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July 14, 2020
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Pacing, flow and education: this week in videogame blogging

by Critical Distance on 04/20/16 12:30:00 pm   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.


Our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Zoya Street on how game designers can think about user experience.


This week exemplifies that discussions about the interrelationship between interaction and narrative cannot simply be boiled down to the question of "ludonarrative dissonance." Here we have three pieces in one week that address interaction from the perspective of narrative pacing.

"By removing the safety net of unlimited saves and transforming the “grind” from a necessary evil into a ludological metaphor for the player’s uphill battle to the surface, Dragon Quarter puts the player in the same viscerally anxious emotional state as the characters."


At the moment we're witnessing a fascinating critical engagement with the oft-cited conceptualization of perfect user experience as balance between frustration and boredom.

"Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” is often conceptualized as opposite ends of a spectrum; they are non-overlapping experiences due to the inverse relationship of the variables (“skill” and “challenge”) involved. But, I found that Shelter made anxiety and boredom set in simultaneously—I did not have the skills to intuit where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to accomplish, and so anxiety was running fiercely in my blood. However, once I scaled my attention up from the diegetic level of the game, I found myself, strangely enough, bored at the exact same time, for the simple reason that I knew a higher level of skill would not have altered anything about my experience."


Writers from various fields of expertise are taking a fresh look at not just educational games, but more broadly, the role of play in developing familiarity with a subject.

"[...]it doesn’t really feel like a game. It’s more like a destination, a technical tool, a cultural scene, or all three put together: a place where kids engineer complex machines, shoot videos of their escapades that they post on YouTube, make art and set up servers, online versions of the game where they can hang out with friends."

Critical Distance is community-supported. You can pitch in with Patreon or Paypal. Got suggestions about some pieces we should feature next week? Send them through Twitter or by email.

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