Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Scaffolding in AR Games

For reading, the reader can control her/his pace and thus always keep herself/himself in meaningful reading.

For a good video game, the gamer will not be able to proceed to another level unless she/he has good understanding of the game mechanism.

For both reading and video game, there are user-controlled mechanism to make the reading/gaming activity stay meaningful.

How about AR games? How do we keep it meaningful for AR gamers? This question is about the difference between reading/video-gaming and ar-gaming. It is also a question about the affordances of AR games.

For self-paced activities like video-games and reading, the gamer and reader have more control of the activities they are involved in. For AR games, the pace control falls on both the designers and the gamers (you would ask me why, wouldn't you). Hence the designer should be more conscious of the issues generated by pace contol.

One of the major issues is the comprehensibility.

Some players don't get the game in the beginning and therefore could not get it later.
Why? Some gamers don't read as well as other readers, whether video or text. There might be some design flaws which make capable readers less capable. If the game is incomprehensible, there must be something wrong with the gamers or the designers. Of course, we don't blame the gamers for not understanding the game or not having fun. Thus, the faults fall on the shoulders of the designers.

What can the designers do in terms of making the game more meaningful for less capable readers/gamers? How do we scaffold gamers in game?

Here are my solutions based on previous design experience.
1. Team work: gamers collaborate to understand the game.
2. Pace control: Allow gamers to have more control of their walking/reading pace in game. On the other hand, some gamers like to run and rush the game. The designer has to be aware of that because it hurts the game.
3. Provide a framework for thinking in the beginning of the game, either by the introduction or by the first few virtual interveiws. If the designer really wants to make a hard game, make it hard at the latter part to engage gamers.
4. Divide the game into a few portions/levels and have a reality check (such as a short debriefing) between portions/levels.

Other thoughts?

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