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Defining Games: Raph Koster's Game Grammar
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Defining Games: Raph Koster's Game Grammar

October 19, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 7 Next

CN: I'm a fan of the offline Final Fantasy games, but that hasn't resulted in interest in any MMOs for me.

RK: So what you should do is try Three Rings' Bang! Howdy, which is a cowboy-themed Final Fantasy Tactics online. I'm trying to think of a better analogy, but it's kind of in that ballpark. We haven't made enough different kinds of games for some of those things to pop up, but they absolutely could exist.

Me personally, I can't stand that kind of... I love the stories in those console games, and I hate the combat. I'm like, "You know, if I could play a Final Fantasy and skip every random encounter, I would so do it!"

Are you concerned at all by the potential privatization of the internet that's going on? That certainly would prevent the whole Play Anywhere thing.

RK: I don't think the whole net is going to get privatized. I think in the grand scheme of things, issues like net neutrality -- which got dealt a big blow yesterday.

I didn't see that.

RK: Yeah, the DOJ essentially came out saying, "Eh, it doesn't really matter. We don't really need net neutrality." I think for people who are really, really close to the problem, which includes game operators, of course it's a massively big deal. On the grand, historical scale, I'm not sure that it is, because I think to some degree, market forces will make it so that if we have a non-neutral net, market forces are still going to push prices into certain kinds of tiers, and it will have to be reasonable because the ecology of business will demand it.

I would still prefer net neutrality -- flat rate, much simpler for everybody -- but I recognize that it's actually an uncommon business configuration to have a service or utility that only offers a flat rate. That's really unusual, and honestly, internet connectivity is a utility. It's increasingly acting like a utility. I want net neutrality. I'm not sure if we're going to get it or keep it. I think it will be disruptive, but I don't think it's the end of the world. I think accommodations are reached, essentially. It might be painful for a while, but far more worrisome to me would actually be stuff like censorship or surveillance.

What do you think about the stuff that MMOs have to go through to come out in China?

RK: That kind of stuff I find as being far more worrisome. Imposing a surveillance burden because of Homeland Security or the Chinese government or whatever will probably cost a company far more than net non-neutrality. That kind of stuff is far more worrisome on many more levels than the question of whether one guy pays more for a byte than another guy.

I was talking with Sulka about your game grammar stuff, and I was asking him if he thought there could be some sort of global language for games -- not necessarily the words, but the terms and the things we call them. He thought it was maybe impossible, because of all the various differences that come up when you're entering different countries and things like that. But we do have the same terms for film and stuff, pretty much.

RK: Sort of. You kind of need to make the distinction between the terms for film that are for tools -- like "dolly shot" -- and terms that are of film grammar, which is way vaguer and half in French.

Yeah, like "mise-en-scène."

RK: Right. I think a lot of people will argue about "mise-en-scène", for example. I named the first book "A Theory of Fun" very much on purpose, and this one is "A Grammar of Gameplay" very much on purpose, because again, I look at music and I go, "Huh." If I play guitar, there's chord diagrams, there's harmonic analysis, there's standard music notation, tablatures... there's a lot of different ways to get at this stuff, and it's very much a good thing.

So I would expect and hope that we would have variances in grammars and approaches and models and all the rest, because the more tools the better. I think there will be commonalities. Things like the definition of a boss monster probably does cross culturally fairly well, but actually the definition of a character has turned out to be something that shifts a bit when you cross.

CN: A very striking example, if you look at the prominent developers of an ostensibly same-genre game, is BioWare and Square Enix, if you're talking about character. That's a vastly different concept.

RK: Vastly different definitions, right. But you can get both groups together and they'll be able to use the word "hit points" with no problem. It's very dependent on the specific.


Article Start Previous Page 6 of 7 Next

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