Nathan McKenzie is a game designer and technology programmer with Rainbow Studios, working on an unannounced next-generation title. Since entering the industry eight years ago, he's worked on general game programming and game tuning, artificial intelligence, special effects programming, sound programming, and too many odds and ends to list on titles such as Heretic 2, Soldier of Fortune, and Quake4.
Searching for the Intangible: Commercial Game Designers
Wrestle with Educational Games
The very best games often have the ability to enthrall their audience for tens, hundreds, or even in some cases thousands of hours. Although there have been many interesting forays into the construction of purposefully educational games, thus far educational gaming seems to lack titles that are as overwhelmingly compelling to players as Civilization, Everquest, Counterstrike, the Sims, Pokémon, Dance Dance Revolution, Tetris, or a large number of other titles that game players consistently invest very, very deeply in. Can a game that is explicitly intended to serve serious educational purposes reach this level of investment and commitment from players? Are the sorts of game structures, rules, pacing, or elements that make commercial, entertainment-focused games compelling to players inherently at odds with making games effective educationally? Are educational games currently dismissed by game players simply because the games lack the enormous budgets and production values of entertainment titles, or are there potentially a host of techniques and approaches to game design itself that entertainment software designers have long been mastering that educational games could benefit from understanding and employing? Answering all of these questions properly is certainly beyond the scope of any single paper or presentation. In the hopes of at least partially exploring them, however, this workshop will gather several designers with extensive game industry experience and challenge them to tackle the problem of designing a game or a few games that are at once highly compelling and effective at educating. Although the final results of this challenge will hopefully be interesting and thought-provoking on their own, the primary focus of this session will be on the actual process of design that the designers engage in while attempting to build a compelling experience, with a particular focus on techniques and approaches that shape player experience, player expectations, and player motivation, and on techniques that imbue games with both approachability and longevity. This workshop will attempt to start from a firm, concrete basis, with designers engaging in actual, detail-oriented design, rather than theoretical discussion and analysis, and it will then draw connections from these real-world implementations to more theoretical game design principals, as well as their implications.