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Action-Packed Short-Form Games: An Ideal Date?
by Sande Chen on 05/01/09 02:40:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


[This blog entry originally appeared on Game Design Aspect of the Month for April 2009's topic Designing Quality 2 - 3 Hour Games.  Please participate in May 2009's topic, Trends of Simplicity.]

At GDC 2005 and GDC 2006, as co-founders of the non-profit, Girls in Games, Inc., Michelle Sorger and I conducted the popular "Attracting Women to Game Development" roundtables, which focused on recruitment and retention of women in the game industry.

One comment during a discussion about bringing games into the lives of teenage girls has intrigued me over the years: a suggestion that the industry create 2 - 3 hour narrative-based games that teenage boys and girls could enjoy together, akin to going out to the movies.

Young girls, according to research, are enthralled by video games just as much as young boys, but in their teenage years, girls' interests typically turn to issues dealing with dating and socialization.

Video games just like any type of sciences or maths are commonly viewed as interests for females who are socially awkward and undesirable.

Therefore, girls veer away from the very subjects that could make them employable in the video game industry years from now. For years, people have said the issue is not that young female college freshmen are not interested in computer programming, but that teenage and middle school girls are not interested in computer programming. We're wasting our efforts if we devote all our energies to the college level.

But by transporting video games into the realm of social interaction and dating, the act of playing a video game becomes socially acceptable to teenage girls. It becomes part of the dating ritual, like going to a club or a movie. But what sort of short-form game would be appropriate for a date? And how would that dynamic be?

Normally, when boys and girls play video games together, boys end up playing the game. This has been noted in several studies of games used in educational settings. There are many explanations for this: girls typically are not video game literate and girls' play patterns differ from boys.

Noah Falstein in a GDC 2009 session noted that when girls play, one takes the steering wheel while the others crowd around and give comments. For girls, no particular person is in control whereas boys are continually jockeying for control of the controller.

Moreover, girls are not comfortable playing a game without knowing exactly how everything works. As Sheri Graner Ray has often stated, even back in the arcade age, a boy was playing the game while a girl stood watching.

However, I would posit that while girls' lack of controller dominance may discourage educational theorists who would want girls to participate (and learn) from games, this is perfectly OK in a social setting.

No girl wants the possibility of failure in front of boy and repeated failure only leads to frustration. As casual game developers know, the more a casual player fails at a game, the more likely she is to stop playing the game.

In addition, when considering gender play patterns, it simply follows that a boy playing the game and a girl watching is a normal situation. And a girl's lack of controller dominance does not mean that she is not enjoying the game.

Anecdotally speaking, when a couple of game designers and I went through Gears of War 2 in one sitting, I was quite happy to let the guys go through the game because I knew they could get through it faster. Yet, I felt like I was participating because at choice points, I could voice my opinion, yelling "Right, Right!" or "No, Left!" when we drove over the frozen lakes. Normally, I find it silly to yell when I watch DVDs with friends, but because this game was interactive, I could participate in that way.

I might add that I typically do not enjoy action flicks on the wide screen. I have even fallen asleep during a Vin Diesel film because of the lack of deep characterization. So, it is somewhat surprising to me that I have come to this conclusion that action-packed short-form games would be ideal date material.

Simply, in my experience, no other genre of games seemed to be right for this purpose. I have played Braid with the same guys and even though I used the controller with others commenting to me, a puzzle game is simply too slow-paced and furthermore, does not deliver a satisfying shared experience at 2 - 3 hours. I have found the same to be true for RPGs, which often meander and have a slow build-up.

Scientists have said that in the science of love, increased adrenaline output is part of falling in love, which is why television matchmakers try to hook couples up by giving them exciting dates like race car driving or bungee jumping. Fast-paced action games, if at 2 - 3 hours, incite adrenaline and are spectacles to watch.

The narratives, while they could be better, are straightforward and usually on rails like a movie. To top it off, if the couple had something like the Rez trance vibrator, then every time the boy blew away demon-alien hybrids, the girl would receive a happy jolt. However, that's not for first-date hijinks!

So what do you think? Should video games be part of the dating ritual?

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Luis Guimaraes
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Haha, let's see will still stand against rail shooters :D

Luis Guimaraes
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I have some ideas about such mechanics where a hardcore and one, or some casual players can play the same game together, in coop, parallel or "versus" gaming. I'll prepare a post about it.

Reid Kimball
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I can see the developer interviews now:

"We didn't want to create a simple casual date game. We wanted to innovate and give courting couples something to sink their teeth into, which is why we are excited to talk about our new hardcore date game.... wait, I didn't mean it like that."

Rick Gush
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This is the most intelligent discussion I've read in all these years on gamasutra. Make games that romantic couples could play together? Complimenti Sande! If you ever own your own dev studio, I'd like to work for you please. I proposed that Westwood make "dating games" years ago, but they snickered.

Kumar Daryanani
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Yes, I agree that this is an awesome idea, on a lot of different levels. Apart from the very valid points you make, Sande, wouldn't making these types of games be conducive to more women seeing game design as a valid career choice, from a younger age? Also, wouldn't a good market for dating games (read, good sales and media coverage) motivate the industry to move out of the boobs and guns quagmire, because of the need to appeal to a different audience?

I want to ask a question though, Sande. You say that you felt like you were participating watching the two guys play Gears of War 2, but if you had had the option of being part of the game, maybe as some form of disembodied weapon that helped them progress through the game by picking off enemy targets, would you have enjoyed that more? Essentially, to one player, the game is an FPS, but to all additional players, it's a form of rail shooter, or shooting gallery game. Would that be more fun than just watching?

Again, a very interesting idea, and one that I'll probably devote a lot of thought to.

Luis Guimaraes
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The fast-paced point is very interesting. Not only about the rithym, but that these are game which the person watching can understand what's happening. It's pretty like analising a couple watching a movie, they get fun together when they both understand the movie. Understanding is a keypoint to get interested in.

I'll try to get my exemple of hardcore/casual gaming together... Who remember RE4 in that level where the chopper guy is killing the ganados by the Leon's path? That one easy-to-think of hundreds of ways to make such gameplay to work. A second player (better for Wii version) could "gallery-shot" with the chopper gun, into the main player screen. Playing a very easy and safe-of-risks shooting game, but also helping the guy playing the main game, and, with a good point to comunication.

I didn't planned it to make dating mechanics haha, it's was more about using hardcore players as tutors inducing casual and non-player into the videogame universe... but...

Sande Chen
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Thanks for all the comments.

@Luis Guimarães: Yes, I think that part of the answer is to create games for hardcore and casual gamers to play together. This actually leads right into the current GDAM topic of Trends of Simplicity, whether or not as an industry, we should approach this issue by simplifying everything to the level of casual gamers. Even in issues of accessibility, we think about how to design to include these individuals in the fun, as @Reid Kimball probably knows. For instance, I believe the Doom mod for blind people relies on sound, but the people who are not blind can play it as usual.

@Kumar Daryanani Arias: As for your question, I think that had my friends not been so skilled at shooters, it might have not been such a great experience. As for participating in a secondary role, such as destroying land mines or grenades, I can see that working. It would really depend on the confidence of the other individual and how relevant it was to progressing in the game. For me, I didn't want to slow down the game so unless my performance was not a detriment to progression, then I don't think I would have chosen to participate in that way.

I think what it would do is expose teenage girls to video games. Once it becomes socially acceptable to them, then they would start to think about careers in game development as much as they think of careers in television or in movies or in theatre. And if the industry starts to recognize games used for this purpose, then yes, I think the developers will naturally think about how to meld game elements that are pleasing to both genders. Artwork and subject matter will be more appealing to a mainstream audience. This does not mean that the game will not be just as thrilling or action-packed, but that developers will understand that the girl will have just as much say as the boy as to which game to get for the evening.

Kumar Daryanani
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Thanks for your insight. I have been thinking about ideas for games that could fit the 'dating game' profile. As @Luis said, the first idea that came to my mind was a coop experience with one player controlling the on-screen character, and the second player being an off-screen support character that can pick off enemies without actually being at-risk, due to them not actually being on-scene. Ideally, though, I think that while the role of each player should be different, we shouldn't pigeonhole players into roles, because we might fall into the trap of creating gender stereotypes.

For example, in the game example above, I think the date might start off with the guy on the controller (on-screen character) and the girl on the wiimote (off-screen support character), but hopefully, if they want to change roles to experience the game a different way, there shouldn't be anything in the game that prevents it.

This actually ties in with the casual vs hardcore debate as well. Since the idea is to create an asymmetrical experience that can be enjoyed by two people with different gaming interests and skillsets, these types of games could be a way for more core players to engage casuals into trying out different things in a good learning environment. If for example, my wife/mother/grandgather liked playing Bejewelled and I was a hardcore shooter fan, a coop game where one player controls the ship and shoots down bad guys, and the other matches three icons to give the other power ups and regain health would be something I would very well pick up so that she and I could play together. After a few rounds of playing the game with me controlling the ship and her matching three, one of us might suggest reversing roles, and the experience could be fun enough to get my mother interested in trying out a different form of shooter.

So maybe, the basic premise of the 'dating game' can be expanded into 'games that bring casuals and hardcores' together?

Luis Guimaraes
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@Kumar, I think so, the "basic" premise should be that, as @Sande said "Once it becomes socially acceptable to them", so the facts of gaming being not that popular and look scary and weird to many non-players is a barrier. Disrupting that barrier is probably a first step.

Also, such assimetric mechanics mostly arrives in coop gameplays, so at same time a casual player can play in their pace, the hardcore gamer can play a hardcore difficult. I think coop can be the best use of such systems.

And yes, the powerup idea was part of my brainstormings when I was thinking of these systems.

As a Pixar animation, there are elements for very many audiences, from funny colorful speaking-animals to entertain children to political mature jokes that only their parents understand. We have something good here.

Kumar Daryanani
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I have a new post up about this on my own blog. Here's another thought, though: Would the only way of implementing this be as singular, 2-3 hour games, or would a game with, say, 6 games/stories, each sitting at 2-3 hours long be viable too? I get the feeling that perhaps the individual servings would be better, in case there is only a single date, with maybe the compilation version being more aimed at established couples? It would probably be a huge downer to have the compilation version and only get to play one of the games/stories, or even worse, find out that the person you were dating already played the game with someone else! I could see all kinds of crazy shenanigans and drama going on.

Kimberly Unger
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Hi Sande!

Any thought about the social aspect of being in a gamers environment? No so much within the game itself, but I have always found casual gamer women I game with seem to be uncomfortable with the level of immersion required to really play through a game, there is often no easy way to pause the action and continue a conversation (which is generally accepted as good manners when in a social situation). As such, the gals usually spend their time watching, commenting and conversing, while the gentlemen do much of the playing. Casual games are often faster and easier to break away from, but if you could find a way to make this happen with more action oriented titles, it might be easier for women to get more involved.

Alfe Clemencio
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So basically this has the same effect as a rollercoaster ride or a scary movie then? A lot cheaper too hehe...

What about girls being put in an information control role for some of those hardcore games? Playing World-at-War on Search-and-Destroy Hardcore multiplayer is really tactical. You can't do anything while looking at your map (you could still get shot at) and people really use their mics and speakers to gain as much information about movements.

There could be a specialized role where someone just watches a map and gives information. If MAG had a role dedicated to that girls could fill that niche.

Dave Endresak
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Well, I think that the global market hasn't been properly represented in various studies, at least as far as I have checked over the past couple decades. For example, Japan has had dating simulator games for both girls and boys for a couple decades now, and females tend to dominate both the consumer and creative side of manga, gaming, and anime. It's very different from America and other Western markets. However, even in Japan, women don't dominate as heads of business or programmers; they tend to dominate in the trenches of creating art and characters. On the other hand, modern tools are reducing the critical role of programmers; they're still important but not in as broad a way as a decade or two ago.

I think it's also important to analyze established patterns and ask whether or not observations are the result of true free choice or simply socialized gender roles. In other words, even if a study reports that girls and boys exhibit certain play patterns, this tends to echo socialized roles rather than genuine freedom of choice. We can see this by observing that various guys enjoy works targeted for girls and vice versa regardless of media. Are games (or any media) supposed to reinforced socially prescribed roles or should they offer the opportunity for people to express who they truly are or want to be? A business may choose the former but game designers/developers (and players) might prefer the latter.

In addition, I think it's important to consider the actual spectrum of gender identity rather than attempt to restrict it to dichotomous male-female categories. For example, there's the entire scope of intersexed and LGBT people to consider, and they are just as likely to be interested in playing games as anyone else. In fact, they may be even more likely to play if the game allows experimentation and role playing.

There's also the factor of the dating process not being something that all people participate in, perhaps not even the majority of people, at least not as far as the popular perception of "dating" is concerned.

I think that the specific roles for a coop type of game will always vary due to individual preference, but that such a choice doesn't depend on somethng like gender or sexual identity. For example, I do not like to play melee-focused, close combat types of games (role playing, FPS, or anything else, really). I prefer distance encounters, logistical analysis, and strategy (not necessarily real time, although I can sometimes deal with that, too). On the other hand, I've met women who prefer to get into toe-to-toe, no holds barred melee encounters. For example, such women prefer warriors/tanks in MMORPGs rather than spellcasters or archers, but I prefer the latter and never play warriors/tanks. I think such choices are probably due to individual psychology and complex interactions that determine our individual preferences.

I think the most important element may be pacing of game presentation. However, this is also true for other media such as novels and movies. Some people prefer faster pacing with little exploration of character while others prefer slower pacing with extensive character exploration. I enjoy both depending on my mood, as well as the many offerings in between either extreme. ^_^

Dave Endresak
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I forgot to add one anecdote for consideration.

When I was in high school 30 years ago, arcades and video games (and table top role playing such as AD&D) were the newest thing for those of us who weren't into the typical sports interests or certain other traditional hobbies. There was a group of girls and guys who I hung out with and played with back then, and no one raised any questions about anyone else participating due to gender or anything else. Such concepts weren't being raised back then, of course, but my point is that there were girls and guys playing games together, as well as going to arcades, pizza parlors (where we played games), and watching movies of all types. We also read similar books and watched similar TV shows, oftentimes together. We didn't necessarily consider it "dating" per se, but none of us considered it an issue as far as girls and guys doing such things together, nor did any of our parents, at least not to my knowledge.

Perhaps if we could simply try to encourage people to be themselves and accept them as such, none of this would matter.

Carlo Delallana
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Rock Band and Guitar Hero are perfect examples of the "ideal date" game experience. It's a shared experience that can be played in short bursts. These games also take co-op to the next level, in fact I think we should classify these games as coexistence multiplayer experiences rather than cooperative. There is a strong reliance between the skilled and non-skilled player in these games which really strengthens social bonds. Neither can progress without the other and regardless of what difficulty setting each player assigns to themselves the experience is never diminished.

Sande Chen
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@Kumar: If you look at the other GDAM entries for April 2009, the other writers do talk about the episodic model. As for the casual/hardcore divide, of course it's a related issue, but not something I was trying to address in this blog entry.

@Kimberly Unger: Hello! I think it's perfectly acceptable to watch and comment. I think what's important is to present this as an activity that would be acceptable for a date. In that environment, the discussion would be about what's going on in the game, rather than about other topics. The fact that you're watching this in someone's living room instead of movie theatre does free it up to have discussions about the game. Movies, actually, aren't so great for dates because you don't get to talk and get to know somebody, but maybe afterwards, you can. But during a game, you can talk about it while it's going on and you can in fact press the rewind button in some games. It's like watching television or a DVD, a bit more intimate. And seeing the ending of the story/game is important - you don't get a full experience without the ending.

@Dave Endresak: Yes, dating simulations have existed for a long time and there are examples of them in the West. I was not discussing dating simulations but the dating experience. It's possible this line of thought is applicable to the LBGT community.

Christopher Wragg
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Sot so sum up, you're after something that;

a) can be played by two players

b) has one easy to learn role that isn't game crucial, while the other is

c) you want b) to not be boring and preferably appeal to a female audience

d) The game needs to be short, as in single session, or at least can be played meaningfully in a single session

e) the game needs to be remotely high in adrenaline, the point being using games to encourage a date atmosphere.

The best concept I can come up with is a game in which the boy who's being controller dominant actually "plays" the game, while the girl controls the "direction" the game takes, or controls a secondary force.

Perhaps if we were talking fps,

- Lets say we have a squad shooter, first player controls the main character, does all the running jumping and shooting of a regular fps, second player could control the squad, give them commands, and sit back and enjoy the result of doing so, also at any point where there was a divergence in paths the players could take, second player gets to make the choice.

- Getting more inventive, they could play a disembodied entity. Imagine the main character was psychic, first player controls all the players actions, again with the running jumping and shooting, while second player controls certain psychic abilities, perhaps moving cover pieces for the first player, moving cover enemies are behind, busting open doors, nothing overtly important, the first player could overcome many issues without these tactical advantages, but they certainly help. If you wanted to encourage downtime for the female player, so time in which to recover and chat for a brief moment while the game continues, then the psychic abilities could be treated like a resource with a relatively low recharge.

Anyway, just a couple of ideas.

@Sande Chen

You mention a movie as a bad date, but they're actually great first dates. Meeting at a movie is neutral territory, which puts no pressure on anyone, I think the important factor though, is to do a meal after the movie, not before. After gives some common ground on which to encourage conversation, in addition, if you decide not see a fluff piece, you can discover much about a prospective partners beliefs and ideals all in a single setting (for the more serious of you out there =P ). You also have the advantage of almost everyone liking the movies, sure not all the same movie, but well, sacrifices must be made.

Playing a game on the other hand (unless there is a public venue nearby), must of necessity be at someone's home. This would be great for later dates, because intimacy is a more comfortable thing rather than awkward, but not so crash hot for first dates (ah hem...usually if you end up at someone's house on a first date your not going to sit around playing a game). A game would also be good for "inadvertent" dates, you know, when a bunch of people are sitting around playing games, and all of a sudden two people are playing a game together... Either way I don't see games ever being a first date sort of thing, mainly due to the polarised opinions of them, the fact they can't occur on neutral territory, and because I can't imagine anyone asking someone coyly, "hey, wanna come back to my place, and, you know, play a video game..."

Luis Guimaraes
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thats exactly the point why I think wii si the best one for that... it is what you get you tv screen outside when making a barbecue...

Sande Chen
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@Christopher Wragg: It may not be good as first date material, but I think there's potential.

Sande Chen
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@Christopher Wragg: Sorry, laptop crashed before I could elaborate. I agree that there are issues -- that a video game may not be the best choice for a first date, and better for latter dates. I still feel that movies aren't so great for dates and they don't always come with meals ;) However, going to a movie theatre is very different from watching a DVD at home. It's a wide screen and there's an experience to it, so it's preferable as an event, a something special, than just watching a DVD at home. When I wrote about spectacle, that's what I think these types of games can bring to make it feel like a date -- that there could be excitement in choosing the next installment set in the same world, or a game from a known company or author and going to experience that. We now have karaoke bars and studios -- Perhaps in the future, there would be public establishments that cater to a couple's video game experience.

In the article I wrote on social games, The Social Game Network Boom, I did touch upon designing for different play patterns in the same game. All of this talk about hardcore and casual gamers playing the same game has been interesting, so thanks all for your comments.

Michael Rivera
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More than the "adrenaline factor", I think that exploration and experimentation would lead to a much better date game. From my own experience, games like Fable and Super Mario Galaxy seem to work better than FPS games because the pace is slow enough that the other person can provide significant input even without a controller. Suggestions like "Hey, what's over there?" or "Maybe you can solve this puzzle by ___" become possible, and make it seem more like both people are playing the game even though only one is holding the controller.

Not to mention that most action games have too much of the "geek" aura about them to be considered good date activities. As entertaining as GoW is, I don't think it's ever going to be considered a good date game by the general public.

Luis Guimaraes
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True. Even with all this talk, I think japanese and korean games are already very good dating backgrounds. The characteristics of most asian, specially japanese entertaining is pretty good for these purposes. Take anime as exemple.

Michael Rivera
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Luis: I don't know about that... Outside of a few Nintendo titles and maybe katamari damacy I can't think of any Japanese games that would be good date material. JRPGs in particular seem like they'd be really boring to play with two people.

Ditto for Anime, though that's mostly due to the whole "geek aura" thing again. The only two Anime I've watched on a date were Paprika and Spirited Away.

Sande Chen
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@ Michael Rivera: YMMV. As Luis pointed out in an earlier response, the action titles are more like movies in that it's easier to understand what is going on. A non-gamer can get immersed in the spectacle.

Something that hinges on exploration (where it's different lands or finding clues or finding the solution to puzzles) will take longer and most likely, longer than 2-3 hours. This is nice as a solo experience, something I can return to and feel challenged as I progress through the game. It's probably not something I want to be played for me since I can probably play it myself.

GoW2 took us about six to eight hours to play through and this was without interruption. It was around 3 AM when we finished. I never suggested that it would be a good date game.

Michael Rivera
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I'm pretty sure most non-gamers from Generation X or younger can appreciate the spectacle of a game like Super Mario Galaxy. True, it relies on a lot of platforming tropes, but they should be familiar to anyone that grew up around the earlier Mario games, gamer or not.

Moreover, though Galaxy is technically a platformer, I'd say the game's main challenge lies more in problem solving and discovery than pure twitch jumping skills. Each level took about 10-20 minutes to complete, too, so it would be a pretty good example of an exploration game that can be played for under 2 hours. Heck, it even has a 2 player option with completely intuitive second player controls (no worries about losing due to the second player, either).

Sande Chen
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@Michael Rivera: re: spectacle - It's the difference between asking someone to meet you at a local Starbucks and asking someone to go to dinner at a nice restaurant. The local Starbucks is not going to make that much of an impression.

Michael Rivera
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@ Sande Chen: I just don't know that the Starbucks/nice restaurant analogy applies here, especially in the mind of the general public. Why are AAA action games the expensive restaurants of the medium, whereas Galaxy is akin to Starbucks? I really don't think that non-gamers see it this way, and in fact I think the opposite is closer to the truth. When introducing Galaxy to people that don't follow video games, they are usually intrigued at how much the series has changed since they were a kid. They are taken in by the surrealistic level design and often surprised to find that the game is no longer about twitch skills and well-timed jumps. Action games are usually less of a crowd-pleaser. Most people will comment on how cinematic games have become, but in the end that seems to work against the titles because people inevitably start comparing the story/acting to movies they have seen.

I'm not saying that action games won't someday be a valid date activity. I just think that they need to change a few things first. In the meantime, there are some perfectly appropriate puzzle/exploration games that already do many of the things mentioned in the article/comments above.

Christopher Wragg
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while the average game "might" be used as a dating tool, I don't think it'd become terribly common without either a) a lot of time, or b) a game specifically designed as date material that actually becomes a success. So more importantly than the game itself I think is it's marketing. The game would be useless unless you could get the people who wouldn't normally touch a game with a barge pole, to try it out. I imagine this would mainly happen through a fair amount of controversy, and by having the people that do play games buying it, "just for kicks". It needs to be set up so that someone who doesn't necessarily like games could be invited over to someone's home and go...."oh I heard about that..." "is it true that you can...." etc which inevitably leads to "do you think we could try it?" Not to mention that currently existing couples will probably try it out, so the hype would really have to push this concept.

This would mean lots of stuff in the public eye, and even more importantly, get an article in young girls magazines, and women's magazines. Normally games don't get to touch this area of marketing, but I think with enough hype you could get a decent review in one of those magazines, and that would leave more than one young woman with the temptation to see what it's like.


Adrenaline is important a) because it prevents boredom, and b) It livens up the activity, tends to make interpersonal interaction occur of it's own volition and can make everything much more spontaneous, all very good things in a date. Action games are more likely to be the 'expensive restaurants" as they're more reminscient of an actual date, how you ask. Simply because they're exciting, short, and fantastical. A lot of party games wouldn't fit this because they aren't thrilling, they're just fun, and often not even fantastical. Puzzle games don't fit this for a similar reason, they're rarely thrilling, movement puzzle games perhaps being the exception to this rule. A shooter is often more appealing to the fantasy side of things, usually with some hero saving the day against hordes of enemies in visually spectacular fashion. Exploration is boring, Finding is interesting, the time difference between the two is what would make the big difference in a game being used for a date. Also I don't think it could be the type of exploration we normally understand in games, if a game were designed as a dating medium, it would need to be an exploration of self and the other person (note: this sounds far deeper than it really is, more often than not it would be merely flirtatious and pushing the bounds of average social norms) rather than the simple finding new places and items (though some of this perhaps).

Sure I don't think shooters as designed these days could be played as a date, but neither do I think a game like Galaxy could, at least not between anything other than two gamers. You are right about the second player control set though, and I have to admit that this style of control is actually where my mind first leapt as well. Even though I don't think the game would make a good date, I admit the control idea is headed the right way.

Luis Guimaraes
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@ Michael Rivera: As japanese games and animes I mean: In japan. In the americas and europe "anime" is really a geeky place to explore. And as "games" it's not only understood your common computer and console games.

Take the exemple of a park (sorry I don't know the name in english, those thematic parks with rollercoasters haha, and also those with arcades and many other videogames...). They're also good dating places, being social acceptable places too. A cassino is more about showing money to the girls :D

Michael Rivera
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Christopher Wragg: You make some good points, and I agree with you that a party game or a "pure" puzzle game like Tetris would never work well as a date game. I still stand by Galaxy though, because I don't really see much in your post that would apply to it. You do mention that Galaxy would only appeal to two gamers, but I really don't see why that would be the case. Like I mentioned before, non-gamers seem much more receptive to that game than pure action titles. Galaxy may be weird, but I don't think being gamers gives us any advantages in that game outside of the first player's controls.

Luis Guimarães: Actually Japanese people aren't as accepting of games and anime as many outsiders think. I've been living in Japan a few years, and I really wouldn't go see anime on a date here either (unless it's a Miyazaki movie).

You're right that theme parks are good date spots though, and they often have a lot of arcade games that can be played as a couple.

Sande Chen
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I was intrigued by Kumar's comments on designing asymmetrical gameplay so that two individuals of varying abilities could play together so I asked him to write a GDAM blog post about it.

You can read them here:

Part I:

Part II:

Grétar Hannesson
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Sorry to be such a latecomer but I see great potential in online games that could serve as "mini-dates". This would be a huge boon to the online dating scene, which I was a part of few years back, as it is very hard to gauce someone's personality through an online profile and an msn chat. Many an afternoon and evening I spent with a person that I knew after 5 minutes I would never be interested in a relationship with.

A game that can be approached from many different directions, a game that is surprising/challenging enough to reveal how people react to adversity and unexpected events and with a good communication channel between the would-be couple could do wonders. Make it playable through handhelds/iphone and people can look for suitable mates while on the bus.

Sande Chen
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Thanks for commenting, Gretar! Yes, it would be interesting to design games solely for dating purposes (these wouldn't be the 2-4 hour action games) but just a fun activity to do online to complement e-mail exchanges or IM chats.

Brandon Van Every
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Asymmetry is a nice idea for people to try out, good luck with that. But it proceeds from a flawed premise, that pandering to people's default behavior is important to game design. It's perfectly valid to attempt to recondition people's behavior, to not accept default gender roles, whether that's hogging or watching. Why not just round robin the roles? The game says, "Ok Player 2, it's your turn. Do x y z." Player 1 the hogging male is sidelined for a minute. Player 2 the semi-passive female is put on center stage for a minute. So what if she feels a bit uncomfortable and has stage fright? She'll get over it. Her date will make her get over it.

So what if the guy is grumbling that he isn't getting to hog everything? Taking turns with a hot date is good for him. Geez the number of modifications and filters I have to make on my default behavior in order to have a good date... I have to remember not to drone on about my own stuff! Same difference.

Don't ask the players what they want to do. Tell the players what they are going to do. Nobody objected to "games on rails," this is just a variation on that theme. So what if you don't reach every woman or couple out there? All you need to do is reach a critical mass of them. Then the cultural trends change enough that the timid people eventually step forwards, because their less timid friends introduce them to the games.

I mean, who angsts about playing Pictionary? Somebody pulls out Pictionary at a party, and unless you're really tired or cranky, you play the game.