Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture with James Portnow (of Extra Credits fame), about the Aesthetics of Play.
Summing it up, the aesthetics of play try to answer the question “why do we play the games you do” from a game designer perspective.
It groups up games in categories (aesthetics), and although most games don’t fit in just one category, there’s a main category, which ideally has been the focus of the game designer to explore and develop, and that corresponds with why most players will play that game.
We looked into a subset of 10 aesthetics, like “Discovery”, “Narrative”, “Fantasy”, “Dominance”, etc, and tried to figure out some example games were in each of them.
The interesting part of this is because it adds one more tool in the game designers arsenal, making us think in terms of why the player should play our game, what kind of player will play our game, etc.
Most of the games I’ve ever thought and designed are in the “Narrative” aesthetic… It figures, because I love stories and tales, and its normal for me to have this tendency to push all games towards that.
As an exercise, I tried to make a game design about each of the aesthetics (or remember an old one)… I could figure out one for each except “Discovery”… I’ve never designed a game around that aesthetic (maybe because I’m a conflict kind of guy), except if you count Cursed, which I never felt as a Discovery game (could have worked out that way with some tweaks, I guess)
Anyway, it got me thinking and I drafted (in my head, of course) a new game: “Claim”.
The idea is to have an infinite procedural generated universe and players have to make colonies on the planets, building civilizations. All of these civilizations will increase in might in planets well adjusted for the colonists (for example, humans thrive on Earth-like planets), and having better civilizations will give the player bonuses that will enable him to explore further and further. The idea was to have this multiplayer with online leaderboards, so that players could find out who was the greatest explorer, etc…
The idea is interesting, and if I ever have one week to kill, I might make a prototype of it…