Metagames as viral loops

MtG: My Pride-n-Joys by AuE on Flickr

Metagames’Richard Garfield’s pre­sen­ta­tion for the 2000 Game Devel­op­ers Con­fer­enceis in today’s links, but I think it deserves a bit more atten­tion than that. Here are some quotes from the doc­u­ment that stood out for me.1

What a metagame is:

My def­i­n­i­tion of metagame is broad. It is how a game inter­faces with life.”

In oth­er words, metagame design is con­tex­tu­al. It forces you to think about when, where, how and by who your game will be played.

Why metagame design has not been get­ting as much atten­tion as game design itself:

…the major­i­ty of a game’s metagame is prob­a­bly unal­ter­able by game design­er or pub­lish­er.”

So, metagame design is a sec­ond order design prob­lem. Design­ers can only indi­rect­ly influ­ence how metagames play out. They facil­i­tate it, but do not direct it.

Garfield divides metagames in four broad cat­e­gories:

  • What you bring to a game
  • What you take away from a game
  • What hap­pens between games
  • What hap­pens dur­ing a game

Where “game” should be under­stood as a sin­gle play ses­sion of a game.

Garfield has inter­est­ing things to say about all these cat­e­gories, and I rec­om­mend read­ing the arti­cle in full, but I’d like to zoom in on one bit men­tioned under “from”:

It is worth not­ing that many things list­ed have a ‘cir­cu­lar’ val­ue to the play­er.”

Get­ting some­thing from a game that you can bring with you again to a game makes you care more and more about the game itself. One clear exam­ple of how metagames are a help­ful con­cept for mak­ing a game more self-sus­tain­ing.

Bet­ter yet, the ‘stuff’ that play­ers get from a game play ses­sion can be shared or passed on to oth­ers. In this man­ner, the metagame becomes a viral loop.2

  1. Richard Garfield is the design­er of the CCG Mag­ic: The Gath­er­ing. []
  2. Via Matt Webb. []

Designing a mobile social gaming experience for Gen-C

Update 21-03-2008: I’ve added some images of slides to allow for some more con­text when read­ing the text.

This is a rough tran­script of my lec­ture at GDC Mobile 2008. In short: I first briefly intro­duce the con­cept of expe­ri­ence design and sys­tems and then show how this influ­ences my views of mobile casu­al games. From there I dis­cuss the rela­tion of casu­al games with the trend Gen­er­a­tion C. Wrap­ping up, I give an overview of some social design frame­works for the web that are equal­ly applic­a­ble to mobile social gam­ing. As a bonus I give some thoughts on mobile game sys­tems mobile metagames. The talk is illus­trat­ed through­out with a case study of Playy­oo—a mobile games com­mu­ni­ty I helped design.

  • I’ve includ­ed a slight­ly adjust­ed ver­sion of the orig­i­nal slides—several screen­shot sequences of Playy­oo have been tak­en out for file size rea­sons.
  • If you absolute­ly must have audio, I’m told you will be able to pur­chase (!) a record­ing from GDC Radio some­time soon.
  • I’d like to thank every­one who came up to me after­wards for con­ver­sa­tion. I appre­ci­ate the feed­back I got from you.
  • Sev­er­al aspects of Playy­oo that I use as exam­ples (such as the game stream) were already in place before I was con­tract­ed. Cred­its for many design aspects of Playy­oo go to David Mantripp, Playyoo’s chief archi­tect.
  • And final­ly, the views expressed here are in many ways an amal­ga­ma­tion of work by oth­ers. Where pos­si­ble I’ve giv­en cred­it in the talk and oth­er­wise linked to relat­ed resources.

That’s all the notes and dis­claimers out of the way, read on for the juice (but be warned, this is pret­ty long).

Con­tin­ue read­ing Design­ing a mobile social gam­ing expe­ri­ence for Gen-C