Reality is a Game

Thoughts on the evolving game world around us.

Escape The Game: My Book On How To Make Escape Rooms

I wrote a book about how to make escape rooms. If you are thinking of opening an escape game or are wondering what goes on behind-the-scenes at an escape room this book is for you.

Escape the Game: how to make escape rooms

Escape the Game is all about how to make escape rooms. It goes beyond only design issues to the business issues that concern escape room creators based on the broad questions that have come my way as a consultant, game designer, and professor of game design.

I’ve worked on escape rooms and have blogged about them (On Designing Escape Games For The Real World and Tips on Designing Room Escape Games), so I figured it was about time I write out my thoughts in a more coherent manner. Thus, the book Escape the Game took shape.

Escape the Game cast of characters.

Escape the Game cast of characters.

I was inspired to write Escape the Game by playing escape rooms that made major, but easily fixed, game design mistakes. I hope to inspire designers to think holistically, to think about their escape rooms as more than the sum of their parts.

Escape the Game book cover

Get my book Escape the Game to find out even more ways to design your escape room.


Indeed, the first draft was just answers to questions that people have emailed me because of the popularity of my posts on designing escape rooms. Escape the Game is now more than that.

Escape the Game looks at the high-concept aspects of making escape games like issues around game flow. The later half of the book goes into aspects of making escape rooms that escape room owners wish they knew before they started; practical things like what to charge and legal issues unique to escape rooms.

I address the most common questions that people have about designing, making, and running escape rooms. I want anybody who designs puzzles and challenges to know that the mechanics are the message. If there is a disconnect between the mechanics of a puzzle and what you’re trying to convey to the players then it makes for a lacklustre play experience.

You can get a good idea of what’s in the book from the table of contents:

Get Escape the Game on Amazon now to learn how to make escape rooms!

Board Game Jam 2016!

Board Game Jam Logo

Board Game Jam 2016 is happening April 2 & 3!

At Board Game Jam you can:

  • Learn about how to design an awesome game, from some pros.
  • Try out some crazy game idea you’ve been been exploring.
  • Meet other people who love games.
  • And most importantly, make a game!

If you’re new to games or if you’ve already made a million then this jam is for you! We invite people of all skill levels to join in on the fun.

Changes in 2016!
Most importantly, we’re now at Ryerson University. New location, same great taste. We’ll have more details soon on the exact spot.

And that is, actually, the only change for now.

Who’s on the what now?!
Board Game Jam is a 2-day event starting on Saturday morning, and concluding on Sunday evening. On Saturday and Sunday, you make your game; on Sunday evening, we’ll have a big ol’ board game party (boozey venue TBA) and play the games everybody has made! Plus prizes.

Don’t know how to make a board game? Good! Board Game Jam is for the adventurous, not for the already-knowing-everything-ous.

Like last year, you can sign up as an individual, or get some friends and show up as a team – it’s entirely up to you!

You can follow Board Game Jam on Twitter and on the Facebook page!

Artificial Intelligence in Relation to Games

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been said by many to bring us a utopia and, now more frequently, a dystopia. Regardless of where research into AI takes us we’ll be seeing the benefits in games in multiple ways. AIs are not new to games and have been used in games for a long time, what’s more is that a good way to test AIs is to use games.

In the 90s an IBM computer beat a world champion chess player and that was impressive at the time. A chess AI can be programmed relatively easy since there’s a set way to play (basically look at all possible moves of a set and pick the best one).

DeepMind

A Game like go is harder to program for and as a result was deemed to be a triumphant challenge for programmers to create a program that can beat a human (the quantity of what needs to be coded for is huge). Last month, Google’s DeepMind beat a top-tier European go player.

Instead of programming for every possible move like in Deep Blue, Google let their program learn on its own. “AlphaGo was not preprogrammed to play Go: rather, it learned using a general-purpose algorithm that allowed it to interpret the game’s patterns, in a similar way to how a DeepMind program learned to play 49 different arcade games.” This is striking because it’s a leap in how we make AIs that play games. We just toss the AI at the game and hope it learns what to do – just like we do with human players.

To hear more about the future of DeepMind watch this lecture by Demis Cassabas (founder of DeepMind) about the future and capabilities of artificial intelligence.

Challenges for DeepMind’s Artificial Intelligence

Does DeepMind seem too good to be true to you? It’s probably because the annoucnemtn around how it beat the go player is a big claim. Gary Marcus deconstructs the advancement and looks at the challenges AlphaGo (and AI in general) needs to still overcome.

But not so fast. If you read the fine print (or really just the abstract) of DeepMind’s Nature article, AlphaGo isn’t a pure neural net at all — it’s a hybrid, melding deep reinforcement learning with one of the foundational techniques of classical AI — tree-search, invented by Minsky’s colleague Claude Shannon a few years before neural networks were ever invented (albeit in more modern form), and part and parcel of much his students’ early work.

What’s more is that AI still hasn’t reached a level of knowledge and reasoning to deal with questions that require multiple contexts. Indeed, a recent test concluded that present AIs can’t beat an 8th grader.

The Allen Institute’s science test includes more than just trivia. It asks that machines understand basic ideas, serving up not only questions like “Which part of the eye does light hit first?” but more complex questions that revolve around concepts like evolutionary adaptation. “Some types of fish live most of their adult lives in salt water but lay their eggs in freshwater,” one question read. “The ability of these fish to survive in these different environments is an example of [what]?”

These were multiple-choice questions—and the machines still couldn’t pass, despite using state-of-the-art techniques, including deep neural nets. “Natural language processing, reasoning, picking up a science textbook and understanding—this presents a host of more difficult challenges,” Etzioni says. “To get these questions right requires a lot more reasoning.”

It’s only a matter of time until the AI teams get from the 8th grade to high school then to the university level.

How does this relate to games though? With smarter AI comes we will get better bots in games and we’ll see that making NPCs will get easier.

Developing a Unified AI Framework

This month Firas Safadi, Raphael Fonteneau, and Damien Ernst published a paper in the International Journal of Computer Games Technology about how we ought to think about AI in games. They argue that we need a unified framework for dealing with AI development and deployment in games.

Their paper, Artificial Intelligence in Video Games: Towards a Unified Framework, is worth a read and will undoubtedly shape how we think about AI in games for years to come. Think about the possibility that game engines will ship with a suite of default AI behaviours that can be easily modified by non-coders.

Here’s the abstract:

With modern video games frequently featuring sophisticated and realistic environments, the need for smart and comprehensive agents that understand the various aspects of complex environments is pressing. Since video game AI is often specifically designed for each game, video game AI tools currently focus on allowing video game developers to quickly and efficiently create specific AI. One issue with this approach is that it does not efficiently exploit the numerous similarities that exist between video games not only of the same genre, but of different genres too, resulting in a difficulty to handle the many aspects of a complex environment independently for each video game. Inspired by the human ability to detect analogies between games and apply similar behavior on a conceptual level, this paper suggests an approach based on the use of a unified conceptual framework to enable the development of conceptual AI which relies on conceptual views and actions to define basic yet reasonable and robust behavior. The approach is illustrated using two video games, Raven and StarCraft: Brood War.

Get To Know Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan was a very influential thinker who changed the way we think about media at large. He argued that the medium is the message when it comes to understanding popular culture. If you grew up in Canada you may remember this Heritage Minute:

McLuhan was a visionary and here all I hope do to is get you interested in learning more about him and his thinking. In the first week back in class he came up twice with one of my classes looking directly at his work. Due to many students asking for more information, here is a very quick look into McLuhan and his impact on media, culture, and humanity.

The term “the global village” was coined by McLuhan and has been used ever since to describe the interconnectedness of the planet thanks to technology. His impact was large and you can get a good idea of the complexity of his thinking and its impact in the documentary below.
The documentary, This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage, is a great introduction to the thinking of McLuhan.

If you’re interred in hearing more from McLuhan, you can check out and the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto (check out their events). And here is giving a great interview on ABC:

Part 1
“A baseball game without an audience would be a rehearsal only.”

Part 2
“Participation in replay is a form of pattern recognition that is new in new media.”

part 3
He uses the word Orient so much I think he should’ve read some Edward Said.

Page 1 of 127

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: