Notes on Ian Bogost Talk at UCLA 1/24/17

Here are my notes from Bogost promoting his book “Play Anything”:

Rule as limitation
Rule leads to challenge
Challenge leads to pleasure


Focusing on following a rule can make an experience more interesting

The words: game play and fun have become trite, just like how are you doing or I love you when overused.

We understand little about our object of interest – video games. What is a game? Harder to define than other mediums, harder to explain what fun or game is? We kind of don’t know

Mary poppins – a spoon ful of sugar helps the medicine go down, singing a song makes work more fun

Covers over drudgery – isn’t a good solution to real work, kind of like listening to music while working.

Asteroids math games are no good, they try to hide something instead of integrating with it

In every job that just be done there is an element of fun, find the fun and the job becomes a game – Mary Poppins

The first time you tell someone I love you, it means more the first time than it does 2 years down the line, only means something when it is withheld.

Fun is like this, it is kind of infrequent. This is a fun game, that was a good book, does little more than show anonymous endorsement. Single vague metric for aesthetic value in games.

Mercilessly vacant.

A painting has to be fun to be good! Sounds horrible.

Fun is a limited sort of novelty descriptor which is inadequate to describe a mature art form

Raph Coster redefines fun as a good feeling we get from solving problems and defining patterns.

Folly creates surprise from exploration – the fool finds something new in a familiar situation

Even with the same friends at the same bar talking about the same thing, something new was discovered, something fun happened.

A spoon ful of sugar stipulates that any problem is insufficient on its own and everything about it has already been thought through, marry poppins is a liar.

In our secular age, value must be found by sheer force of will, from within, we are skeptics and resistant, irony – everything is duplicitous and untrustworthy, this demand forces us to recede within ourselves.

Refusing to choose / the hipster decision. Afraid to confront any reality of the self. Irony has become refusing to reveal whether or not you mean what you say.

Fear of the incompatibility of our inner desires and reality. Irony is an escape root from earnesty. Irony is an escape from having to choose between earnesty and disdain, not being able to know.

We need a defense again the sense that anything might go wrong at any moment. Irony comes from fear, our lives are subject to ever increasing uncertainty. We now resist engaging with reality to protect us from the risk.

This distances us from the experience of reality. Irony is a cultural illness or madness. Ironoia is a distrust of things. Recede further from things rather than using them.

We think that fun is within us and not within the things themselves. The meanings that we invent.

We embrace the wretchedness of difficult things to make them fun. Allowing things to be just what they are and actively communing with them allows us to find pleasure with them.

Game: the voluntary attempt to over come arbitrary obstacles

Something terrifying in games – sublimity can be found everywhere and is arbitrary.

Free movement within a more rigid structures – respecting the structure and subjecting oneself to it – not overcoming it – this is play. Fun is the feeling of operating.

Paradox of play – we think of it as freedom, but in fact it is about limiting freedom.

We think that doing whatever we want is playing – this is backwards. Instead, meaningful play arises from constraints.

On the guitar you must follow rules and follow constraints to play well, to PLAY well. You can play anything.

Play is a material property of things. A name for deliberating operating a constrained system.

Finding something new in something familiar.

Fun is not a goal, it is a result of treating a play object with dignity and respect.
The things we find the most fun are the hardest things that resist us – in that resistance we find fun.

Sometimes things give up secrets, instra and mahout the tennis players found something in tennis that no one had found before.

Fun is related to folly.

It’s hard to care about things at all. Its easier to keep them at arms length.

We expect things to come to us and bring value to us. Comfort is the problem not the solution.

Find the job in the job to truly make it fun instead of finding the fun in the job

Fun is finding novelty in familiarity. Play is working within restraints. Play is deep attention. Give respect to something that does not deserve respect. Attend to something over time with care and it will reveal its secrets.

The most interesting things about games is that we know we are experiencing arbitrariness and we accept it.

Boredom – we have expended the obvious answers, and now we have to dig deep and do the hardest work.

“I am trying to reframe play in the most abstract way possible such that it can apply to anything.”

-Ian Bogost

Book Recommendation: “Play Anything” by Ian Bogost, to find out about the meaning of play in its most abstract form.

The VR Advantage

What I have learned after examining VR video games is that they are not enhanced by AR/VR in a meaningful way.

I believe that interactive systems are highly functional when they use their input systems to effectively communicate information and allow users to interact with that information in a natural, intuitive way.

Looking at all of the games I have played in VR, the only ones that have made we want to come back for a second go are the multiplayer games. In fact, the first VR project I made was a multiplayer game.

When you play a multiplayer game, another human is sending you information and communicating with you in a way that makes you engaged and interested. The difference between a VR multiplayer game and a regular multiplayer game is that you get access to a deeper amount of information about the player on the other side than you could with just a computer, and this information is entirely to do with their BODY and HUMAN PRESENCE.

After reading books like Charisma Myth and People Skills, it becomes very clear that human communication is about much more than just the words you say, but rather the posture you maintain, the hand gestures you make, the pauses in your speech, the eye contact you transmit. VR/AR has the potential to capture all of these expressions and represent them in virtual space, and this is the true advantage of VR/AR over regular computers.

A single player game will not be superior in VR than on a screen, because no game will ever be able to be designed to interpret the minutiae of human expression and use it in a system of deep game mechanics. Only a human or AI can interpret this sort of information in a useful way, games only require simple binary inputs on behalf of the user because they are essentially static systems whose depth is not built on deep input but rather on shallow input being processed in a variety of contexts. This is not to say that single player games are not fun experiences in VR, it is to say that they are not evolved or more game-like.

I believe that the ultimate strength of VR/AR will come from humans coming together in virtual environments and communicating through immersive interactive systems, utilizing the complex input data generated with AR/VR in conjunction with creative and analytical VR tools that can help record and capture the communication between people. This will not only drive the success of remote work and telecommunication, but will also allow for new modes of streamlined, uninhibited human collaboration – two people will be able to draw on a white board at once while overlapping in virtual space. The ability to learn, collaborate, and instruct from remote spaces will see a major improvement and the distance between individuals will impede their work life communication and collaboration less than ever before.

I will be expanding on this topic with much greater detail in an upcoming video presentation, please stay tuned.

Book Recommendation: “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami, for anyone interested in Japanese history, surrealism, madness, and what is perhaps one of Murakami’s best works.

New Mr. Robot Inspired Game Project

I am working on a new game called Silicon Beach Psychopath inspired by Mr. Robot and my personal experiences in Los Angeles.

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The gameplay revolves around David P Luna (seen above) as he wanders around a nightmare version of Los Angeles trying to get better at programming so he can get a job. I expect the game to take around 30 minutes to play and 6 months to develop. Playing as David, you have to manage your anxiety which increases every time you use a computer or run into a psychotic trigger. You alleviate your anxiety by talking to your therapist Dr. Goldberg and answering his questions correctly.

I will be revealing more about the other characters and nuances of design in future updates – stay tuned!

Book Recommendation: “Console Wars” by Blake J Harris, for anyone who wants to find out how the old video game industry worked and how it differs from what it is today.

carPG-13 Self Driving Car and Pathologic Intentions

My most recent gamedev stream for carPG-13 involved a demonstration of my car NPCs and their ability to navigate around a world on their own without a nav mesh by using a ray cast detection system. You can find out more in the video below:

I will be taking a break from carPG-13 in the coming months because I have started working on a VR RTS game which I will be releasing in partnership with my current company, BrainRush. After helping my friend Edwon on his VR virtual pet, I have learned a lot about the design strengths and limitations in VR and I think that my VR RTS fits nicely into the VR system.

My friend Mykolas and I are beginning a book on our favorite game Pathologic, we will be playing through the game together 3 times in the coming months while taking notes and outlining our book. We expect the book to be done in 2017. Mykolas and I have been discussing the game design behind Pathologic since high school (8 years ago) and we find it to be the most relevant topic of discussion in video games, so we are finally going to take action and attempt to share our ideas with the world.

Enjoy this photo of me with my first VR head set, the Vive Pre, which Valve sent to me thanks to my good friend Edwon, check out his website at



Book Recommendation: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, a great read for anyone looking to improve their ability to manage a team or expand their network – or interact with humans in general.



My name is Pablo Leon-Luna. I work at a company called BrainRush in Santa Monica where I develop corporate Unity Games and attempt to build backend web technology using NodeJS. This is how I survive in Los Angeles.


However, when I am not at work I am developing my current game project: CaRPG-13, writing about video games, reading assorted books, and teaching myself to draw. I wanted to write a book called “Mechanics of Dread” inspired by the game Pathologic by Ice Pick Lodge and how it affects the future of games as an art form, but then I realized that writing a book was too much of a time commitment so I am going write this blog instead. Future posts will be about video game theory, software development, tech company culture, and the development of CaRPG-13. At the end of each post I will recommend a book. Please subscribe.

Book Recommendation: “Excavating Kafka” by James Hawes for those who want to explore how history distorts our understanding of an artist’s life and the meaning of his work.