gameLab, Arcadia, Blix and Loop

Combine games research with the development of innovative digital games and people games, and you get gameLab. gameLab was co-founded by Eric Zimmerman and Peter Lee. Eric, whose articles appear in Brenda Laurel’s Design Research, writes in his Play as Research: The Iterative Process: “In iterative design, there is a blending of designer and user, of creator and player. It is a process of design through the reinvention of play. Through iterative design, designers create systems and play with them. They become participants, but do so in order to critique their creations, to bend them, break them, and re-fashion them into something new. And in these procedures of investigation and experimentation, a special form of research takes place. The process of iteration, of design through play, is a way of discovering the answers to questions you didn’t even know were there.”

Before you read Eric’s fascinating, informed, and insightful description of the iterative design process (which I still believe, despite all the filmic complexity of multimediation, is the best and really only way to design a game), try a game of Loop. It will not only help you understand better what he’s talking about, it will also help you understand why you want to read what he has to say.

Or, maybe start with a simpler game concept like Arcadia. Have you ever tried playing two arcade games at once? Just to keep from getting bored? And discovered how such a simple idea, like playing two at once, makes both games suddenly worth playing again? Almost as if you’d created a whole new game simply by combining a couple? Well, Arcadia combines four different arcade games, and paces each so that it’s actually almost possible to play them all simultaneously, without losing your mind. Go ahead. Give it a try. I’d start out with the easiest version if I were you.

Then there’s Blix, which reminds me a little of the first game I designed for the TRS-80, can you believe, and the Commodore Pet, and later the 64 and even the Atari VCS. It was called “Ricochet.” Which is maybe why I’m not as objective about the elegant wonders of Blix as I can be the others. Which is also why gameLab has been inducted into the Major FUN Hall of Fame. Let me know if it’s as fun as I think it is, will you?

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