Every game or form of play toys with some human faculty. Slot machines play with our sense of probability and reward, and soccer players play with social coordination, physics, and their bodies. Newborn babies play with and explore their hands. In a sense, our games are software that run on our players’ physical, cognitive, emotional, and social hardware. But what are the specs of the human game playing machine? Are we using all of its memory, processing power, and input/output devices?
The success of the Wii, and the rise of casual & player creativity gaming, demonstrates what happens when latent human capacities for play are tapped into. New genres, audiences, and types of fun emerge.
What human capabilities do we, as computer game designers, typically engage? What play capacities are out there, why do we have them, and how can we design for them?
Chaim Gingold is a computer scientist and interactive designer by training. By trade, he is a computer game designer & digital toymaker. He holds a bachelors degree in Computer Science from WVU, and later studied with Janet Murray at Georgia Tech, where he earned an MS in Digital Media. He is a long term associate of & collaborator with Will Wright, a seminal figure in the field of computer games. While working with Wright at Electronic Arts/Maxis, Gingold was a key member of Spore’s prototyping & concept team, and designed the game’s award winning creative tool suite. Gingold has published articles and spoken around the world on game design, prototyping, and play. Currently, he works as an independent game developer & design consultant in Berkeley, California.
About the author: Mike Treanor is a game designer and PhD student studying at UC Santa Cruz. His work focuses on how to interpret and express ideas with playable media. Read more from this author