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How Quantum Theory helped me understand Game Theory

The difference and similarities between games and toys, how they interrelate and how they holdup in digital formats is an issue, largely resolved, but still cause for much confusion. It has also been a source of substantial debate among my peers. Where after some time and barrage of textbook definitions we always come to the same ambiguously, unsettling conclusion that ‘there is no right answer’. A notion just as liberal as it is useless.

As primarily a game designer and then a game theorist, I try to refrain from ideas that do no credit to my game design practices. On 1st of January, 2020 in the very early hours of the morning with the new year’s celebration on its last legs; my peers and I, unsurprisingly, began philosophical discourse. And by the time it evolved into theoretical debate my sleep deprived brain was already analysing video games on the atomic scale.

I think it is safe to assume that almost everyone understands what I mean when I say game, toy or video game. But just in case; Super Mario Bros is a video game, that teddy bear you had as a child was a toy and anything from Football to Monopoly is a game. Going forward please keep in mind that I am neither a theoretical physicist or a reliable game theorist, so all mistakes are genuine and when realised be subjected to rectification.

With that out of the way here is my definition of a Game,

“ A Game is any entity capable of being both a game or a toy until the exact moment of interaction with the entity, which is then defined based solely on the nature of the interaction.”

In quantum mechanics, one of the fundamental principles is Quantum Superposition. Superposition is the ability of a quantum system to be in multiple states at the same time until it is measured. In computing, the concept of superposition has important implications for the way information will be processed and stored in the future. For example, today’s classical computers process information in bits of one or zero, similar to a light switch being turned on or off.  The quantum supercomputers of tomorrow, however, will process information as ‘Qubits’ – one, zero or a superposition of the two states.  This idea of superposition became the basis of my understanding of a game and its states.

Both games and toys engage the user in play. They are primarily distinguished by the presence or absence of set rules and intrinsic goals. Games always have specific set rules of play and one or more goals. A toy on the other hand is devoid of these, and engages the user in free play. Games are also comprised of one or more mechanics that can operate as a toy by itself. 

Let us imagine that we are continuously tossing a coin which lands on either heads or tails each time. But, we make no note of these and are merely doing it for the sake of tossing a coin. This activity might be considered play and the coin a toy. Now consider we suddenly started to keep track of the two states of the coin. And decided that if we get more heads than tails over the following five coin flips we win or else we lose. The moment we specify the rules and goal/s, the activity is no longer a toy but a game. 

Let us now work the other way i.e game to toy. We are in the middle of a quest in a role playing video-game when we suddenly decide to keep jumping in place just for the sake of it. This is still playful and is technically still taking place within a “game” but in the moment the activity is devoid of rules and goals and is hence a toy. But an RPG is most definitely a game, it has specific rules, goals, difficulty, narrative, music and possibly everything else that a game is comprised of. Here one can argue that regardless of the nature of your interaction it is still a game. 

But, the one who argued in the previous sentence interacted with the entity in the context of a game and thus in that very moment defined it as a game. While we are interacting with the “game” as a toy and for us it is in-fact a toy.  This is true for the example of the coin as well. And this right here is exactly why the entity (the RPG/ the Coin) is neither, just a game or just a toy but an entity capable of being both. Meaning, games are entities  in a state of Superposition until the moment of interaction. 

The Presentations

In my Game-A-Week class, we are supposed to do presentations halfway through the course and then one at the end. And because I prepared and wrote them down before hand as a speech, I thought it would be nice to have a record of them online.

In-Between Presentation

Good evening,
Like my peers before me, I would like to share my own experience with Game-A-Week. The Beginning was highlighted mainly by a strong feeling of diffidence in myself, which came from a place of ignorance of my capacities.
Making a game is a process, and for me, that process begins with careful consideration of my abilities measured against my ambitions. This is especially true when the process has to befit such a tight schedule.

After we receive our theme for the week and I come up with a concept, I will then immediately break it down to its core gameplay logic. This sheds light on the compatibility of the two elements and the feasibility of the project as a whole.
I invest the first couple of days repeating this process until I find a compatible and feasible pair. I will then immediately start implementing that core logic in unity while simultaneously working on the visual design and style of the game in Affinity Photo or Designer.
I will then spend the “second phase” doing all the additional programming as well as creating and implementing finalised assets which are based on and occasionally taken directly from the initial visual concept. After that, it is a race against the clock to polish the game as much as the time allows for. To get it to a stage where I feel comfortable enough to present it. This is the most intense but also the most exciting phase of development. Because this is where it goes from ‘a game’ to ‘my game’.

– – – Breathe – – –

Sounds intense right? and it is, but also incredibly rewarding. And within the process it never allows you to question yourself. Instead, it takes from you the best that you can give.
After going through this process five times now, the one thing I have consistently aimed for is to have each project be a uniquely individual experience. And for some bizarre reason, they have collectively formed a perfect reflection of my childhood.
For the second half of our course, I have decided to be bolder, not in ambition but in style. Time and time again, I find myself rejecting concepts and ideas that fail to align with my perceived persona which is not an honest representation of who I am.
For the people who are not in Game-A-Week, I recommend you try it, even for just a couple of weeks. It will test your perseverance and possibly improve it. It is one of the fastest ways to gain game dev experience. And if you are in a creative block it could get you out of it.
If nothing else, one thing surely gained from my experience thus far, is that it has helped me convert part of that diffidence into confidence, and for that I am grateful.

I now have a process that enables me to rapidly realise my ideas, not to mention the technical knowledge gained especially in terms of programming and visual scripting. And the fact that it was all achieved in a handful of weeks is incredible to me.

The most crucial thing, not just in matters of game development but life in general, is our willingness to listen. As human beings, we are trapped inside our minds, but our ability to listen is our greatest superpower. It allows us to look at the same things but with a different perspective.
With that said, I have also learned to listen to myself. We no longer live in a world where there’s a roomful of cheerleaders going “you did it, that was awesome”, no. In an ambitious and competitive world, expectations are high. When you do one thing right, it only highlights the ten things you could have done better.

So, you have to be your own cheerleader.

Thank you,
Samartha Ingle

Final Presentation

Now that we have completed the course, I have learned that playing all parts is good for learning. But the problem with that is, I am left with blurred definitions and a weakened conviction. Moving forward, I would like to focus more on working towards a specific skill set.

A few months ago, during the in-between presentations, I proclaimed that the world is a horrible place where no one ever appreciates anything that you do and you have to appreciate yourself. But bear in mind that those words were written by a man in the middle of a very intense course. And now that we have crossed this particular finish line, I would like to reiterate.
Although, I still stand with the second part of that statement, the first part not so much. And here is the reason why I changed my mind.

I believe in positive reinforcement.
When someone tells me that I am good, it only makes me try even harder to be the best. And I thought that I would have to be the one to do it myself, but that is not entirely true.
Between all the criticisms, big and small, beneath all the layers of friendly competition, and at times insecurities; I felt genuine admiration. And I know this for a fact because it is the same admiration I feel for each one of you.
I felt it in every simple nod of the head, in every smile on your face, and every time you told me you liked my game without making eye contact. I felt it in all of those moments.

If you take a look at my list of all the things that inspire me the most, you guys, collectively, are at the top of that list.
I was wrong.
Back then I failed to realise that we were all rooting for each other all along. And I for one will continue to do so for years to come.

The world might still be a horrible place, but at least we are not alone.

Thank you,
Samartha Ingle

Collaborative Weeks

I decided to group all the collaborative weeks as one homogenous experience. Because although the projects I worked on by my own were individual unique experiences, the same is not true for my experiences working with my peers. On some extend all of them followed the same patterns of detached interest, communication issues and a failure to consistently collaborate through no fault of either party but the nature of the process itself.

I did find myself procrastinating the most during these projects, and I am sure that my peers when asked will attest to this fact. Especially Ousama who was very vocal about his disappointment in my disengaged attitude. I find myself for the very first time at a loss for words. I definitely realise that I have a long way to go, in learning to work with other people and in teams. And rest assured I am actively working on it. Although I live most of my life in a sate of delusion walking the streets pretending to be someone more adept and confident that I really am. I also hold in high regard my ability to realise my flaws, accept them and work in any way possible to improve on them.

Click Date
Baby Nightmares

With that said I would also like to point out that almost each one of these collaborative experiences was also the most fun and stress free time I had throughout the course mainly because of the distribution of work and tasks. I had an especially inspiring experience with Susanna and Ousama, and it gives me hope that there is still hope for me.

Game A Week – X

Ah… the end. After nine long weeks of active game development we are finally there. It was a gruesome experience at times but was always highlighted with feelings of pride and accomplishment after the fact. Even if they came from my weird, insignificant games that probably mean nothing to anyone who is not me.

[ For Professor Csongor : I already mentioned in detail my experience with the course module during the milestone presentation and so I would avoid repeating it here. ]

The theme for the last week of the course was un-ironically ‘Destroy’. We were probably supposed to use it in a more literal sense. By that I mean in a literal sense in terms of mechanics. But I have often used the themes that were vague enough in a more imaginative and figurative way. And this being the very last week I decided to go with that in an attempt to solidify my personal style one last time. For some time during the course I had a game mechanics idea rattling around in the old noggin. And I managed to not only achieve to implement it but also quite successfully managed to connect it with the theme in an imaginative way. The idea was basically a chain production where you convert raw materials into a finished product but in a twist you do this in a puzzle way.

No revelations occurred this week apart from one. I realised that after weeks of practicing making games using a visual scripting tool I have become adequately proficient in it. Something that I have always struggled with is my limitations of technical understanding of programming to successfully manifest my game ideas into a functioning game. Using Bolt visual scripting has to some extent removed that limitation. When it comes to making small games like these, I no longer have to rely on google searches and YouTube tutorials. I am capable of turning my game ideas into functioning games almost on my own. And I am incredibly grateful and proud of that fact.

Game A Week – IX

Two things to know about me, I love Nicki Minaj and I am an excellent gift giver. So when the professor disclosed that the theme for this week was to make a game to be gifted to someone you love. I was positively chuffed and looking forward to the upcoming week. In a slight detour from my usual process, for this week, I spent the first few days not trying to figure out the concept but rather the person who I wanted to make the gift for. I had a few candidates most of them family and after developing rough concepts for all of them I ultimately decided on my mom. Mainly because It is the most personal and powerful relationship I have and I wanted to, in some way, recognise it as an appreciation of her. 

I started out simple, relatively simple for me, by composing a small poem for her. It is one the best ways I have to express myself.

You wore red for love, for marriage and for commitment

You wore blue for life, to nurture and to protect

You wore green in envy and in discontent

And then wore black in both fear and strength

You wore white for your mother, your father and your brother

Now you wear yellow in enlightenment, and in intellect

The poem when completed revealed to have a literal theme of colour, colours that my mom wears on her ‘sarees’ that for me represented different aspects of her personalities as well as different times in her life. As soon as I realised this I instinctively connected those metaphorical layers to the nesting layers of a nesting/babushka doll. This instructed the mechanical design of the game, which was to be simple enough that a non-gamer like my mom could easily access. 

All this became the basis of the development of the game. After the fact I can now say that this is definitely the most personal game I made in this course. And the game I am most proud of, mainly because of my mom’s reaction to it. For this reason I believe that the collective player experience is the most important emotion for game design is emphasised here to its full extent.

Game A Week – VI

Autumn in Berlin is a beautiful time of the year, the leaves are red, the weather is calm and creatures of all kind are in love. And for a 20 something single man with no romantic prospects it is depressing as all hell. The one thing you don’t want to do then is make a multiplayer game and play test it over and over again pretending to be your own friend. But despite my best efforts to avoid situations that remind me of how lonely I really am, I keep finding myself smack dab in the middle of those situations all the time.

Just like the weeks before I decided to dive into my bottomless bag of childhood experiences and try to recreate one of them for my game this week. The Indian childhood classic “Chidiya Udd” is a game played by a group of friends sitting in a circle with their fingers placed on a flat surface. One of the players would exclaim “The Pigeon FLIES!” at which point all players will raise their fingers to agree with the fact that a pigeon does in fact fly. The player who fails to do so loses and the remaining players continue on. The “Caller”, the player who makes claims will often confuse other players by sneaking in a statement that is obviously untrue, something like, “The Rabbit FLIES!”.

“Chidiya Udd” (The Sparrow flies)

Recreating this experience digitally turned out to be not as difficult as I expected. All I had to do was keep track of the two players’ on button up inputs and check them with the image displayed at that moment. The images themselves were creatures and objects selected randomly from a modest pool. I then assign points to the players accordingly and time the game loop to determine a winner when the time runs out.

The game development although not as mechanically challenging did prove challenging in other aspects. I spent most of the time making art for the objects/creatures and polishing the overall look and feel of the game. I believe the efforts of my subconscious mind to create an arcade experience were by far displayed the most in this game.

I was also really thrilled by the reception of the game during the play test especially by Prof. Florian who was visibly elated throughout the play and played the game multiple times with different students.

Game A Week – IV

“Physics” was one of the first theme that really stumped me for a while. I spent most of the week just trying to come up with a decent game idea. Now I think I understand why I had such trouble with this. Usually when I come up with a game idea, I will make a mental calculation of how capable I am technically to realise said idea, not in time but, just in its feasibility. Physics based games is something I never have had any luck with, and have thus tried to stay away from it as much as possible. It is too unpredictable and random and I hate that amount of lost control over my project.

But all week this concept of water ring toss games from my childhood had been constantly on my mind. So somewhere during the week I decided to roll up my sleeves and at least try to figure out if I can recreate the experience digitally. 

1976 Tomy Waterful Ring-Toss

And because I had already used up my free week last week there was no running away from it this time. 

By using really basic rigid body physics I was able to recreate the experience I was looking to accomplish. I used a mixture of 3d objects for the main interacting physics object and then 2d UI objects for the background, scene buttons, score and basically everything else. 

During the process I realised that the “game” works better as a “toy” than a game, this is something that we had discussed in the past, more specifically in the first semester. So I decided to run with the idea of making a toy and then package it into a project that can be completed within a week and still be fun to play without the exclusive aspects of what we expect from a game: an end goal, objective or a set of designed rules or a complete core game loop.

Regardless, during the play tests I was surprised to find how much the players were constantly in a state of “flow”. Even after telling them that their is no end goal of win condition, the players still were engaged enough and kept trying to get as many rings as they could into those pesky hooks until they gave up or got them all.

Game A Week – II

The theme for the second week was ’10 seconds’. This at first thought seemed challenging, but what helped was the ambiguity. It never specified any form of gameplay or even concept. Mechanics wise I could make a game that lasts for 10 seconds, quite obvious, but it did not feel powerful enough or long enough to experiment within. And this was an opportunity to experiment, who knows how many more of those I’m going to get.

I love narrative games, just as much as I love strategy games. But 10 second narratives have already been done before,

Queers in Love at the End of the World, Anna Anthropy 2013

So I decided to create a narrative game, that doesn’t play like a narrative game. Sort of like a breaking the fourth wall playing with your preconceived gameplay exceptions kind of a game. Ok, I am kind of gold plating a copper ring here, and honestly I wasn’t even aware of what exactly I was doing when I was making the game. A lot of it became clearer after the fact.

The Quiz

But where’s the ’10 seconds’? you say, well I did not forget about that. I made it a timed quiz, 10 seconds to answer each question.

At first I decided to make a multiple choice kind of a quiz but that made it quite difficult to keep track of all the different narrative branching. With games like these just a couple of variants and it all multiplies into enormous branching narratives. I knew what kind of experience I wanted to create, it was simple really. It starts out as a normal quiz, then it asks questions with no right answers, then it responds accordingly to your previous choices and always ends with the same message. For this I realised I did not really need branching narratives, so I kept it simple by making them all ‘Yes or No’ questions. This allowed me to implement all the ingredients I had hoped to implement while keeping it achievable in under a week’s time of development.

Game A Week – I

So, like I mentioned in the last post, every week we receive a new theme. We are to use this as our central theme to make a game (a complete game NOT A PROTOTYPE), I have found this to be the real challenge of the course.

Anyways, the theme for the first week was JUMP, the professor mentioned something about how the themes would grow from more mechanics focused to being more conceptual towards the end of the course.

As soon as I heard the theme my mind immediately went to a childhood classic from the NES, Circus Charlie

Circus Charlie, 1984 – Nintendo Entertainment System

After a few walkthroughs of the classic game on YouTube and a heavy dose of nostalgia, I decided to make a game inspired by ‘Circus Charlie’ called ‘Circus Carly’ (please don’t judge me)

Circus Carly

I experimented with designing a single level by using a variety of obstacles to create quite a bit of challenge. But hopefully it is still accessible as the mechanics are very simple. I would like to iterate more on the idea to create random generation for obstacles and a scoring system, but as of now you just win by surviving until the end of this single set level.

I would describe it as a short but quite challenging game with one simple mechanic, i.e jumping. I would really appreciate any feedback on the game. leave me a comment or tweet about it.

Games Design Update #1

April, 2017

Being a game designer is hard, for you have to religiously invest a bulk of your time in doing two important tasks, playing games and making them.

Playing Games

When I say, a game designer must play games. I do not mean play only that one game that you really love. That won’t teach you anything, you must play all kinds of games even the one you necessarily won’t play in your spare time. When a game designer plays a game he or she dissects every game mechanic and inspects it thoroughly. Investigates why a particular design element or mechanic is part of the game? Does it achieve what is expected from it? Does it seem forced? Why is it designed the way it is? Is it balanced? What does it contribute to the game play? and so on.

It is a chaotic but educated study that happens at any and every given moment when a game designer plays a game, as a designer. That is the difference between a gamer and a game designer. That is the difference between saying “This is a good game” and “These are the exact reasons why this is a good game”.

I don’t remember the last time I played a game where I didn’t immediately stop and start analysing it. I do have to force myself and remove the designer within me so as to enjoy a game through a gamer’s perspective. I know it sounds really pretentious but it happened so gradually that I never even realised when did I transform in to a game designer from an avid gamer.

The sheer amount of games out there is mind numbing and one human being couldn’t possibly own and play all of those games in a single lifetime. Although I must say I do play as many games as I can on console and on PC. But classical and modern board games is something I have never truly gotten into from an educational or a professional perspective or even just for fun. Something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. For surely nothing is more purely a game than a board game.

This is where I give my eternal thanks to the power of the internet. It is a powerful enlightenment tool. I recently happened upon Geek & Sundry on YouTube and have been practically addicted to their Tabletop series with Will Wheaton where he plays the best of modern board games and which introduces me to new games that I do not own or have no time to play. Because I spent most of my time watching Tabletop on Youtube and reading my Bible (The Art of Game Design) I felt educated and inspired enough to set out to design board games of my own and so I did exactly that.

Making Games

I had so much fun making board games and me and my family have been playing them non stop for the past week. One of them is a quick card matching game and the other is a tile placement board game. They are still prototypes meaning most of the game pieces and cards are just cut out pieces of paper coloured in with sketch pens and it does not look pretty. But still I will update the complete rules and final art when it is done in the future. But for now here is a quick overview of what these games actually are,

Game #1 – Super Market Rush (Working Title)

Time – 10 to 15 mins

Super Market Rush is a quick card game where 2 to 4 players try to be the first to complete the set of items on their Shopping List either in hand or on table to win.

Game #2 – Zoo Mania (Working Title)

Time – 60 to 90 mins

Zoo mania is a card and tile placement board game where 2 to 4 players compete with each other to create the most amazing zoo by building unique Habitats and adding cute Animals that live there. You get bonus points for creating special combinations of Habitats and getting special Animals to live in your zoo.

I will probably now continue to work on these games a little bit more, play test them with my family, watch movies and Table Top, write and read something new and pondering over the questions of the irrefutable existence of the universe.