Knack: An Underappreciated Lesson in Accessibility, Variable Challenge, and Cross-Generational Appeal

I have been waiting and waiting but finally, the time has arrived when my first-born is able to play games. Proper games that is, with an actual controller, rather than the simplistic tablet-based apps that we have previously suffered through together.

It has been surprisingly difficult finding contemporary games on current consoles that are both appropriately rated for a 3-4 year old and, more importantly, actually playable for someone with tiny hands and developing reflexes. So much so in fact, that we have spent a number of months relying on my back catalogue of Gamecube and Wii titles to fill our gaming time.

About a month ago though, Knack appeared as a monthly game on PlayStation Plus. A few weeks later, it was the first game that my son had ever finished, almost entirely of his own volition. Moreover, I had also finished it (on a harder difficulty level) and had a pretty damn good time playing it as well.

Watching my son play on Easy and then playing through myself on Hard gave me a unique perspective that I would have missed had I simply played through once by myself. Given the fairly mediocre review scores the game received upon release, I felt it was necessary to argue the case for this game being an excellent lesson in game design for accessibility, variable challenge, and cross-generational appeal, even if by other measures of design it may fall over a little bit. Let’s have a look!

Continue reading “Knack: An Underappreciated Lesson in Accessibility, Variable Challenge, and Cross-Generational Appeal”

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Philosophy of Computer Games (POCG2016) Conference Paper & Talk

The first post-doc publication following on from the work completed during my PhD was presented today at the Philosophy of Computer Games (POCG2016) Conference in Malta’s Institute of Digital Games.

Titled A Theoretical Framework of Ludic Knowledge: A Case Study in Disruption and Cognitive Engagement, it presents the culmination of my work looking at how different knowledge types and different memory types may be leveraged by game designers to produce different types of gameplay experience. The case study in question is of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs which I co-designed alongside Dan Pinchbeck at The Chinese Room.

The paper can be found in full here and, if you really want to listen to my lovely voice, my full conference session can be watched here.

Mechanical Criticism: Transistor and Ether One

Two games in particular have surprised me recently because I loved the one that I expected to hate (Transistor) and have decidedly mixed feelings towards the one I expected to love (Ether One). In this article, I will offer a short critique of why I think these games had these very different effects on me by analysing some of the games’ mechanics and how they fit within the ludodiegesis of each game.

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Flap Off: Creative Conservatism and the App Market

It’s been a while since my last post, dwelling as I currently am in the depths of thesis-writing purgatory. However, on a recent excursion to the surface to obtain coffee and sunlight, I had the pleasure of observing the Flappy Bird saga (no, King. No.) and considering how well it epitomises one of the most consistent issues within the games industry. I’m going to focus in particular in this article on the mobile app marketplace, but this applies to console titles too, although possibly in a slightly different way.

Continue reading “Flap Off: Creative Conservatism and the App Market”