How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking—And How Publishing Can Benefit
At their most fundamental level, games provide feedback loops. Daniel Cook, chief creative officer at Spry Fox, a Seattle-based game design firm, divides them into four parts:
1.) A player performs an action. In "Angry Birds" it involves pulling back the rubbery band of a slingshot, aiming, and letting the fowl fly. For a crossword puzzle it means filling in blank spaces in a grid with a word, words or phrase based on a clue. In a first-person shooter it's piloting an avatar through a simulated world, avoiding obstacles and firing weapons.
2.) The action results in an effect. The "Angry Birds" player watches the bird soar through the air and strike makeshift structures housing oinking, blinking pigs. The crossword puzzle solver sees how his answer fits in a given space and whether it runs afoul of other answers he has given. For the first-person shooter player: The avatar reacts to his control of the joystick, mouse or touchscreen, and there are lots of explosions.
3.) The player receives feedback. After an irate, chattering bird hits its targets the structures protecting the pigs shatter like a house of cards tumbling down, pigs are vaporized and points accrue. Each crossword answer affects other answers-for example, a word running horizontally fills in vertical spaces on the grid, and a quick glance at the corresponding clues confirms or debunks the validity of the original answer. The shooter observes how each and every movement affects the avatar's actions, which are buttressed by visual and sound effects and growing point tallies for each successful shot or action.
4.) Armed with additional knowledge, the player performs additional actions. A new bird is loaded into the slingshot and the player adjusts his trajectory based on what happened on the previous shot. (How many pigs are left? Where are they located and how are they protected?) Five down has three of six letters filled in courtesy of other answers the player has already inputted into the grid. The player in the first person shooter aimed too high on the previous shot so he adjusts the angle of his weapon or he knows to avoid that floating jellyfish-like alien skittering into his avatar's path.