at gaming, so she’s content to watch as I engross myself in them for hours on end. It’s a happy medium.

I love stories like those that reflect upon the same kinds of experiences I’ve had with my fiance, and I think it’s something all young couples should at least try to incoporate into their lives if one of the parties involved loves video games. It becomes an activity, in it’s own way, unique to just the two of you.



In response to “The OCD Gamer” from The Escapist Forum: I think it’s really important for people to understand that OCD isn’t just about hand-washing or hoarding or what have you. It can manifest differently for each person, and sometimes in ways you wouldn’t expect. I would know; my OCD revolved around people and social situations. It’s hard to explain, but the author makes a very true point here. OCD can show up anywhere, even in our leisure.

Thinking about it now, when I was younger all the games I really got hooked on were repetitive: Starfox 64, Harvest Moon, The Sims. They’re all very different types of games, and while I did (and still do) truly enjoy them and have fun with them, I remember playing them obsessively in times when I was under social stress. Those times I wasn’t having fun, I was just taking comfort in a repetitive activity I was familiar with and that I knew would be exactly the same (to some extent) every time I turned it on. When my social life felt out of control, I turned to games to feel like I had some semblance of control over my life. I didn’t realize I used gaming as one of my coping mechanisms until I read this article.

I don’t do that so much anymore though. I suppose I do still find comfort in the repetitive actions of gaming, but I think the fact that I have a hard time playing a Harvest Moon game past Year 2 attests to the fact that I’ve improved.

Thanks for being brave enough to write this article, Michael. I know getting a bad reaction from a family member or close friend can often be discouraging, but I think a lot of people will benefit from the experiences you’ve shared.


Michael Comeau:
My five-year college career was a complete blur. And no, I don’t have a Master’s degree.

Don’t worry. Had a six-year College Career and all I have to show for it is a Bachelor’s degree.

As for the topic, refreshing to hear this sort of thing from someone that actually suffers the symptom. I sometimes wonder why people so easily want to claim themselves as OCD or ADD. I’ve noticed the former is usually more meant light-hearted than the latter, as in not really diagnosing yourself but just saying you have a neat personality. Still, speaking with people I’ve learned no one actually understands what these behaviors are really doing.

Your description of anxiety is a great way to put it. It isn’t that it annoys you that something isn’t a certain way, it’s that you get an actual panic attack. With ADD, it isn’t that you are bored easily. Plenty of that is just discipline and focus. It’s a lack of control, feeling an inexplicable impulse and just spontaneously going with it. Just because you get bored watching TV doesn’t mean you have ADD. If you are watching TV and suddenly have the impulse to get up, run over to the couch and try to vault over it without knowing where the idea came from, that’s….well, it’s a more bad ass variation of ADD, but that’s pretty much it. Inexplicable impulses that, when asked “why” you can’t really explain.


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