We’ve explored Rollercoaster learning, Experiment learning, and Mastery learning. Finally, the last phase of the REMA learning sequence: Application.
If REMA is a learning sequence, the first 3 phases are like the trunk of a tree, and Application is the branching out of that experience into player’s lives. Application is the stage where players take what they’ve gotten from a game and apply it to outside contexts. Where they use what they’ve learned, and share what they’ve gained. Where the output of the play becomes something to reflect and admire. In a sense, once mastered, the play becomes performance to be shared.
Sometimes it’s literal performance, such as in social performance (Club Penguin) or comedy improv (Fiasco) or dance (DDR). Other times it’s performance towards an end result, such as in art (Spore’s creature creator), education games in schools (SimCity, Oregon Trail), health (Superbetter), or stories (Alice and Kev in the Sims 3). Application plau is play that deliberately use the play process to change people’s lives afterwards.
The design of this play is interesting, because this play is generative. Designers are manipulating familiar kinds of plays to create surprising outputs. It can be a masterwork of subtle manipulation of the other phases (Braid, Bioshock). These games seem to me to be artistic goals of Rollercoaster, Experiment, or Mastery games, and better analyzed in that context. (Often the Application play in these games was not intended!) However, Application play designers are also exploring a new form of games altogether (World Without Oil). These seem to be Application games.
Application games are still rare, and instances of Application play are far more common then games built for that purpose. I’m not an expert in this area, so there could be a good deal more going on then I’m unaware of. That said, the relative youth of Application games combined with the breadth of experiences means Application games don’t seem to share traits as tightly as the other modes. Only a few seem to have evolved so far:
- Shared External Goal. The player(s) and the designer commit up front to create something, and work together to achieve it. No jerks allowed. (See the Narrativist paper RPGs.)
- Recognizable Output. Players have to be able to claim what is being created.
- Useful Output. Players have to be able to do something with it.
- Participant-Created Output. The players have an active role in shaping the output (otherwise, you don’t need the game part).
- Vague, Internal Success. Players need to be invested in parsing and promoting the output and declaring it finished.
- Tight Communities: Performance needs an audience, and that combined with a valuable output leads to communities…
- Publication: And “museum-like” repositories for the game’s output, often online.
Application game design is still young, and there’s much to discover. But focused Application game designers are starting to appear. The Serious Games and Narrativist Game movements are home to many of them, but others are light-hearted. The advertising world is starting to take note, particularly in the non-profit sector. The military is investing. “Gameification” is a way of creating Application play in non-game contexts. It remains to be seen whether Application games will evolve new game traits that evoke a new style of game, or whether they will focus on refining Rollercoaster, Experiment, and Mastery techniques for Application purposes. But the unique pressures of performance create new possibilities. I’d be curious if you’ve seen or heard of good examples that break the Rollercoaster/Experiment/Mastery game model.
So! We’re through the REMA stages in detail. Thanks for reading! I hope its been enlightening. We’ve seen how you can identify each play stage, some design traits that you can explore in each stage, and we’ve explored some of REMA’s shortcomings. I have one more post planned on the relationships between the different traits. But I’d also like to hear your take. Everyone seems to have a different perspective on it. Please share!