The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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4:00pm on Saturday, 21st January, 2012:
I like to talk about game design. Unfortunately, it's not something I get to do very often. Well, I do get to talk about it, as I lecture on the subject twice a week — I just don't get to discuss it very often. Even the two-hour discussion classes I have usually involve my talking to the students rather than having any meaningful dialogue with them. There are students there with whom I could have a good discussion, but they would rather not speak than look bad in front of their peers (note: saying anything when a lecturer asks a question of the whole class is considered the primary definition of making you look bad). One-on-one we might get somewhere, but it never is one-on-one.
This means that when I do get to have a conversation about games, it's something of a treat. I envy my colleagues at places such as Brunel, where they can not only discuss games with motivated and non-embarrassed students but there are members of staff with similar interests too. It must be marvellous! It's what a university should be like.
This week, however, I have had two good conversations about game design, from opposite ends of the spectrum.
The first was with a prospective student, whom I was interviewing to see if he was the kind of person we wanted to come to Essex. He was all potential, but had already thought more about games than 75% of my third-years. He was real fire-to-be-kindled rather than vessel-to-be-filled stuff. I said things, he got what I was saying and asked something back in return that showed he'd understood what I'd said and understood the consequences. In my view, the interview wasn't so much a question of my finding out whether he was right for Essex as his finding out whether Essex was right for him. It probably wasn't, but then again there isn't really anywhere in the UK at undergraduate level that would be right. The best he can hope for is that we give him a grounding so that he can go on to do a postgraduate degree where he can flourish.
The other interesting conversation I had this week was today with an old friend, Eric Goldberg. As Eric has been involved with games for as long as I have and has been thinking about them for as long, too, we don't have to waste time educating each other in our chats — we can go right to the cutting edge straight away. I love our discussions, which is why I'm willing to go into London on a Saturday just to have one. I think Eric enjoys them too, given that he dragged himself off his sickbed to see me (food poisoning). Following one part of the conversation in which he played devil's advocate, I managed to verbalise a way of thinking about player type dynamics I'd not really latched onto before, to do with how they relate to different concepts of fairness and thence different reactions to free-to-play business models. I wish we could have talked for longer but Eric started to die again so we had to stop after only 2 hours.
Ah, what it must be like to be able to have such discussions every day.
Aside: I'm typing this in on my new mobile phone on the train home and now, for the first time in my life, I have motion sickness on a train.
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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (firstname.lastname@example.org).