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Games and Learning Alliance: Network of Excellence for Serious Games
Triadic Game Design
Balancing Reality, Meaning and Play

At many occasions we are asked to achieve a "balance" in our lives: when it comes, for example, to work and food. Balancing is crucial in game design as well as many have pointed out. In games with a meaningful purpose, however, balancing is remarkably different. It involves the balancing of three different worlds, the worlds of Reality, Meaning, and Play. From the experience of designing Levee Patroller, I observed that different types of tensions can come into existence that require balancing. It is possible to conceive of within-worlds dilemmas, between-worlds dilemmas, and trilemmas. The first, the within-world dilemmas, only take place within one of the worlds. We can think, for example, of a user interface problem which just relates to the world of Play. The second, the between-worlds dilemmas, have to do with a tension in which two worlds are predominantly involved. Choosing between a cartoon or a realistic style concerns, for instance, a tension between Reality and Play. Finally, the trilemmas are those in which all three worlds play an important role. For each of the types of tensions, I will give in this level a concrete example from the development of Levee Patroller. Although these examples come from just one game, I think the examples can be exemplary for other game development projects as they may represent stereotypical tensions. Therefore, to achieve harmony in any of these forthcoming games, it is worthwhile to study the struggles we had to deal with.