Sunday, April 22, 2007

Requiem of the Swans

Here we are, at the end of the module, and here I am writing the swam song for my experience with user experience. Well, if I were asked what is the ONE important thing that I learnt from this module, it is that: Good Design is a State of Mind. All the stories about nirvana and samurais, has made me realised that the bottomline of good design is that it is an opinion. It is an opinion that you formulate about yourself, and it is an opinion that you have to sell to others, to make them believe that your design is a good design.
The one thing about that struck me throughout this module is how similar creating a user experience is to marketing. Essentially, its about looking for a niche in the market, looking to create an experience that would be in demand, and then finding ways to sell this experience to your target market.
The entire process of the project sorta reminds me of how people in big companies such as 3M would probably go about looking for ways to develop new, innovative products. It all starts with identifying a problem, or a need or a lack among your users. Then there is a need to understanding your users, who are you trying to market to, what would they want from an exprience, which we did through user profiling and persona creation. After which, we had to explore the product from multiple aspects, from affordance, to ergonomics, to branding and business strategies, before we considered prototypes, both low-fi and hi-fi, which would lead us to the final product.
One lesson that i learnt from this is that, developing a user experience is not so different from developing a new product, perhaps the only difference is the costs and monetary factors involved in the development of a product. Wheareas developing a user experience is more concerned with the end experience and emotion of the user, not so much about the bucks that are raked in in the end. But, I guess it would be safe to say that developing a successful user experience is a huge step towards developing a good product, but yet at the same time, it can be so much more. As user experience encompasses everything from the design of the product itself, to the emotions involved, to the brand loyalty and all the other non-measurable factors.
But the important thing to note about creating a user experience is that we cannot create experiences directly, since experiences are all personal and subjective to the users themselves, and we cannot directly control what we want them to experience. However, what we can do is to create primers, or cues, that will facilitate to them recalling emotional states or experiences, perhaps through colours, signs, sound, etc, to invoke the desired experience that we want our users to feel.
While "smokes and mirrors" highlights some of the weaknesses of teaching design as a science, that emperical research is crap, and that a good design is inherently recognizable, and i do agree to a large extent to it, I do have to say that it is not ENTIRELY true. I believe that design is AT LEAST teachable to some extent, such as the guildlines for colour choice, or negative space. Perhaps talented designers don;t have to be taught this, and perhaps we all know all these inherently, but the act of bringing these intuitive concepts out into the light and making them known, verbal and teachable, probably give, not-so-talented designers like myself, a much better picture of how to go about designing a good design and more things to consider while designing.
Perhaps, it will always be unfair, that the talentless will have to learn all these things, and yet cannot be as good as those who are naturally born with it, but i guess all things in this world adhere to this principle of unfairness. But if Maslow's hierarchy of needs is anything to go by, at least i can say that this course has helped me achieved a greater sense of self-actualization when it comes to design. And even though i may never be up to the mark, in raw talent, at least i furthered my abilities the best that I could. Still, if samurais are anything to go by, then for me to become a good designer, i must first believe in myself. So, my first step would be telling myself, "I am a good designer, and my designs rock." Now, I would need to market that to the rest of the world.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Through the Looking Glass

In "Smokes and Mirrors," the author claims that design is more of an art than a science, and that emperical research is nothing short of bullshit for measuring design. I think the man has a point. In its essence, the article reinforces the seemingly irrelevant stories of nirvana, samurais, enlightenment and design, which after a LITTLE thinking, I realised that the bottomline of all this is: Being a good designer is all about belief. Which means, even though there are some guildlines to good design and blah blah, in the end, it comes down to the mind. You can only be a good designer if you believe that you are a good designer.

In the terms of philosophy, good design is like true opinion, something that one must believe and make others believe in as well, and not so much about knowledge, something that can be picked up and passed down. In other words, talentless chums like me will propably never become the inherently good designers, as much as i am an appreciator. So, the next best thing that I can do will be marketing.

The implications of this article bear heavily on the aspects of psychology, branding and marketing. And I have personally always been a believer of marketing. In fact, the article only served to reinforce that good design in our society is mainly a matter of pooled opinions, that is context and time sensitive, and seriously emperical research has nothing to do with it.

Take the ipod for example, people will say how creative is better and all that crap, but when it comes to it, ipod wins partially due to the design of the device and how the design and branding is marketed to the masses. Personally, I heard of the very ipod before i saw it, and my friends were telling me how cool it was, how sleek it looked and all that crap. And honestly, when i first saw it, I wasn;t very impressed. I mean, yes, it was cool and all, but definitely underwhelming as compared to how my friends described it.

But things changed when i bought my ipod mini. Suddenly, I was a believer in the brand and i was not afraid to flaunt it, or feel the sexy curves of the little baby, or admire its design. The difference between the two mindsets before and after were all due to the marketing and branding of the ipod, they sold their brand to me, and they made me BELIEVE that it was a good design. And honestly, even if Creative were to do all the emperical research in the world and now tell me that their mp3 players are more ergonomically designed or what not, it still wouldn';t change my mind about which design is superior, underlining the implication of the article.

After reading the article, I also started to think that a good design would probably be inherently obvious, and intuitively distinguishable from the get-go, and not need all the research to reinforce it. This relates back to the first time i saw the motorola razr on a poster. I remember seeing the poster and IMMDIATELY telling myself, "wow, cool phone." It was only later, that I noticed the words at some corner saying, "voted best phone of 2005." And seriously, i wouldn't really care even if the words wouldn;t there, since i would still think it is a cool design.

Hence, these examples only further highlight that design is so much more of an art than a science, and all the research in the world, will probably not amount to the same weightage as creating a good design, that will strike an affective chord within a person, and generating a positive respones from the person. But just as art, good design is often a relative experience, and is considered good as long as there are enough people who believe in it to be good, and are willing to advocate its good-ness.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sneaks and Ladders

For the fourth assignment, we were assigned a highly important task that was supposed to help benefit the education of mankind, blah blah, ok.. maybe not THAT important, but still, the task was out to investigate some possible ways as to which we could Improve the Learning Experience in Lecture Theatres (LTs). In order to do this, Si Wei and I embarked on our little quest, with the little techniques that we were taught from the guru, mainly (and in order) we used, the art of sneaking into the crowd and observing silently (Ethnography), Repeated, and irritating method of questioning (Laddering), and finally, generally polling (Survey).

We actually started this study from foundations taken from the study of student Learning Styles, which is defined as “the way each learner begins to concentrate, process, and retain new and difficult information.” The existence of learning styles means that there are different learning preferences between different people, and that justify this study, as we embark to find some conditions in which most people would prefer, or not-prefer rather, in light of the laddering technique; but either way, by examining these preferences we would be able to do a survey study and then suggest improvements.

We based the possible factors of learning on the Dunn & Dunn Learning Style model, which sums up an individual's learning style based on a combination of affective, cognitive, environmental and physiological factors. The factors in the learning style model are as follows...

With these factors in mind, Si Wei and I went about our sneaking (Ethnography) to identify what could be the possible factors that account for different student behaviour, mainly attendance and sleeping, in different lectures. In the end, we decided to short-list down to two factors, one technological, which we chose to do: Seats, in the vein of an Environment - Design factor based on the above chart, and one cultural factor, Time of Day, from the Physical Preferences category. We decided to go with a depth-approach, more so than an all encompassing-breadth, which we later discovered that many of our peers did.

For the my part Time of Day , we attended different lecture slots at different times of the day, to gauge the behaviour of students, and it was discovered that in 8am lectures, students are either late, sleeping, or not even present in the first place, as reflected by the poor attendance. This observation is reflected and supported in Andre's and Chee Kit's group as well, in which they plotted a chart to trace the rate at which the students entered the LT during an 8am lecture. The laddering process later revealed some VERY INSIGHTFUL truths...

... like sleeping in lecture is unproductive. Ok, so maybe we all knew that already.

But either way, we decided to head to the streets (more like the canteens), to garner some word of the public on the issue of morning lectures. After 30 students and 5 questions later, here is what we concluded.:-

  • Most students don’t like lectures that are too early (before 10am) or too late (after 6pm).
  • Students dislike early lectures more than late lectures.
  • Most students admit to being unproductive /falling asleep during 8am lectures.
  • Most students are occasionally late for morning lectures.
  • Students are more likely to skip lectures that are too early or too late.
  • Students claim to be productive in lectures that fall between 10am – 4pm.

Thus, in light to morning lectures, here is what we suggest:-

  • ABOLISH 8am lectures (lessons) and after 6pm lectures. (As if that would be possible).
  • Try to schedule lectures between 10am-4pm.
  • Schedule tutorials at “unwanted” timings instead of lectures.
  • Lecturers can start a bit later for morning lectures, to accommodate to late-comers.
  • Give breaks during lectures (for better student concentration, studies have shown this).
  • TRY to keep content and delivery interesting.

In conclusion, even though learning preferences are very subjective to the individual, and there might not be any conclusion to a lot of the possible factors to learning, since "one man's meat[could be] another man's poison" and there are some things where we can all agree to disagree, there are some things that people universally regard as "poison," and morning lectures is one of them. Even the stars, horoscope, feng shui and superstition agrees with this point (ref: Chung Hau's group on feng shui and morning hours.) But overall, it is quite hard to pinpoint one particular factor as being the cause for a bad learning experience in LTs, especially through the use of ethnography and laddering, as what is observed and said, its sometimes a result of numerous factors at play at once, and even though it might be at the tip of the tongue for most as the main reason, it is not the only reason as to why they have bad learning experiences. So, the bottomline is, more in-depth study would probably be needed if we were to study any of the factors of improving learning experiences, after all, there is no guarantee that people won't fall asleep even in an omni-theatre, right?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reverse Engineering Pleasure

This week is all about Reverse Marketing Analysis for an imaginary target user. So, everyone, meet my (not-so) little imaginary friend, Adam. Now, go think I'm mad for being able to conjure up an imaginary friend.

Adam is a 26-year old Marketing Executive, and an essential "yuppie".

Physically attractive, well-spoken and well-presented. Adam believes that he has to "look and sound the part, to sell the part," be it in terms of his job mantra or his personal image. Thus, Adam spends a huge sum of money on clothes and fashion accessories to keep himself looking trendy and fashion-forward. His choice in fashion lies mostly in the range of "smart casual," and tends to steer towards the sleek, polished look; and favours innovative niche brands over well-established. His heavy-investment in self-grooming pays off though, as he is almost universally recognized as "well-dressed" amongst his co-workers and friends, and he knows this and rightfully regards himself as such, while trying to maintain the image consistently.

Socially, Adam keeps a VERY hectic schedule, which is mostly ad-hoc. He often meets with co-workers or old friends for drinks after work, and goes out hard-partying at the hottest clubs on weekends, places where he goes to see, and be seen. He is generally flirty by nature, and seriously non-committal in relationships, believing in casual dating more than anything serious, and dates up to 3 different girls on some weeks. A big spendthrift, with little savings monthly, Adam spends a large portion of his pay on wining and fine dining, for he believes that the money he earns is only a means to an end for a more pleasurable and desirable life.

Career-wise, Adam has been almost as non-committal with his jobs as he is with his women, job-hopping through 3 jobs since he graduated from University with a Bachelor in Business. However, in most of his jobs, he is often held in high-regard by his bosses, not only because he is well-presented and make excellent presentations, he is also one to think very quickly on his feet and is able to generate ideas on-the-fly when it comes to marketing. Due to these reasons, his bosses often put him in the front line to meet up with the clients as they are confident that he can deliver his ideas convincingly and effectively. Adam is somewhat ambitious, and hopes to reach the top sooner rather than later, all in the name of making a better life for himself.

In his free time, when he is not out socializing or partying or working, Adam likes to spend some time alone at home, at his own bachelor pad. The nicely-coordinated glass and metal decor of his pad reflects his taste for sleek and minimalistic design, enhanced by some designer furniture pieces that he has collected over the years. His parents have retired overseas and he has little family here. A not-too-devout Christian, Adam doesn't particularly hold strongly to any particular set of beliefs or values. He spends time working out in his home-gym to keep in shape and look good; and is also an avid techno-phile as he believes in owning the latest technology, especially in consumer electronics such as HDTVs, hi-fi sets and game consoles, ESPECIALLY game consoles. All in all, Adam leads a rather balanced lifestyle where he nicely juggles work, pleasure and alone time.

Four Pleasure Analysis of Adam
  • Working out in his home-gym keeps him in shape and feeling good and healthy. - Need Pleasure
  • Loves to indulge in alcoholic cocktails when he is out for drinks to unwind. - Appreciation Pleasure
  • Relishes the pleasure of good food and fine wine when out on dinner dates, partially to satisfy his love for food and to gratify the taste buds. - Appreciation Pleasure.
  • Spending a quiet evening in his home appreciating the ambiance, look and atmosphere of his own apartment, over a book or a movie relaxes his mind and body. - Appreciation Pleasure


  • Enjoys the company of old friends and colleagues over drinks. - Appreciation Pleasure
  • Enjoys making new friends and interacting with new people through clubbing. - Appreciation Pleasure
  • Enjoys the thrill of the chase in dating, reinforces his beliefs of being attractive and desirable. - Need Pleasure.
  • Takes pleasure in knowing that he is recognized as "fashionable and well-dressed", by his friends and colleagues. - Appreciation Pleasure


  • Being good at his job gives Adam a sense of job-satisfaction. - Appreciation Pleasure.
  • Takes time alone at home watching movies and playing games to unwind from the pressure from his job and his hectic social schedule. - Need Pleasure
  • Games give Adam a sense of mastery and stimulation when he is playing them. - Appreciation Pleasure
  • Adam appreciates owning and fiddling with the latest technology, as it keeps him feeling fresh and trendy. - Appreciation Pleasure


  • Adam is ambitious in terms of career and wants to be seen as successful. - Need Pleasure.
  • He doesn't need to look socially sound, as he is secure enough on his own, but does like the image he portrays as being socially popular. - Appreciation Pleasure.
  • He wants to upkeep his image of being well-dressed and well-groomed. - Need Pleasure.
  • Appreciates things in accordance to his taste for the sleek and the minimalistic. - Appreciation Pleasure.
  • Takes joy in sourcing for an owning niche products that are unique and exclusive among his circle of friends, be in his choice in clothes, accessories or furniture. - Appreciation Pleasure.
  • Spends majority of his pay on enjoying life through food and goods, as it justifies the reason for him working hard, which reinforces his belief on earning money to enjoy a better life. - Need Pleasure.

Product Benefits Specification

  • Sleek exterior that looks good to use and nice to hold. (Physio-Pleasure/Appreciation)
  • Preferably some sort of designer / limited edition phone. (Socio-Pleasure/Appreciation)
  • Colour and style must compliment the young, fashion-forward, trendy look for a young executive. (Ideo-Pleasure/Need)
  • Must be technologically advance with cutting edge specs and innovative functions, such as touch screen design or (Psycho / Ideo- Pleasure/ Appreciation)
  • Must be able to support effective high-tech communication, such as 3G, lots of memory space.(Socio-Pleasure/Need)
  • Built-in camera for storing photos of contacts along with their numbers (especially the girls picked up from clubs). Especially useful if the camera is inclusive of flash for the dark club environment. (Socio-Pleasure/Need)
  • Would be best if it supports a platform to play games on so that Adam can play games on the go. (Psycho-Pleasure/ Need)

Recommended Phone:

LG Prada Phone:

  • Sleek in design, available in black and silver, light and slim exterior.
  • Designed under the Prada label, makes it a designer phone.
  • Technological advance touch screen display, with handwriting recognition.
  • Document viewer and Macromedia Flash UI.
  • Built-in 2M CMOS camera with LED flash.
  • Supports 3G technology with 8MB internal memory.
  • Music and Video Player.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

War and Peace

I LOVE Games so, in almost any situation, i would analogize (if there even is such a word) things in relation to games, whenever possible. And just so happens, this week's "reflection" is possible for me to do such a thing. So, I'll be blogging about both the Next-Gen Console WAR.
Is about one's thoughts afterwards, how it makes one feel, the image it portrays, the message it tells others about the owner's taste.
Nintendo Wii
  • Slim and compact.
  • Traditional Box shaped design.
  • Dull white and grey.
  • Wii-mote looks like a TV remote.
  • Designed to look non-threatening and "friendly" to casual gamers.
  • Games look fun to play using the Wii-mote and the motion-sensing technology.
  • Introduction of a lot of new type of gameplay possibilities with the motion-sensing technology.
  • Relatively weak from a graphical and technical standpoint.
  • People are still rather skeptical about the depth of these games, and might be too gimmicky.
  • Not that many games as of now, as a game system, it delivers the fun, but not really the depth or the variety yet. Maybe this will change in time to come.
  • Lack of online community at this point of time.
  • Says a lot about your self-image in owning one.
  • Willing to embrace innovation and fun.
  • Makes one feel "fresh" and look like their REALLY having fun.
  • Brand loyalty to Nintendo and its direction of reshaping the way people play games.
  • Distinctly different form of gameplay from every other console before it.
  • Great for showing off to casual gamers and non-gamers alike.
is about look and feel, the total experience of using a product - the physical pleasure and effectiveness of use.
Microsoft Xbox 360
  • White, curvy and sexy.
  • Green lights make the console look "cool."


  • As of now, the Xbox is where you get the most game for your buck.
  • Huge library, and quite a handful of AAA titles under its belt already.
  • Games offer both depth, gameplay and variety.
  • Graphically, it is VERY close or even better than the PS3 as of now.
  • You get the biggest and best online community services.
  • This is where the Xbox is the weakest.
  • Lacks the Playstation branding power, the lack of novelty of the Wii,
  • Been out for a year, and the "wow" factor of owning one is long gone, the Xbox 360 has silently infiltrated into the living rooms of gamers around the world... or not, and probably will never.
refer primarily to its intial impact, its appearance.
Sony Playstation 3
  • Black, silver or white.
  • Sleek & Sexy Exterior Design.
  • High-tech look and specs.
  • Graphics of games look gorgeous.


  • Top end specs, makes it the most technically powerful of the 3 next-gen consoles.
  • Additional functions like the Blu-ray player.
  • A graphical processing beast.

BUT... we are talking about a gaming console here. And as a game console, great perfomance = great gameplay experience = great games...

  • Limited and less than satisfying library.
  • Few of which make use of the innovative functions. Perhaps when the bigger titles are released things will change.
  • But as it is, its just quite a "glorified" Blu-ray player.
  • Online community not as established.


  • Playstation branding.
  • Latest Technology.
  • The image portrayed of owning one are that you're a lot about you're a techno-freak or just bloody rich.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

(Side)Talking Your Way Out of Bad Design

After a long hiatus, the cryptic vampire is back on cyberspace for another blogging assignment, or rather the start of another chain of digital writing. But of course, the context this time is VERY different. Out with games (damn!), and in with design, NM4210 User Experience Design to be specific. Oh well. The harsh reality of the academic life I guess.

Anyway, as a Warm-up Assignment, design-guru Reddy had us source out a badly design product, set-up a poor victim in using it, and capture the user's reaction to the product. From there, we, or I rather, am supposed to reflect upon it and blog about it.... and my product of choice: the ORIGINAL Nokia N-Gage. And the poor victim, my dear cousin, who's identity i will not disclose as to not have the world think her as an idiot.. (aww.. how sweet a cousin I am).

Back in 2004, Nokia released the original N-Gage to attempt to steal market share from the king of handhelds, the Nintendo Gameboy Advance, and tried selling the idea of multiplayer mobile games. Basically, to the technophile, the prospects of the device looked good as it was "a device that can serve as a mobile game platform, a tri-band GSM phone, an MP3 player, an FM tuner, an e-mail client, and a personal information manager." But being the game enthusiast that I am, I had my doubts about it as a game device and seriously doubted that it could penetrate the games market. Lo and Behold! 2 years later, Nokia is still not even considered a player in the handheld game market. But the reason for the N-gage's failure was due to a number of bad design choices made my Nokia. So, after much sourcing, I managed to source out and old N-gage and put it into the hands of my poor cousin.

Some things about my cousin. She plays games casually, but is far from being considered tech-savvy, hence, it would be great it put the N-Gage in her hands to gain a layman's perspective on the design of the phone. First, I had her try out a few games. Unexpectedly, she was quite entertained. Then I told her to try another game, and to do so, she had to change the game (MMC, the format on which the games are stored on).

She: "Hey, how do i change the game? I don't see any slot for inserting or ejecting cartridges?"

Me (refusing to divulge any info): "Well, you can try searching a bit more, I'm sure you'll find it eventually."

(She continues rotating the phone over and over, searching for some sort of cartridge slot but to no avail. Finally, she gives up and slams the phone on the table.)

Me: " Let me give you a hint. You have to remove the back cover."

(She quickly reaches out for the phone and remove the back cover.)

She: "What the? Who would know that the stupid slot is inside the damn phone? And i still have to take out the battery every time i wanna change the game. Isn't that just damn stupid?"

Design Flaw #1:
Well, my cousin is right, it IS damn stupid, and in actual fact, many critics of the N-gage actually point to this as a serious design flaw of the N-gage. Especially considering that in part, it attempts to be a handheld gaming console, gamers would probably wanna change games rather frequently, and shouldn't have to go through so much hassle to change a damn game, isn't it? Good work, Nokia.

Anyway, that is the lesser of the two main problems in the N-Gage. The second design flaw is a lot more serious, in my opinion, probably to the extent that it is slightly demeaning, perhaps.

Me: "Ok, now i want you to try to use this phone and call me."

She: "Hmm, ok, what's so hard about that?"

(She proceeds to dial my number and press the Intuitive Green Call button. Suddenly, she realizes something... there was no visible speaker or microphone on the top side of the phone, where all the buttons where. Instinctively, she flips the phone around to its backside, and still, no speaker or whatsoever. So, she starts examining the phone again. And finds two suspicious rectangles on the side of the phone.)

"Are these actually the speaker and the microphone?" She asks skeptically. I nod in response.

She: "You got to be kidding. How the hell do I hold the phone and speak into it? Like this?"

(She proceeds to hold the phone sideways with the screen-facing up.)

Me: "Yup! Welcome to the world of 'sidetalking.' Try it."

(I proceed to another room as we attempt to hold a short conversation.)

Me: "So, what do you think? Or rather how does "sidetalking" feel?"

She: "Uh. Stupid for sure. I mean, couldn't they have just designed the damn phone to be a little more, like, normal. I can imagine this doing wonders to your image if you were caught using your phone this way."

Design Flaw #2:
Indeed. "Sidetalking" was what really made the N-Gage infamous amongst the consumers. Not only did the critics cite the level of (dis)comfort associated with this choice of design, which Nokia states that "Sidetalking was there for a practical reason: if placed elsewhere, the screen would get in contact with the cheek and become smudged," (Bullshit! Aren't ALL conventional phones like this, anyway?), the whole image of "sidetalking" looked utterly RIDICULOUS. Don't believe me? Watch this

Ultimately, the Nokia N-Gage failed to achieve what it was supposed to do, hardly making a ripple in the handheld gaming market, due to the poor design and poor software line-up. Even though Nokia did try to rectify most of the design flaws of the original N-Gage with the N-gage QD the following year, the brand image of the N-gage as a gaming platform had probably already been tarnished, and like all other phones, its novelty value wore off after a while, and like all other phones, the N-gage became "just-another-phone."

Perhaps its for the better as well... after all I always believe that its much better to be focused on one aspect of focus for your product and to design your product around that aspect, and design it to accomodate the feature as well as possible, rather than try to aim to be a little bit of everything, and in the end, end up being nothing really. Guess that was the case for the N-gage, it sounded absolutely appealing on paper, like the be-all-end-all phone for its time, with so many functions in one phone, but in the end, it was a half-assed phone, and an even more half-assed game console.

R.I.P. sidetalking. You will NOT be missed.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Gaming Culture I: Swan Song

Well, its that time of the sem, the time to say goodbye to school and go into three long months of retreat, but of cos there is this little four letter word in the way of now and then.. E.X.A.M... ok.. make that a big problem. Just finished the second hell week with 4 deadlines in 3 days then thrown directly into study break. And blogging is actually my "rest time".... unbelievable...

Anyway, as the last entry for this sem... after thinking about the whole issue about class feedback and blog exercises... i guess i finally managed to earn my two cents worth on this,and my conclusion is that....Arts students are damn slack to be complaining about this module. Probably gonna get stoned for it.. but still.. i think roughly one entry a week is quite a fine workload.. and i sorta like it this way.. cos me being the last minute kind.. would probably die if i had to try to engulf the whole theory near the exam period.

With the blog exercises, at least there is a division of workload by giving us something to think about what was thought in the previous lecture before moving on.. and i think by keeping pace with the blog... would help the learning process a smoother one... but then again.. i do empathize with the ppl who don;t have the time to.. and end up trying to finish everything in one shot. That would definitely be a hassle. But then again, its a blog entry... no word limit (which i exploit in the wrong kinda way by writing REALLY long entries)... means we can actually write as little as we want... so its really a matter that totally boils down to the individual.. but i guess it works for me. Then again.. maybe i am one of the few who are actually passionate enough to be talking week after week about games and just games.. oh well...

Anyway... the final question for the sem.. here we go...

Think back to the very start of the semester, when we talked about the concept of meaningful play, which occurs when "the relationships between actions and outcomes in a game are both discernable and integrated into the larger context of the game" (from Salen and Zimmerman, Rules of Play). When the game is an alternate reality game such as The Beast, where the game does not have any explicitly declared actions and outcomes, and in some cases does not even acknowledge its own existence, is it possible for there to be meaningful play? Does this type of "game" require us to rethink our definition of games?

Well... i guess this brings us back to the point of The Sims that we discussed back in the early days, of it not really being a game cos there is no real quantifiable state of winning or losing in the game... and our conclusion for it was that it was not really a game. However, we did discuss that it would still provide meaningful play a sense if a player were to actually set his or her own mini-goals in playing the game.. like buying the most expensive fridge or something like that.. and work towards that goal.. in that sense.. what we are discussing here is something similar to that.

In games like The Beast, players are like trying to solve the puzzle that the developers set, and depending on how you look at it, it can still fit into our definition of games. If each puzzle that the developers set is likened to a stage or a level.. and if the quantifiable outcome is to solve the puzzle and move on to the next puzzle(level)... then meaningful play can still exists when the collabarative mass of players each work as part of the team in order to acheive this outcome. The rule of the game can be likened to something like "there are no rules... solve the puzzle by any means possible.." and in this, is a rule in itself.

Actually, personally, in alternate reality games such as The Beast or even D&D, the game is not so much about trying to achieve the actual quantifiable outcome or by reaching the goal, by rather it is governed by an implicit, unspoken rule of ""playing your role to its fullest." In all 2218 fashion, in such games, even though it seems like you might be playing the role based on the choices you make, but at the same time, the role is playing you, by making you choose choices on what that role is perceived as in your mind. And in this sense, the meaningful play actually comes from you wanting to play this role to the fullest.

Probably same case here for the Beast, of whether the players know that there is a quantifiable outcome or not, maybe the meaningful play is factored in when they play the roles assign to them despite knowing it might be a game.. which is the role of the "detectives" trying to solve the case... and when they feel a personal acheivement in fulfilling this assigned role.. then they would have "won" the game.

Well.. guess it is a confusing thing.. especially in cases where the magic circle is so blurred.. i guess in a way.. life could be like a whole big game as well.. and you win when you actually fulfill the role of what you set yourself out to do and be... giving meaning to your life and existence.. and at the same time creating "meaningful play." Something to think about i guess...

So here we are.. at the end of the road.. it was a good one.... and i know i enjoyed it... somehow.... i have a feeling that this is not the last i will be seeing of this blog... i have a bad feeling about the immortalvampire resurrecting itself in Game Design 2... we'll see. For now.. its time to nail the coffin shut... THE GREAT JER... signing off...