August 28, 2004

8-Bit Pedagogy, a Game Game, We Are Worthy, Top-Down Bottom-Up, and What is Knowledge anyway

by Andrew Stern · , 9:50 am

Andre Lamothe, author of several game programming books that I’ve found handy, has launched XGameStation: as Slashdot describes, it’s “a retro level hardware platform, similar to the old Atari and NES systems, designed to teach enthusiasts and students the elements of console hardware design and effective low level programming skills.” Wow! Cool.

Two bloggers independently come up with a great idea at the same time — someone should make a game that explores the meaning of games themselves, a la McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Must be something in the water.

Gamespot’s got a new essay on games as worthy of academic study.

There are video games that have something to offer beyond their base entertainment value — even without so-called literary content. They are the media in which [previously existing] art forms can be combined into a single multidisciplinary edifice.

Justin Hall muses on the right balance between top-down authoring and bottom-up emergence, something we’ve thought about too (pdf, search for “sandbox”).

And Rob Zubek points us to an especially good 1993 essay that goes back to basics to explain “what is knowledge representation“?

4 Responses to “8-Bit Pedagogy, a Game Game, We Are Worthy, Top-Down Bottom-Up, and What is Knowledge anyway”


  1. michael Says:

    In Chaim Gingold’s analysis of Wario Ware at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at GDC ’04, he argued that Wario Ware is a game about games, a meta-game that presents fundamental gameplay patterns (jump, grab, avoid …) as a series of micro-games.

  2. nick Says:

    Regarding the Understanding Games idea, McCloud’s Understanding Comics was able to work because the comic is well-suited to prose-like exposition. George Landow’s Hypertext in Hypertext, in contrast, is cited very infrequently compared to his book Hypertext, which suggests that being in the medium/form that you’re writing about doesn’t always help you to explain that medium or form. It can be like dancing about dance or building buildings about architecture: providing examples is easy, but actually discussing the topic isn’t.

    This isn’t to say that the idea is doomed to failure, but it won’t be a straightforward step from Understanding Comics to a similar game about games.

    While there are comics explaining and discussing Chomsky, critical theory, Foucault, Freud, Marx, semiotics, and many other topics, there are not a similar slew of games that do the work of critical books or essays. However, games can be good at some things. I haven’t seen a comic book that explains Scheme better than Andrew Plotkin’s Lists and Lists, for instance.

  3. Scott Says:

    It would be fun, however, to play a video game that takes you through the evolution of video games as a form — a technical history of video gaming in the form of a video game seems imminently possible.

  4. Sean B Says:

    Doug Church and I discussed this idea a few years ago (unfortunately, Chris Crawford has claimed the natural title, “Understanding Interactivity”, with a non-interactive work). I think the interactive medium does lend itself to certain kinds of pedagogy (anyone remember “computer-aided learning” or the language PILOT?) The problem is (naturally) it’s a lot of work to author, and it’s still tempting to borrow from UC something like a cartoon narrating character as a “teacher”.

    But you can go beyond the obvious “take a quiz to show you understand”. For example, one idea that came to me (after I’d been thinking about this for a long time) is that you could have a bit where you learn some game design lessons by interactively _building_ levels and watching an AI solve them a la Sim Golf. Perhaps you could be being challenged to put something like mechanics/dynamics/aesthetics into practice (in Sim Golf, you’re trying to optimize for “player” fun by creating a high ratio of difficult-seeming to actual difficulty [oversimplifying]).

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