Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Passive vs Active Entertainment

Yehuda just posted about board games and whether they are passive or active entertainment (here). And that post, of course, really got me thinking (his posts seem to do that) about these sorts of issues in the both LDS games that are currently available and in the LDS themed games that I am designing.

Passive Entertainment
This shows up in a game when the game is ruled by randomness: you roll the dice or you spin the spinner or the drawn card determines what happens in the game. In Yehuda's words: "When you roll the dice and laugh, groan, or jump for joy at the outcome, you are enjoying passive entertainment" In other words, you don't have to do a lot of thinking or "strategizing" in the game. Your involvement is quite passive.

Active Entertainment
If you play a game that involves you making many decisions, laying out plans, or thinking up different strategies that will help you accomplish the goals of the game, then you are involved in a more active entertainment. Again, in the words of Yehuda: "When you're called upon to think or make a decision, you are enjoying active entertainment. There are different levels of active entertainment, from the simple (trivia: do I know it or not?) to the complex (how do I get my battalion to that base?). Regardless of complexity, you can rank better or worse players, and most of the time you can work to improve yourself."

In my mind these two "levels" of entertainment would lie on a continuum (each occupying an extreme).

This continuum could then be used to categorize games; games could be placed along this continuum. Some games would include some active and some passive entertainment. Other games would include more passive entertainment, but still include a little active entertainment. Snakes and Ladders could be used as an example. In this game players spin the spinner and move their pawn the corresponding number of spaces on the board. If they end their turn at the bottom of a ladder, then they climb the ladder to the space above. If they end their turn at the top of a snake, then they slide down the snake to the space at the end of the snake. So, there is no decision making involved with this game. The random result of the spin determines all that happens in the game. I would place Snakes and Ladders at the extreme end of passive entertainment on the continuum.

This all raises a question in my mind: LDS themed games (those currently available and those that I am designing and will design in the future), where do they fall on the continuum and where should they fall on the continuum? I ask this second part of the question because I think the audience of the games needs to be considered. If the audience is one that would prefer games closer to the passive end of the continuum then, by all means, design and publish games that fall closer to that end. This quandary also arises from the following news post: Star-Telegram. Were those who rated the games looking for a more passive or active entertainment experience?

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