Games about Games

We’ve been thinking about what makes a good game design in our Gamestar Mechanic competition. In light of that, I’ve discovered this list of metagames. Some are just abusive like Desert Bus, where you have to drive a bus from Tuscon to Las Vegas for eight hours. Some are minimalistic like Don’t Shoot the Puppy, which is a game of inaction where you try to follow the instruction in the title. My favorite is The Onion‘s parody of violent video games, Close Range–a first person shooter where all of your enemies appear right in front of you. While most of them are amusing, they all challenge some element of game mechanics or design. is “an online Secret HQ for gamers and game developers who want to help change the world and make our real lives better. Think of it as a cross between a professional network and a creative brainstorming space. The goal is to make it easy for anyone making or playing world-changing games to find collaborators, mentors, jobs, ideas, and funding. And of course, to discover fun new games to play.” Designed by Jane McGonigal (who worked on games like EVOKE or World Without Oil–ARGs that attempt to change the world), the site is part clubhouse, part Facebook, and part game. It’s worth a quick look, even if you don’t sign up. But be careful if you do, you might be strangely driven to get to  level 7, even if you don’t know what that means or why it matters. (Of course, by the end of the semester, you will know why.)