In this paper it will be discussed and presented the choices and design progress, when developing a sport, a game called Bounce. Both issues, evolution and changes will be presented, as well as a look at the strong resemblance the prototype has to another game called Spikeball.
Player experience – Chaotic and fast pace but a sport
As it was assigned to create a sport, it was important to define what a sport is or what made a game a sport, before discussing the possibilities. However it was quickly found out that not only was there not a universally defined definition on what made something a sport, nor was there a clear agreement on what was a sport amongst people of the group. Some defined sport as something that had to be a physical activity, and did not see international sports like chess as a real sport, nor a video game like Star Craft – They acknowledged their existence as a sport, but would not define them as “real” sports. We therefore went on a more broad agreement on what we saw was a sport, based on De Koven’s statements in his book “The Well-Played Game (2013): A sport is a game that has grown a big enough community, that wish to compete with others on a bigger scale, and must then undergo an even stronger rule restriction that must be universally followed so the competition is equally to all and removes as much random elements as possible. With that finally defined it was decided that to create a sport, we had to create a potentially entertaining game, that then later could fit into such a framework. However, the restriction of having no random element, inspired us to try and design a game around a tool that was otherwise seen as rather chaotic: A bouncing ball. The ball used in this scenario is described as small, fast, quiet and has a powerful reacting despite requiring a small action. This ball on its own gave an experience of tension, stress and excitement, and when played with we found it often to result in a chaotic, unexpected end, when it came out of control forcing the participants to act faster in order to bring it back to control. It’s chaotic and unexpected nature was what we wanted to try and bring further into a game; not necessarily making a game that felt random, but if resulting in loss of control or failure, it could still result in something pleasurable. It could be played with control, but still bring a sense of a chaotic experience.
Field of play and play styles
In order to give a more defined sense of loss in control and chaoticness, making a field seemed to help defining when the ball was out or in control, not just when played with in a casual manner. Firstly and most importantly it was noted that in order to keep the qualities of the player experience we wished for and that the bouncing ball could provide, was to keep the playing field within a context that supported the ball best – thus a place with hard and flat surfaces was the most optimal. The material quality of the surroundings were not the only thing that needed to be defined in order to keep the most optimal sense of tension and stress. Playing in a large open room gave too much control and too little chaos, when the ball came out of control, as well as tedious when the small ball had to be fetched in a large space. Everything had to be scaled down in order to keep the player experiences, so the most optimal setup became a small field of play within a room with a fitting size compared to the playing field, avoiding spending too much time off game to fetch the ball and lose the sense of tension.
Although we intended to design a game free from the boundaries of required sport-qualifications too keep the design possibilities as open as possible, one aspect was required: The game had to be an Agon game, skill based and competitive (Caillois, 1961). Using the balls bouncing and fast qualities it seemed to work best to be used as quick passes between players, earning points from each successful pass defined by an untrespasable space in the playing field. And to make that competitive, it became a game of passing the ball fast enough between players while trying to avoid the opposing team from taking the ball. While for the opponent players, it was to try at throw the ball out of the others control, but also to bring it into their control preventing players from just bashing the bouncing ball completely out of play.
So in order to give the opponent group a good sense of movability and maneuverability, the playing field became round as it felt more natural to move within a round shape than a square. So both the movable area and the scoring area became round. The first issue that came into place, was that the players did not seem to move much around, which quickly lowered the tension and excitement from moving around trying to keep up with the passing ball – it was too easy. The scoring field was simply too small and it was too easy for one player to cover a large enough portion of the playing field without moving an inch. Making the field bigger quickly resulted in a much more active playing style and the sense of tension, stress and excitement was strengthened. An extra aspect of teamwork came more into play as players then tried to cover each other in order to get the ball. It brought more opportunities for different playstyles but also opened of for a new issue that has not fully been tested and given a proper solution to. Only having two teams, each with two players resulting in the covering technique to be too powerful but also destroying the movement. The most optimal strategy was for the two opposing players to gang up on the receiver forcing them to be at one place and not move. It has been discussed though that the possibilities of more than 2 players per team could solve this, since the thrower would then have more than one receiver to choose from and the two against one covering technique would be less effective.
Similarities and differences from Spike Ball
Our prototype, which we call Bounce, has a very strong similarity to another game called Spikeball. Since Bounce i still a prototype the exact rules will not be brought up in this section, but rather the differences and similarities in material, setting and player experience. The entire rule decription of Spikeball can be found on the following website: http://usaspikeball.com/official-rules
Spike ball is similar to a volleyball yet smaller while the bouncing ball is small enough to be covered in your hand. Since the bouncing is so small and fast it, makes it difficult to precisely predict where it is in movement, and more often than not the players are left with quick reactions and less planning, but only while the ball is in play. Bounce does not require the ball to be in constant movement, but rather to plan where the thrower strikes, and when the opponent players should act. It is however not allowed to keep the bouncing ball for longer than a couple of seconds so the ball is still very often moving. In Spike Ball it is more focused on keeping the ball in play but it is a lot less stressful when in play, as the ball moves significantly slower and is easier to hit. In Spikeball the limitations of how long the ball is in one player’s possession is more similar to volleyball, as the player is only allowed so many touches and holding is not allowed. This means that in Bounce you have moments to think before acting, while in Spikeball you have to act while in play. The tension lies in the fasts actions trying to outsmart the opponent in the moment, where in Spikeball the tension lies in you having to keep track of play and planning while keeping the ball going.
Another major difference in playstyle, is that Bounce allows for more direct cover where in Spikeball, its focus lies in outplaying the opponent with the ball, rather than trying to physically be in the way of play.
It is difficult to determine which of these games provides the play experience we intended to design around the best, aside from chaotic, but it is certain that Bounce has the potential to be a lot more wild and possibly violent in its playing style than Spikeball.
Overall Concluding Statement
Bounce, based on the definition defined in this paper, has the potential to become a sport, although it can be debatable whether or not the chaotic element of the game is appreciated in a sport setting. It does have the aspects of competitive play, is open for potential playstyles and is, in its current state, simple to learn. It is however also difficult to keep track of if you are the players in play, unlike Spikeball, that plays at a less hectic pace. Both bounce and Spikeball share the same player experiences, except for the chaotic element in Bounce. However, it is perhaps rather frustrating to have anything resembling chaotic in a game of sport, rather than in a single game.
De Koven, B. “The Well-Played Game”, 2013. THe MIT Press, 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge.
Caillois, R. “Man, Play and Games”, 1961. The Free Press of Glencoe, Inc.
Power Point Presentation – Including the rules of Bounce.