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在如今的世界上,游戏并未拥有最棒的形象。它们被打上了玩具,糟糕的影响,邪恶等烙印,并且绝不像其它媒体那样受人尊敬。然而我相信,如果我们能够放宽视线,那么当提到游戏时公众的看法必会发生改变。许多游戏和游戏开发公司已经放宽了视线。现在我们需要做的便是让商业游戏流行起来。所以我们拥有多少机会能让现在的商业游戏发生改变?我将基于调查结果去讨论这一机会,即着眼于拥有更深刻影响的游戏以及一些商业游戏是如何获得成功的。

为了进一步明确人们的生活是如何受到游戏的影响,我在谷歌上进行了一次调查。我邀请人们通过Twitter和Facebook参加进来。在这一调查中,我询问了人们的职业,他们当前最喜欢的游戏,心中最理想的游戏,游戏是否对他们的生活造成显著的影响以及如何产生影响等等问题。我收到了23个回应,但这些数据却并不足以代表生活受到游戏影响以及未受到影响的人数比例,我可以看到各种关于游戏影响人们生活的原因。22个人表示他们的生活在某种程度上受到了游戏的影响。而游戏产生影响的方式也是多种多样。他们中的许多人从游戏中获得了社交,传达以及阅读技能。而其他人也因此被带进了游戏开发产业中。一些家庭因为游戏变得更亲密。少数人因为游戏而忘记了病痛或打破了封锁自己的外壳。最普遍的影响便是在某种程度上将朋友们聚在了一起而创造出非常美好的记忆。并非所有有关游戏影响的回应都是关于生活的改变,但它们却不一定就需要具有真正的意义。

有意义的游戏的目标是基于某种方式对你产生重要的影响,影响社会的改变,在玩家离开游戏很久后仍触动着他们的情感,并成为他们生活中永不消失的重要组成部分,不过事实上这类型游戏却非常稀少。让我们以游戏开发社区一款非常受欢迎的桌面游戏为例,即Brenda Brathwaite所创造的《Train》。在这款桌面游戏中,你和其他两个人将相互竞争将一个人从地图上的某一处带到另一处。你能够通过使用列车车厢做到这点(去运载所有人)。你也可以使用各种行动去阻碍其他玩家。尽管之前已经明确了概念,但在你发现目的地之处也就是列车撞向你的地方。如果你在其他玩家前完成目标,那么你不仅能够获取胜利,同时还能知道要将所有的那些人带到哪里,即Auschwitz。《Escapist Magazine》上的一篇文章列举了一个例子,即Brenda Brathwaite将《Train》呈现在公众面前让他们能够游戏。在揭示了目的地时,一名女性非常激动,流下了眼泪并离开了会议室。关于《Train》最微妙的一处便是不同的人是如何游戏的,即在他们发现目的地之后的反应。这样的游戏很少能创造出像“大屠杀”那样的毁灭事件;有些游戏只是会完善你的救生技能。

在2001年至2003年期间,Rosser JC Jr及其研究伙伴组织了一项关于电子游戏完善反应和腹腔镜手术中的全部技能的研究。他们在一篇名为《The Impact of Video Games on Training Surgeons in the 21st Century》的文章中描述了研究结果。33名参与者在玩了3款特别针对该研究而选择的电子游戏之前和之后分别进行了测试。全部的33名参与者在名为Top Gun的技能测试中获得33%的分数。而一周玩游戏超过3个小时的参与者获得了42%的分数。许多外壳医生现在玩电子游戏都要求精确的移动,就像那些为了保持较高的能力和反应而用于腹腔镜手术中的内容。

与之相同的还有Jennifer Ash,Zach Barth,Peter Mueller,一些学生以及奥尔巴尼的成人服务部门所创造的《Capable Shopper》。这款游戏能够帮助残疾人获得自信和能力去应对日常生活中的各种事。在《Capable Shopper》中有两个场景,其中一个带有菜单,而另外一个将提供杂货店的视图。玩家将通过导航在杂货店中寻找自己所需要的材料。这款游戏取得了很大的成功,甚至有人要求在残疾人服务中心的成人服务部门安装游戏及其必要组件。让残疾人能够更轻松地拥有技能和自信去完成游戏中的必要活动可能不是主流的商业成功,但如果这么做能够带给别人帮助的话又有何妨?而如果是一款能够帮助人们治疗致命的疾病的游戏又会怎样?

Foldit(from educade)

Foldit(from educade)

近几年关于对抗艾滋病的研究取得了很大的突破,但困扰艾滋病研究人员好几年的一个问题是蛋白酶到底是怎样的。由Seth Cooper所设计的《Foldit》是一款益智游戏,在此玩家为了创造出稳定的蛋白质将尝试着改变形状。《Foldit》类似一个名为Rosetta的程序,即依赖于分布式计算去运行无数蛋白质情节。《Foldit》的不同之处在于使用玩家而不是分布式计算去寻找最稳定的蛋白质。来自华盛顿大学的Firas Khatib将《Foldit》输入一个名为CASP(游戏邦注:关于蛋白质结构预测的主要技术评估)的比赛中。最初,社区所想出的解决方法并不可行。然而在Khatib介入并随机化初始蛋白质时,社区将开始想出一些有关比赛中蛋白质结构的最佳答案。

显然,我并不期待每一款游戏都把尽可能影响艾滋病研究当成目标,但影响人们的生活并不像听起来那么简单。不管改变只是让玩家关心角色那么小,还是让人们挣脱自己的外壳那么大,我们都应该创造出拥有某些不仅具有可能性,而且还是一些公司所致力于达到的目标的内容的游戏。游戏不应该被当成是孩子们的玩具,也不应该带有卖出数百万份或以保证制作续集为由吸引足够的吸引力等目标。相反地,它们应该是人们生活中非常有意义的一部分,并且能够帮助人们想出办法并理解问题,至少能够勇敢地面对它们。

商业游戏公司是否会走这条路?很遗憾的是它们可能不会这么做。这些公司创造游戏主要是为了赚钱。它们中很少有人的目标会离开赚钱。如果有一家游戏公司致力于获取更多东西,那么当你在玩他们的游戏时你将不只是花30分钟去尝试某些内容,你会期待更多内容的出现。thatgamecompany这家公司已经创造出了像《Flower》和《flOw》等受欢迎的游戏,并且这些游戏对于游戏的创造也产生了很大的影响。作为一家公司,TGC的目标是超越互动娱乐的界限而提供能够鼓舞玩家的有意义且丰富的体验。他们当前的项目《Journey》便是如此。他们的目标是激发人们的好奇心而不是专注于游戏中角色的能量和能力。《Journey》是否会实现这一目标呢?我并不敢保证,但真心希望是这样的,不过关于TGC更棒的是他们正瞄准某些目标而不只是一块娱乐领域。他们尝试着去改变人们的生活,甚至是他们所使用的表达媒体,即电子游戏。

关于这一讨论中有一部分是主流商业公司真正应该着眼的内容。单单在美国大概就有5400万人会购买并玩游戏,但却因为缺少来自游戏开发者和硬件厂商的支持导致这些人不能如愿。残疾人拥有更大的身体和心理障碍会阻碍他们玩游戏。例如Chuck Bittner是一个四肢瘫痪的人,但尽管如此他却仍是电子游戏的忠实粉丝。他可以玩像《Brink》等游戏,因为这些游戏让他可以通过映射按键去游戏,而无需使用控制器。然而《荒野大镖客:救赎》却不允许他映射控制到某个点上。它并未提供给玩家完全定制与游戏互动的方式从而更好地适应自己的需求和游戏风格。为了获得经济利益我们便需要花时间去执行定制控制。定制控制并不是帮助残疾人玩游戏的最简单的方法。呈现音频线索和对话的副标题更容易添加且能够帮助无数聋人玩游戏,但如此也有可能漏掉电子游戏的整个音频部分。商业游戏并不需要努力去区分人们是否能够玩一款游戏。它们也不需要投入许多努力对某些人的生活带去重要影响。

着眼于我从人们那边听到的有关心目中理想游戏的问题,并非所有人都认为游戏改变了自己的生活。所以当然游戏公司有可能创造出纯粹只是为了娱乐价值的娱乐体验。并不是所有游戏公司都会像TGC那样,实际上我更希望所有公司能够制定属于自己的目标,并且希望这些目标不是像“让我们卖出500万份游戏”或者“让我们得到更多的关注而推动更多续集的创造”等。公司并不需要做出太大改变,因为许多游戏已经创造了很大的影响。他们需要专注的应该是质量而不是数量以及游戏可能带给玩家生活的改变。有些像TGC这样的公司已经朝着这样的方向发展了,我相信在这条道路上将出现更多这样的公司。你可以基于或大或小的方式去影响某些人的生活,但真正重要的是你能够创造出对某些人来说有意义的游戏。

你可能从未玩过一款能够对自己的生活产生有意义影响或显著影响的游戏,但其实你所读到,看到或体验到的内容都对你的生活产生了影响。如果其它表达形式能够具有影响的话,游戏当然也可以。游戏是唯一要求玩家与之互动的表达形式。关于这一需求具有非常强大的力量,而作为游戏设计师的我们需要好好利用它,不仅要完善游戏形象,同时也要提升游戏的意义。

本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,作者:Slaton White)

The Future of Games: Can Games Impact your Life?

By Slaton White

Games don’t have the best image in the world today. They’re branded as toys, bad influences, evil, and they are definitely not as respected as other mediums of expressions. However, I believe there will be a change of the public’s perception when it comes to games if we set our sights high enough. Many games and game development companies are already setting their sights higher. All we need now is for commercial games to catch on. So how much chance do we have of commercial games becoming more than they currently are? I’ll be discussing the chances of just that based on reviewing survey results, looking at games that have a big impact, and what some commercial games get right.

In order to get a better picture of how exactly people’s lives are affected by games and in what ways I made a Google survey. I asked people to participate in it via Twitter and Facebook. On this survey I asked people’s occupation, what their favorite game currently is, what their ideal game is, if games have had a noticeable impact on their lives and how. I received 23 responses and while it isn’t enough data to come up with a ratio of people whose lives have been affected to the amount that haven’t been affected by games, I can go into the vast variety of reasons that games have affected people’s lives. 22 people said that their lives were affected by games in some way.  What ways they were affected differed vastly. A vast majority of them gained social, vocabulary, and reading skills from games. Others were drawn to a career in game development. Some families were drawn closer together because of games. A few were helped to forget that they were extremely ill or break them out of their shell. One, almost universal effect was bringing friends together in a way that would forever become a fond memory. Not all the responses in regards to a game’s effect were life changing, but they don’t have to be to be meaningful.

A meaningful game whose aim is to drastically affect you in some way, influence a change in society, stir such strong emotions that long after they still reside when the player quits, forever a part of you, is rare. They’re almost non-existent, but they are out there and they can change your life. Take for example a well-known board game in the game development community, Train by Brenda Brathwaite. In this board game you and two other people compete to get people from one place on the map to another. This is accomplished through the use of a train boxcar which you use to carry all the people. You also have various actions that you can use to obstruct the other players. While the concept has been seen before, the end, where you find out what the destination was, is where Train hits you. If you reach the goal before the other players you not only win, but find out where you took all those people, Auschwitz. An article on Escapist Magazine wrote of one instance in which Brenda Brathwaite took Train for a public audience to play. Upon revealing the destination one woman became so emotionally touched that she burst out into tears and left the conference room.(1) One of the great subtleties about Train is how differently people will play, if at all, after they’ve learned the destination. Games of this caliber are rare to bringing up such a devastating event as the Holocaust; some will just improve lifesaving skill.

During 2001-2003 Rosser JC Jr and his researchers conducted a study about video games improving the reflexes and overall skill in laparoscopic surgery. (2.a – pg. 154) They compiled the results of the study in an article called The Impact of Video Games on Training Surgeons in the 21st Century. 33 participants were recruited and were submitted to tests and skill before and after they played 3 video games that were chosen specifically for this study. (2.a – pg. 154) Overall the 33 participants scored 33% better on a skill test called Top Gun. (2.b) Participants that played more than 3 hours a week scored 42% better. Many surgeons now play video games that require precise movements similar to those used in laparoscopic surgery in order to keep their ability and reflexes high.

Along those same lines is a game called Capable Shopper created by Jennifer Ash, Zach Barth, Peter Mueller, other students, and the Adult Services Division in Albany. This game helps people with disabilities gain confidence and ability in doing everyday things. In Capable Shopper there are two screens, one with a list of dishes they can prepare and another which gives them a view of a grocery store. The player navigates through the grocery store finding each ingredient they need. The game was so successful that they were asked to install the game and its necessary components in a permanent installation at the Center for Disability Service’s Adult Services Division. (3) Making it easier for people with disabilities to gain skills and confidence in necessary activates through a game might not be a mainstream commercial success, but does that really matter if it can help someone? If you don’t have a disability or know someone with one you might not be able to answer that question. However, how about a game that can help cure a deadly disease?

AIDS has had many breakthroughs to help fight it, but one problem has troubled AIDS researchers for years, what a protease looks like. Foldit, a game designed by Seth Cooper, is a puzzle game where players try to change shapes in order to make a specific stable protein. The more stable your protein is the more points you get. Foldit is similar to a program called Rosetta which relies on distributed computing to run thousands of different scenarios for proteins. (4) Where Foldit differs is using players instead of distributive computers to find the most stable proteins.  Utilizing the Foldit community, Firas Khatib from the University of Washington, entered the community into a contest called CASP (Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Predicition) (4). Initially, the solutions the community came up with didn’t really work. However, after Khatib stepped in to randomize the starting proteins the community starting coming up with some of the best answers for protein structures in the competition. (4) To find more about Foldit, you can read this article or visit the Foldit website where you can also download the game, here.

Obviously, I don’t expect every game to aim as high as affecting AIDS research, but affecting someone’s life is not as difficult as it sounds. Whether the change is as small as getting your players to care about the character or as big as breaking someone out of their shell, making games that mean something is not only possible, but something companies should be aiming for. Games should no longer be looked upon as children’s toys and shouldn’t have goals of selling millions of copies or gaining enough interest to warrant making a sequel. Instead they should be a meaningful part of someone’s life and should help people coup and understand a problem or at least face it.

Will commercial game companies take this path? Sadly, probably not because let’s face it. Companies that make games are mostly making games so that they can make money. Few of them have goals that go beyond making money. There is however a game company that is striving for more, that is making sure that when you play their game you don’t just have something to occupy 30 minutes of your time while you wait for such and such to happen. The company thatgamecompany have made such popular games as Flower and flOw that have had a big impact on how games are made. TGC’s goals as a company, found on their front page, are to push the boundaries of interactive entertainment and provide meaningful and enriching experiences that inspire their players. Their current project, Journey is no different. Their aim is to enforce the wonder of another human being instead of focusing on the powers and abilities of your character in game. (5) Will Journey accomplish this goal? I can’t say for sure, I hope so, but what’s great about TGC is that they’re aiming for something more than just a piece of entertainment. They try to change people’s lives or even the medium of expression they’re using, video games.

There’s a side to this argument that mainstream commercial companies should really be looking at. About 54 million people in America alone could be buying and playing games but because of a lack of support from game developers and hardware manufacturers these people are unable to. (6) Disabled individuals have a wide range of physical and mental disabilities that disable them from playing games. Take for example Chuck Bittner who is a quadriplegic, but regardless of his disabilities is a huge fan of video games. He can play games such as Brink because it allows him to remap the keys since he is unable to use a controller as intended. However, Red Dead Redemption does not allow him to remap the controls to the point that he is able to play the game. It simply does not give the player the ability to fully customize how the player interacts with the game to fit their need or play style. (7) The amount of financial gain alone is worth taking the time to implement customizable controls. Customizable controls aren’t even the easiest addition that can aid people with disabilities play games. Subtitles that show audio cues and dialogue are easy to add and can help the millions of people who are deaf and would otherwise miss the entire audio portion of a video game. Commercial games don’t need to do a lot to make a difference in whether or not someone can play a game. They don’t even need to put a lot of effort in to have a big impact on someone’s life.

Looking at the list of answers I got from people about their ideal game, not all of them talk about a game that changes their lives. So of course there will always be a place for companies to make pieces of entertainment purely for entertainment value. Not every game company will turn into TGC and actually I’d prefer every company to make their own goals, but hopefully those goals turn out to be more than “Let’s sell 5 million copies” or “Let’s get enough publicity to make 2 more sequels.” Companies don’t even have to change much because a lot of games already have a big impact as they are. What’s important to focus on is quality, not quantity and with that life changing games will come. Some companies, like TGC, are already going in that direction and I believe many more will come in some form or another. You can have an impact on someone’s life in big or small ways, but what’s important is that you made a game that is meaningful to someone.

You might not have played a game that affected your life in a meaningful way or even in a noticeable way, but I imagine something that you read, watched, or experienced did have an impact. If other forms of expression can have an effect, why not games? Games are the only form of expression that requires the player to interact with it. There is something extremely powerful in that requirement and as game designers we need to tap into it to not only improve the image of games, but also improve how meaningful they are.(source:slatonwhite)


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