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Matthew Ho
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Brick Builder of Code, like Game Design & Psycho.
Brick Builder of Code, like Game Design & Psycho.

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Concrete example & implementation of Csíkszentmihályi flows
Sometimes +Ian Bogost writes an essay that really clicks with me. Check out his article on Process Intensity.

In particular he makes several worthy distinctions:

Process Intensity is a ratio of processing to static data.
You can thus have a high process intensity game (such as the Marriage) with little processing because the systematic complexity that exists is not diluted by excess data.

There are different types of processing
Chris Crawford was talking about processing from the viewpoint of a computer executing code. However, we can expand this concept beyond single player computer games,

Computer process: Processes that occur within a computer. Often this takes the form of simulation and acting as an enforcer of formal game rules.

Social process: Processes that occur between people. This is a universe, ranging from group formation, competition, cooperation, politics

I'd extend this
Data process: Internal processes that occur in the consumption of complex layered static data. Example: Peeling back the layers of Finnegans Wake. It is an act of reveal packaged meaning.

Mastery process: Internal processes that result from them iteratively improving mental models of the systems at hand. Example: The process that results in the acquisition of mental model that distinguish a new chess player from a master chess player. It is an act of inventing useful tools.

The various combinations and ratios of these attributes help describe the space in which various games operate.
- Dear Esther: An attempt at High Data that often misses, Low Social (unless you are a critic), Low Mastery
- Diablo: Moderate Mastery, Moderate Social, Low Data
- Go: Moderate social, High mastery, Low Data
- Asshole (the card game): High social, Low mastery, Low Data.
- J.S. Joust: High social, High mastery, Low data.

Relationships to other writers
To critique Crawford (who is amazing for raising these questions in the first place), no one except programmers gives a damn about 'computer process'. Only human processes ultimately matter. We are selfish that way. Social, data and mastery can be facilitated by computer process, but it is by no means essential. In fact, poorly structured computer processing can lead to impenetrable simulations that actively damage the mastery process.

To critique Doug Wilson, J.S. Joust is a radically different class of game than Dear Esther. The confusion comes from the fact that he is merely looking at computer process. The designs have the right idea (focus on rich social process and mastery process) but the designer takes a stand on the wrong problem (the evils of computer process...which is essentially a meaningless axis of investment)

To critique most traditional media critics: They often overvalue the presence of Data processes and undervalue social and mastery processes. Which is sad since high mastery and high social process works exist in other media as well (Midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show come to mind).

To critique game developers: We've been generally quite bad at including data process into our games. Even when the quantity of static content is high, the iterative mental effort needed to unpack its meaning is low. More problematic is the fact that almost all attempts to improve upon this state of affairs seems to wreak havoc on simultaneous attempts at including mastery or social processes. I personally ignore this issue. I've got bigger opportunities to worry about than fixating on this odd little edge case.

All this also ties very nicely into the concept of cognitive load where the sum of the processing costs associated with data, mastery and social process puts a burden on the player's brain. (Csíkszentmihályi flows from there)

take care,
Danc.
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Marketing 2.0?! make use of platform power & tightly monitor consumers by iteration
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treat them as learning opportunities, not signs of weakness.
Uncovering gaps between cognitive barriers & facts can be a source of innovation.
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