Critical Play Method

Yes, we’re using it! The Critical Play Method, culled from work from the Values at Play project and Mary Flanagan’s  work creating games that take on issues that need to be deeply and meaningful ingrained in a game. It is included in Critical Play, but here’s a succinct checklist to share!

•    Set a design goal (also known as a design mission) and the values goals. The designer sets the goals necessary for the project to create meaningful play, and sets one or more values goal as well to meet as equal goals to the project.
•    Develop rules and constraints which support values. The game designer roughs out a framework for play, including the types of tokens, characters, props, etc. necessary to support the game’s values and the game’s play system.
•    Design for different play styles. The designer could, for example, provide for a noncompetitive type of play alongside a competitive play scenario. The designer should design for subversion of the system and other means by which play can emerge.
•    Develop a playable prototype. The idea is mocked up. This is most efficiently done through paper prototyping.
•    Play test with diverse audiences. Designers play test with a diverse audience, making sure to play with non-traditional gamers. Various players try the game, finding dead ends, boring sections, and exploring the types of difficulty with the tasks.
•    Verify values and revise goals. Designers reflect and evaluate the game through the playtests and player comments, and verify that the values goals emerge through play, and revise goals and add or options based on feedback to both ensure an engaging game and support the values in the project.
•    Repeat. This process is repeated to make sure the game supports the values it set out to frame and support, as well as provide an engrossing and playable experience. These two criteria for success must be measured in each iterative cycle.

These steps should help those wishing to incorporate thinking about human values in their design process. How do you further the discussion of values? Check out some of our publications in this area at the bottom of this page.