Thursday, February 10, 2011

Assignment 4, Paragraphs on Readings

Salen, Katie and Zimmermann, Eric (2003): Rules of Play, Ch 3
I read this book a while ago, so it was nice to re-visit it. (I pretty much chose MFADT based on the fact that Katie Salen headed the program for a while and is faculty here.) What I find most compelling about this chapter is the idea of "transformative play" -- that gameplay can perform a sort of recursion back onto the structure of the game itself -- and I hope it's evident in my work so far, where the gameplay consists of modifying the game board. However, I find their analysis of Callois to be less useful than they say. Analyzing and labeling and classifying games does not necessarily yield anything constructive. To a degree, you just see what you want to see; these structures we assign to games don't necessarily exist.

Norman, Donald: Design Thinking, A Useful Myth
I'm really sympathetic to Norman's critique of design culture here: the idea that there is a higher ideal of design, of some perfect Platonic ideal form of an object, and that perfection is (perhaps) an Apple product or something. Yes, sometimes the products are genuinely better designed and function better, but many people buy into it because it confers social status and class privilege. When I see someone with an Macbook Pro, I can instantly make generalizations about their income and education level (middle class, college educated at the least) that are generally correct. Norman's right; it's a cult. But I also agree with his latter conclusion, that maybe this cult isn't so bad.

Norman, Donald (1988): The Design of Everyday Things, Ch 1
Norman's work on usability and HCI has been a big influence on me, especially when considering how it's currently used in video game development -- as a weapon against players, to "enslave" them and test to see which aspects can create an addictive mechanism that compels them to continue playing. Games like World of Warcraft, Halo or even Farmville exploit this work on usability to make something that crosses the line from "accessible" to "hyper-accessible" to "addictive." I believe this is unethical design practice. Unfortunately Norman wrote this at a time when HCI and usability weren't so commonplace, so I'm not sure what his philosophical stance is on "using accessibility for evil." His writing and thinking seems to be generally amoral.

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