Have Adventure Games Forgotten the A in MDA?

I like adventure games. I’m referring specifically to the traditional point-and-click graphical adventures. The first one I played was Torin’s Passage way back in elementary school. It was the funniest game I had ever played and had the most sophisticated plot (but keep in mind that the next closest was probably Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time). Torin’s Passage was developed by Sierra and written by Al Lowe of Leisure Suit Larry fame. As a simpler and more accessible variant of the typical adventure games, it was perfect for a kid new to adventure games. There were no verbs to select, generally straightforward puzzles, and even an in-game hint system. What really drew me in were the elaborately animated characters, full voice-overs, and hilarious dialogue. The world of Torin’s Passage was a twisted fairy tale that was light-hearted with an underlying dark edge. I fondly remember the mountain-top guru with a yiddish accent, the slapstick shapeshifting of Torin’s pet Boogle, and the emotional revelations during the final encounter. The intriguing characters and plot-twists made me begin to realize that actual stories could be told through games.

But what do I remember of the puzzles and various interactions? There was the hill where I had to hunt way too long for just the right blade of grass to click. There was a frustrating sound puzzle whose solution seemed arbitrary. There was a puzzle where...

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Game Design Workshop 2009: Sissies, Musketeers, Street Fighter, and Floss

The Game Design Workshop at GDC 2009 began with a series of lists. During the opening presentation, the 100+ workshop participants received a crash course in the MDA Framework, eight kinds of “fun,” four possible aesthetic goals, and various dynamic models. As a professor here likes to write all over our papers: “Jargon!” Personally, I enjoyed the presentation. Marc LeBlanc et al laid out a solid foundation for the formal approach to game design that would shape the next two days. After reading Rules of Play, a 20 minute lecture was hardly daunting. But not every designer has the same theoretical background. There were plenty of programmers, artists, and others who were just interested in the design exercises and getting their feet wet in another discipline. More than a few participants found the presentation to be too technical and uninteresting. How does this all jargon fit into the actual process of design? Hopefully some of the participants skeptical of the theory discovered the applications along the way.

We spent most of the first day creating variations on Sissyfight. Originally designed by Eric Zimmerman and released on the web (as Sissyfight 2000), a simplified card-based version has become a mainstay of game design exercises. Six players are each assigned distinct colors...

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