Little known fact: Vogel is actually a professor of psychology at the University and a clinical psychologist by training. So we were wondering what that background can do to game designing, as I’m sure you’re asking yourself now too!
So let’s see what he has to say about it, shall we?
IELLO: How do you feel your background as a clinical psychologist has influenced the games you design?
Eric B. Vogel: In many ways, gaming and game design are an escape from psychology for me, an escape from psychological mindedness. In clinical work, and psychological research, everything is a gray area and you have to be very mindful of your own thought processes and feelings. While gaming, I can be unselfconscious, and get lost in play and banter. Similarly, the design of game mechanics is challenging, but it is a clear, unambiguous task. My psychology skill set becomes more relevant when I am play testing. Being aware of people’s tendencies of perception and behavior helps me understand their feedback contextually. If I have observed patterns in a play tester’s responses, I can differentiate between feedback that is a response to my game, and feedback that is driven by a particular play tester’s tendencies of perception. I think my psychological training also helps me keep me aware that games are ultimately experiential. No matter how tight or innovative the mechanics of a design are, no matter how intricate the theming is, it is ultimately the feeling people have while they are playing the game that matters. There was an 18th century philosopher, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, who argued that we perceive things as beautiful or ugly because of the inherent properties of those objects. In other words, beauty existed in the object, and was objectively perceived. David Hume, by contrast, thought that beauty was purely an artifact of the perceptual process, and entirely subjective. Immanuel Kant later merged these arguments, by suggesting that aesthetics are subjective perceptions of objects with objective properties; which always made sense to me. The mechanics of a game, it’s art and graphic design, are all objective properties, but whether or not the game is fun is a subjective response to those properties.
IELLO:Based on some of the previous games you’ve designed, did you create Kitara to be psychotherapeutic for adults? What do you mean by psychotherapeutic?
Eric B. Vogel:No, none of my hobby games are psychotherapeutic. They are just intended to be fun. Psychotherapeutic games are created specifically to be used by mental health professionals to facilitate therapy conversation, or to teach psychotherapeutic concepts and skills in a kid-friendly way. They are more fun for children than just sitting and talking to a therapist, but you wouldn’t want to play one on game night! They have more in common with educational games than hobby games. They are published and distributed by an entirely different set of companies than hobby games. Sometimes, normal hobby games are used in play therapy, but psychotherapeutic games are meant to be used in clinical settings exclusively.
Wow! That was super interesting, but my brain kind of hurts from all this new information. Let’s take a break to remind our readers about how exciting this new game from Vogel and its illustrator, Miguel Coimbra (Mountains of Madness…), is.
Kitara is a strategy game where you will have to move your troops to conquer territories and reunite the Kitara Empire. The game mixes conquest, movement, and battle.
Strengthen your army of Hunters, Cheetah-Centaurs, and Heroes! Protect livestock and crops, move your troops and go to war.
Kitara is a dynamic strategy game, full of tension and suspense.
As a final note, let’s see what the stars have in store for our star-of-the-moment designer.
IELLO:Any comments about your next projects?
Eric B. Vogel:I have a game being published soon by Sand Castle Games, the publishers of Res Arcana. That should be coming out not long after Kitara is released. It is in fact the dice-based design I alluded to earlier. The exact release date is a little uncertain because of the pandemic.
- A game by Eric B. Vogel
- Illustrated by Miguel Coimbra
- Release: SPIEL 2020
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