The games expert likes nothing better than building escape games, because they make us smarter and more sociable
“EVERYONE CAN BE A HERO”
THE RED BULLETIN: In your case, we can honestly say that you’re someone who’s turned his hobby into a career.
SCOTT NICHOLSON: Yes, I’ve been a lifelong gamer, be that board games, video games or role-playing games. I’m currently doing research into why it is we enjoy them. And I’m designing new games with my students.
What makes games the stuff of science?
Games help us explore the world. A talented gamer is able to find their way in real life better, too. A lot of the everyday skills that we all have actually come from playing games. As adults, we often forget the power of play.
You’re a professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Canada. The motto of your Games Network Lab is, ‘Changing the World through Games’. How can games change the world?
I encourage my students to design games that let people find their own meaning in a game. Real gamers will lose interest if it is just about scoring points or nabbing prizes. And if a good game has a connection to the outside world, then it can change that world.
Can you give us an example?
Foldit is a fantastic example. It’s a puzzle game about DNA sequencing, where you have to fold proteins creatively. By playing the game you are helping actual researchers solve actual problems. Games can also change the world by helping people train their social and co-operative skills. That is why I find escape room games so extremely interesting.
What is it about escape that you find so exciting?
Escape games are sociable and all about communication. A small team solves a range of complex riddles and in so doing tries to get out of an enclosed space together. Co-operation is the decisive factor. You either win as a team or you lose as a team. Every well-designed escape room has riddles that you need various skills for:
- quick thinking
- leadership qualities
Which means that very different people love to play escape rooms for different reasons. Any player can become the hero of the group at some point or other.
RED BULL MIND GAMERS
In the final stage of the global ‘MindGamers’ tournament, 24 teams will try to unlock the escape room ENOCH, designed by Scott Nicholson.
When: March 23-March 25, 2017
What is it usually that makes a game into a good game?
Everybody loves hearing stories we can learn something from. And game designers are today’s storytellers. I always say to my students that they have to deploy their power correctly. Don’t just use a generic pasted-on theme. Tell your own story.