Changing the world with mind gamesSCOTT NICHOLSON, The games expert, likes nothing better than building escape games, because they make us smarter and more sociable.
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 playing my whole life, 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 discover the world. A talented gamer finds their way in real life better, too. That special, rational, added value that good games have, which we often don’t even notice when we’re playing, has always fascinated me as a games researcher.
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.” Do you really believe that games are able to change the world?
Absolutely! Maybe our aspirations sound a little grandiose, but we really do mean what we say. We design games that should represent more to gamers than just scoring points or nabbing prizes. And if a good game has a connection to the outside world, then it can change that world.
In what way?
I like games where you can explore spaces, use a variety of skills and find your own way to the ultimate goal. That’s why I find the boom in escape games such an exciting development. Escape games aren’t just computer based. There are live-action equivalents, too, for example, games which take place in actual time and space.
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. Cooperation 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: dexterity, quick thinking, leadership qualities. That means any player can become hero of the group at some point or other.
RED BULL MIND GAMERS
In the final round of the global Mind Gaming tournament, 24 teams will try to break the ENOCH Escape Room, a design by Scott Nicholson
When: March 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. So don’t design your game around some utterly mundane story. Tell your own story.