Connecting Curious Dots

On the intersection of technology, culture, and everyday life: My semi-updated space to collect and link my thoughts about interesting things I spot.

Reshaping the World: Shaun White Skateboarding Game

Shawnwhite As it does every year, this year's games for change festival left me reinvigorated and eager to build out ideas.  "Good" design is a constant theme for this field that's faced with creating appropriately engaging experiences about tough topics, often with small budgets.  Embracing narrative techniques from other media and creating ambiguity + meaningful choice was advice echoed by many designers. 

Among the many thoughts I'm still mentally digesting is the question of when its effective to design social impact games that are not literal.  Commonly, a game about the environment has players interacting with digital assets that simulate and look like the environment; a game about global conflict puts players in the shoes of archetype political sides.  When is it more compelling to play with the underlying dynamic (e.g. resource management) in a different way? 

With that train of thought, the recent Ubisoft Shaun White Skateboarding game caught my eye (nice write up over at Kotaku). The game world starts in a city controlled by the "Minestry", everything safely regulated, no fun weirdness (the world skaters see and want to change).  In this generic world, by skateboarding the players can express themselves, influence, and physically reshape the world around them.  360 flips and other tricks make stores more colorful, people lose their suits, rails connect to reach rooftops, chunks of the street transform into bowls.  By remolding the world into a skatepark, players eventually overthrow the MInistry.  Subbing out skateboards, players discover their influence tool, test it to greater degrees of sophistication, and see their ability to produce a different world.  

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