Guest Wisdom from Garry Shirts

Star Power inventor Garry Shirts and I have been been friends and colleagues for at least 30 years. We generally pick up the thread of our mutually enlightening and delighting dialogue every year or so. This one was about games and replayability. Garry:

I've been thinking about your replayability comment and StarPower. I think that is one of the differences between simulations and games. I think of myself as designing simulations rather than games. For me, the essence of designing a simulation is to try to capture the essence of some process, or reality that exists in the real world. Simlations may be designed for many different purposes. A Physical simulation is often used to make predictions about how a system will work. For instance, a simulation of a harbor might be designed to determine how sand will be deposited in the harbor. I think of many films as simulations of reality. Their purpose is to entertain. many books in my opinion are designed as simulations of a reality. I design simulations to help people learn about some aspect of real life. StarPower is designed to help people understand how power changes the way people behave and are perceived. In my mind it's closer to a film or a book with regard to the issue of replayability (not purpose).

Most people do not see a film more than once or read a book more than once. Replayability I think is very important for games, but for me it is not something I strive for in designing a simulation. I want the simulation to serve as a springboard to learning about the real world. There are simulations that are so rich and complicated that they might be replayed many times, but that's not something I strive for. I want them to move on to thinking about, learning about the real world. In other words, I see the simulation as a tool to look at the world differently.

I think that is a fundamental difference between games and simulations or simulation games. Most people don't play games to learn something, they play games to have fun, to enjoy the challenge of winning, of competing . I would feel that I had failed as a designer if my games were played just for fun. If they have fun that's fine, but that's not the primary outcome that I hope to create. If they didn't have fun, but learned something, I would consider the experience a success. Whereas, I think most people who design games would not.

I think where you and I resonate is in the area of creativity and problem solving. For me, if participating in a simulation or playing a game increases a person's ability to create or enjoy the process of creation or it gives them experience in solving problems, or it provides a more honest and rich interaction among the participants. , I would consider that a learning expereience and a great success. .

So when I look at most of your games, I view them with that criteria rather than the criteria of having fun. I assume when you call it deep fun you're making the point that the activity serves a richer purpose than having fun at a surface level. I think that is what is so valuable about your work is that you are changing the way people think about games.

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Blogger Bernie said...

And when I look at your games, I think of how fun they are, how they make me want to play, completely, openly, even though I know I might be fooled into learning something. They are so much fun that I am willing to drop my guard and engage in them fullly, despite their ineveitable educational value.


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