I recently wrote on Gameful that I was interested in “aspect-based gaming”. I didn’t define it, and no one is out there asking me what I mean, but I want to write about my ideas in relation to this, as I think it opens up some interesting possibilities.
There’s more than one blog in this, but today I just want to write about what I mean by an “Aspect”.
Of the definitions for aspect from thefreedictionary.com is “a distinct feature or element in a problem, situation, etc.; facet.” This is the closest to the way I’ll be using it, and as it’s used in the games where I’ve seen it. I’ll be taking what those games do with it, and breaking that apart, and ultimately talking about how it can be a beneficial design tool for games and content creation.
But first, some better definitions. I’ll be using aspect to mean “a human-language phrase or sentence which describes a feature or element (or facet) of a game object.” Where a game object is just any entity or thing in a game: a character, scene, object, or storyline. Done right, any noun can have aspects. This makes them akin to adjectives, and in the same since they offer potential for more flavor to gaming. This is particularly true in pen and paper gaming, where Aspects can replace attributes with phrases that can be applied more widely, making for more color and possibility than a numeric stat can offer.
There are two games that I’m currently interested in that use aspects. One is FATE, particularly as it’s used in the Dresden Files RPG. The other is Echo Bazaar, a web-based semi-social game similar to Kingdom of Loathing, or Facebook games like Mafia II. Over the next week, I’ll be discussing how aspects work in these games, and then how I see them working in regular, story-based games, and how they could open up new possibilities in RPGs.