I'm pleased to announce that Jose Zagel dropped by and let me know about a project which is very close to the 'game design dictionary' I discussed in a previous post. Its called the Game Ontology Project, and is a wiki-driven collaborative approach. I'm thrilled that this exists, and want to encourage anyone with the time and skills to contribute.
I want to support this project, but it will be unfeasible for me to do so directly. The sad truth is that I run a company, work as a game designer and co-run the IGDA's Game Writers' SIG - I just don't have the time to contribute directly to such a project. I have to think of ways I can contribute tangentially instead.
I'm going to raise some criticisms here; I hope it is understood that I am in full support of the project and that my goal here is to contribute to refinement, not to undermine the project:
- Hierarchical: I'm glad that this is not a taxonomic project, but I'm disappointed that it's hierarchical. I often come down hard on taxonomic and hierarchical approaches because I personally don't consider them helpful - it's easy for people to get distracted by the minutae of a scheme and lose the overall value. Perhaps, however, this reflects that my interest in such a project is in its lexicographical role, and this is incompatible with a hierarchical approach. Or, to put it another way, the result of the Game Ontology project may serve to inform a future lexicographical approach but it cannot replace it because hierarchical issues stand in direct tension to lexicographic needs. I welcome a defence of the hierarchical elements though!
- Goals: having spoken out against the hierarchical issues, watch me now get distracted by one... One can place Goals under Rules in a hierarchical sense as goals are a form of rule. The fact that you haven't is a positive step to my mind (because at a psychological level goals have different implications), but it seems contrary to the hierarchical process.
- Entity Manipulation: this is just a horrible phrase to my eyes and ears! The other three branches of the ontology have a pleasing neatness; this one screams 'work in progress'. "Entity manipulation consists of altering the attributes or abilities of an entity in the game world" it begins. I do not understand why one would value the alteration of attributes and abilities over the definition of those attributes, abilities and entities! Although much progress-driven play consists of the acquisition of new abilities, the definitions of play originate in the abilities themselves, c.f. Shadow of the Colossus which begins the player with all their abilities and attributes. Putting aside which word you choose for the nouns of the game, would not "Entities" be more than sufficient for the high level of this branch of the ontology? The attributes and abilities extend from the entities, after all.
Incidentally, the use of the term 'ontology' may be borrowed from computer science, but it behooves me to point out that ontology is a branch of philosophy concerned with the metaphysics of being. In fact, often when people use the term 'existential' it would be perhaps be more precise to say 'ontological'.
Linking to the project from my sidebar. Thanks again to Jose for bringing it to my attention!
PS: Any chance of getting updates to the wiki fed to an RSS feed? It would make it much easier for people to follow the project's progress!