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Electroplankton as a notgame

Electroplankton as a notgame
« on: January 12, 2010, 02:24:43 pm »

Maybe it's worthwhile discussing some existing works more in-depth (seemed weird to do this in the reference-section, please tell me if I'm wrong) to see what they offer us as notgame designers. The first thing I came to think of was Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS. Even though it's far from the grand visions that Michaël has talked about I think it offers refreshing ideas regarding interactivity and software. Here are some of my thoughts:

Qualities
Electroplankton is the DS-cartridge that has captured my mom's imagination the most, by far. It's also what I usually feel inclined to play around with when looking through the games I have for the system.
The experience is very free and up to the user to shape to his or her liking. Nothing is locked away from the beginning and there are no goals to fulfill (except the ones you set for yourself). You get rewarded proportionally to the effort you put into exploring the different planktons, the more you learn the better your music sounds.
One of the most beautiful design choices to me is the lack of save function. It forces you to appreciate the fragility of your musical constructions. Also the very vague story that is suggested (happy little sea creatures playing music all day long?!) is fun. I get the feeling that there must be something more to these characters, they are not purely functional.

Problems
I guess the main point is that the program could be described as a music program or tool rather than a world or something telling a story. It certainly have characters but do they act?
A lot of people playing with the program also get bored after a while (after trying out all of the planktons..?)


I think the main question is what parts of Electroplankton are worth continue building on and what is not. Any thoughts?
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Re: Electroplankton as a notgame
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2010, 03:36:55 pm »

This is exactly the kind of stuff that I envisioned having in Reference! So we moved it here.

Elektroplankton really stands out as one of the few non-conservative things that Nintendo has ever done. I wish they did more of this kind of stuff (inviting artists to publish on their console). And I wish Sony and Microsoft (and now Apple and Google perhaps) did too.

I like how it shows that a rules-based system doesn't immediately lead to goal-oriented and award-chasing behaviour. Simply interacting with a system can be a fun activity. Without winning or losing.
And still Elektroplankton is a bit more than a mere toy. As you mentioned, there's a hint of narrative in the game, a sense of authorship that puts it above that, and into the realm of media.

I don't think getting bored with something after a while is a problem at all. What matters is the impact that something has on your life, not how much hours it takes away from your life.
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Re: Electroplankton as a notgame
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2010, 08:08:40 pm »

Regarding the getting bored part:

I agree that it's a fallacy to believe that interactive systems simply are better the more they suck us in... still that's usually the no:1 criteria for judging their quality. I think that's primarily because systems don't tell us anything immediately, they need tedious exploration. In other words they usually fail to communicate unless we spend a lot of time with them.
In that sense I think Electroplankton might have a problem; if it engaged people more they would probably spend more time learning about what music that could be created, which in turn would lead to a more profound experience.
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Re: Electroplankton as a notgame
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2010, 12:13:20 am »

I actually like the idea of interactive pieces that give more when you invest more time/concentration/creativity in them.

But of course this doesn't excuse us as designers to try and help people understand how they can get joy out of our work. The tricky part is to find the balance. Because part of the joy is often discovering things for yourself.
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