The Sims 4

The SIMS 4

Lens of the Elemental Tetrad


There is no story to this game. In the original Sims game, it was the objective of the main character to move out of your mom’s house, find a job, and get married. However as the Sims became more advanced, the story part is omitted. Although some can say that this is a drawback, I think of it as leaving it to the user to create their own story through the characters


There are a lot of complex mechanics at work in the Sims. The primary one is to take care of a Sim (or multiple Sims) by making sure they eat, use the bathroom, sleep, destress, and in general keep their mood up. How you do this, like most of the game, is entirely up to you. There are a lot of mechanics at work in The Sims, but the main one is taking care of your Sim’s basic needs


The aesthetic of the Sims is very lighthearted and while there are some aspects of the look that are stylized, The Sims is very physically based. The colors, lighting, and body shape of the Sims are based on real humans, and the same can be said for the environment.


The greatest technological feat of the Sims is the pure scope of the game. There is complex artificial intelligence at work as well as vast decision-making trees that help the achieve the feel of a true sandbox game. Rarely are there times where the user says “I can’t do that” due to the game not allowing it.


In my opinion, the strongest part of the Sims is the customization of characters. Users are allowed to create their own character, with little to no restraints. However, the fascinating thing about this practice is that the average player will create themselves first. Or rather, create their own “avatar”, an idealized version of themselves. Through this, players humanize their characters and are able to emphasize with them. Instead of saying “This character is staying up too late” a player will say “It’s 1am! Why am I still awake?”. I find this interesting, because the player truly feels as if they’re in the environment.

Additionally, the player is able to give their characters certain traits, goals, aspirations, and favorite things. These are all so trivial and non-essential to the main gameplay, but a player will fill out everything according to what they like, if only for the sake of their character being a little more excited than usual when eating pancakes.

There’s not necessarily strange parts of the game, nor are there major flaws. Most bugs in the game have to do with the AI element. For example, a character might express that they’re unable to move forward because there’s a plate on the floor in the way. Or a character will stay the night at your place, but only because you’ve blocked the main exit

On that note, there’s a stranger and slightly sadistic side to Sims where players want to see just how far they can push the story. For example, what happens if you put a kid in a pool with no ladder out? Or can you kill your rich neighbor, swoon his wife, and inherit all of the family property? Although in most cases people will treat the Sims as real life, they will sometimes treat it as a sandbox where there are no consequences but your own satisfaction. So while you may never lock an annoying coworker in a room with no doors in real life, you might do that in the Sims just to “see what happens”.

Lens of Freedom

What makes the Sims unique from any other game is the amount of freedom to be as microscopic or macroscopic as you want to. There’s an extensive and very detailed architectural simulator that will let you create any extravagant type of house you want. However, you can also buy a pre-made house in order spend more time focusing on your Sim’s career as an astronaut.

The true beauty of the Sims lies in its freedom. The player can create their own narratives based on what will make them happy. For some, it’s creating a giant family with numerous generations, watching each Sim grow and live and die. For others it’s a quest to master guitar while balancing their career as a chef, or making friends with as many Sims as possible. I believe that you can tell a lot about a person based on how they place the Sims, since what they choose to focus on is a reflection of what they deem most important. The developers of The Sims do their best to try and reduce the number of constraints that are on the player. Like in real life, the only things that would stand in the player’s way is their basic human needs. They can’t become a major league athlete if they don’t get adequate amounts of food and sleep, and they can’t pull multiple all nighters if their stress levels are too high. However, these constraints help to humanize the Sims, rather than frustrate the player.

Harvest Moon: Friends Of Mineral Town

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is the first of the Harvest Moon series to be launched in the Game Boy Advance and is a remake of Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. In this game, the player is a farmer whose goal is to restore a farm left behind by an old man, whom he made friends with while on a family trip when he was young. By planting crops and raising livestock, he makes profits and expands the farm. The player also goes around Mineral Town, where his farm is based on, and befriends the villagers living there, eventually marrying one of the six bachelorettes living there and settle down with a child.

Gameplay video:

Lens #7: The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad
The player earns profits by raising crops and livestock, in turn using the profits to buy more livestock and more seeds to grow. The player can gather produce or crops and gift them to his neighbours, including the bachelorettes to foster better relationships.

The storyline of this game is branching, where the player can choose to restore the farm any way he likes. Out of six bachelorettes, the player can choose any of them to woo, which eventually leads to the end game of marriage.

The game is made with a simple design, where the player can easily discern the objects around him. By having a simple design, it emphasises the rural setting that Mineral Town is based in.
The theme music changes with each location and season, which brings out the corresponding mood that the setting should have. For example, in the spring, the music is more cheerful, signifying the start of crops growing season whereas summer had a more upbeat music, to signify the abundance of crops growing in the season as well the festivals held that season.

The game is launched in the Game Boy Advance platform, which has a higher screen resolution and longer battery life than its predecessor, the Game Boy colour. As opposed to video gaming consoles such as the Playstation, the Game Boy Advance is easily carried around, providing the option of gaming on the go, when the game was launched.

The simple aesthetics of the games emphasises the setting of the story in rural Mineral Town, as well as ties in with the simple mechanics, where the player has the clear cut goal of making profit and fostering friendships with the villagers. The Game Boy Advance had also been essential in bringing out the aesthetics of the game, as well as provide the player with playing on the go experience.

Lens #17: The Lens of Pleasure
One of the game’s main mechanic is giving gifts to the villagers. Upon receiving the gifts, the villagers will express delight and the bachelorette that the player is currently wooing would give appropriate reactions, both of which would give the player a sense of pleasure, knowing that he made a person happy.

The game also provides player the pleasure of pride in an accomplishment. The player grows crops in the games, gathering a sense of achievement whenever the crops are fully grown. Furthermore, in taking good care of his livestock, the player can then take part in festivals with the respective livestock, winning if the bonds with the livestock is strong enough. The sense of accomplishment in the victory and as well as seeing the grown crops can also give the player a sense of pleasure.

Lens #46: The Lens of Economy
The game is built on the profits that the player earns. The player can earn money through several ways, but the main source of income will come from selling grown crops and products from livestock. The amount of profit from crops usually depends on how long the crop takes to grow and also the price of the seeds itself, whereas the profit from the produce of the animals depends on the grade of the produce, which increases with the affection level of the livestock towards the player. Both of this means that the amount of profit a player can earn is proportional to the work put in by the player.

Using the profit earned, the player can choose to expand the farm further, buy better tools, or livestock. The player must spend wisely among his budget, such as buying the correct expansions and leaving enough money to buy livestock and seeds.

Other than gold, the currency earned by selling produce, crops and other stuff the player picks up, there is also another currency, medals, which the player earns by betting in horse races. Medals work in a separate system from gold, which allows the players to buy items than gold otherwise could not have bought.

Lens #69: The Lens of the Weirdest Thing
The game has a few weird elements, which provides amusement to the player.

One example would be Kappa, a mysterious green creature, that lives in the lake near the player’s farm. Kappa only accepts a gift, which is cucumbers that the player can grow. However, being antisocial, Kappa will ignore the player’s gift at first until the player throws in cucumber to him for 10 consecutive days, which prompts his appearance and his gift of a special power berry to the player.

Another example would be the Harvest Goddess, who lives in the Hot Springs. The Harvest Goddess, as implied by her name, is a god, who the player can throw offerings to. However, the interesting element is that the Harvest Goddess is a secret Bachelorette for the player, and probably has the highest requirements for marriage among the bachelorettes in the game.

Lens #71: The Lens of Freedom
An interesting element of the game is that the player has complete freedom over what to do in the game.

Since there are many options on expanding the farm, the player can choose to focus on any area of the farm to expand on first, for example, he can focus on just growing crops or expanding more on livestock to care for. The player also has the freedom over choosing the livestock to rear.

Another option that the player has clear freedom on is the befriending of the villagers and the wooing of the villagers. The player can choose on which villagers to befriend or even not to befriend any at all. Also, the player can choose one between the six bachelorettes to woo or even woo all six at the same time.


World of Warcraft

World Of Warcraft


Gameplay Demo:

World Of Warcraft is a MMORPG released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2004. It is the fourth game released set in the Warcraft fantasy universe. It takes places within the Warcraft world of Azeroth, approximately four years after the events at the conclusion of Blizzard’s previous Warcraft release, Warcraftt III: The Frozen Throne. Since then, six expansions to the game have been released, with the seventh expansion announced on November 3, 2017. With a peak of 12 million subscriptions in October 2010, World of Warcraft remains the world’s most-subscribed MMORPG.

As with other MMORPGs, players control a character avatar within a game world in a third person view, exploring the landscape, fighting various monsters, completing quests, and interacting with non-player characters (NPCs) or other players. In keeping with the storyline of the previous Warcraft games, players must choose between the two opposing factions of the Alliance or the Horde. The players then select the character’s race out of the 11 races, followed by the class for the character out of the 12 classes. Most classes are limited to particular races.


The lens of Elemental Tetrad


As the characters become more developed, they gain various talents and skills, requiring the palyer to further define the abilities of that charater. Characters can choose two primary professions that can focus on producing items, such tailoring blacksmithing or leatherworking, or on gathering from resouce nodes, such as skinning and mining. Characters can learn all four secondary skills: archeology, cooking, fishing and first aid, which helps to promote players to explore the massive world.

Much of World of Warcraft play involves the completion of quests. These quests are usually available from NPCs, and usually reward players with some combination of experience points, intems and in-game currency. Quests allow characters to gain access to new skills and abilities, as well as the ability to explore new areas. While a character can be played on its own, players can group with others to tackle more challenging content. Most end-game challenges are designed in a way that they can only be overcome while in a group. In this way, character classes are used in speficifc roles while in a group.

World of Warcraft also contains a variety of mechanisms for player versus player (PvP) play. Depending on the mode of the realm, PvP combat between members of opposing factions is possible at almost any time or location in the game world – the only exception being the starting zones.There are special areas of the world where free-for-all combat is permitted. Battlegrounds, for exmaple, are similar to dungeons: aonly a set number of the battleground can be made to accomodate additional players. Each battleground has a set objective, such as capturing the flag or defeating an opposing general, that must be ompleted to win the battleground.


World of Warcraft is set in the same universe as the Warcraft series of real-time strategy games and has a similar art direction. World of Warcraft contains elements from fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction: such as gryphons, dragons, and elves; steam-powered automata; zombies, werewolves, and other horror monsters; as well as time travel, spaceships, and alien worlds. It is through quests that much of the game’s story is told, both trhough the quest’s text and through scripted NPC actions.


World of Warcraft takes place in a 3D representation of the Warcraft universe that players can interact with through their characters. The 3D graphics in World of Warcraft use elements of the proprietary graphics engine originally used in Warcraft III, which is more than 10 years old at the time of writing this article. While updates and expansions along the years have improved the graphics uof the game, like replacing the old models with HD models, the cartoon-art style remains roughly the same. Critics described the environment as “a careful blend of cartoon, fantasy art, and realism”.

The game was designed to be an open environment where players are allowed to do what they please. Players could run from one end of the continent to the other without having to pause at a “loading screen” while part of the game is retrieved from storage. The environment was described as breathtaking. Quests are optional and were esigned to help guide players, allow character development, and to spread characters across different zones to avoid what developers called player collision. The world in the game is massive and very vell designed. The game interface allows players to customize appearance and controls, and to install add-ons and other modifications.

The game’s audio was well received, particularly the background music. By assigning music to different areas of the game world, reviewers felt that the fantasy style added to the player’s immersion, and that the replay value was increased. The sounds and voices used by characters and NPCs, as well as the overall sound effects, were felt to add a “personality” to the game.


World of Warcraft runs natively on both Macintosh and Windows platforms. Boxed copies of the game use a hybrid CD to install the game, eliminating the need for separate Mac and Windows retail products. The game allows all users to play together, regardless of their operating system.

The lens of of Problem Solving and Cooperation

At the start, new players usually spend a lot of time playing alone or questing in small groups of fewer than five players. Sooner or later as the players progress through the game, they will run small instances with groups of five (Dungeons). Upon reaching the maximum level, many choices are open and the world of PvP can be explored. The culmination of the PvE endgame is the 25 player raids. Raid groups are a way to have parties of more than 5 and up to 40 people. Almost all raid events and bosses require the raid members have particular levels of gear and skill, expressed as DPS, damage mitigation and healing ability. In addition, a majority of such bosses also require the group to use particular, sometimes unique tactics in order to defeat them.

Also since there are so many races and classes in the World of Warcraft, every class is able to play a specific role in order to take down the bosses in a big raid. It also involves teamwork as players need to work together efficiently and it requires some amount of practice to defeat them. Raiding guilds often use additional measures to enhance their success, notably by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software, and particular add-ons that provide timing, threat and other services not available in the base World of Warcraft client.

The lens of endogenous value

This is used in the game by rewarding the players Achievement Points when they complete different types of achievements, like completing end-game raids, slaying the rare world bosses or collecting rare items. Although the achievement points itself are not used in anyway, useful items like rare and strong gears are often rewarded as part of the journey of completing the achievement. Titles are also given to players where they can display it next to their in game name when they complete a list of specific achievements, like Arena Master is given to a player when he completes a list of 8 achievements in the Arena (a 2v2 PvP battle). This allows players to distinguish themselves from the norm and feel sense of achievement, which will in turn keep the players coming back to play.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Assassin’s Creed Origins is an action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the tenth major instalment in the Assassin’s Creed series and the successor to 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. It was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 27, 2017.

The game is set in Egypt during the near end of the Ptolemaic period (49-47 BC) which is the oldest history in the series and recounts the secret fictional history of real-world events. The story explores the origins of the conflict between the Assassin Brotherhood, who fight to ensure the survival of freedom, and the Order of the Ancients, also known as the Templar Order, who desire peace through the forced imposition of order.



 #2: The Lens of Essential Experience

the new combat system in Assassin’s Creed Origins creates a lot of new ways to deal with enemies, but basically, it is an action-adventure stealth game. Thus, the essential experience of the game is being stealthy and several features in the game support players pursuing that way.

For example, there are abilities that give players bonuses for stealth kills, ones that let them see the path an enemy will walk on, and ones that let them control arrows in the air for more precise headshots. Also, the player can scout an area in advance and highlight enemies by controlling a Bonelli’s eagle named Senu.

#6: The Lens of Curiosity

Assassin’s Creed Origins‘ map is so large it takes almost three hours to traverse it at a walking pace, and the game is full of hidden places to discover. Moreover, since the view that the game shows us is so realistic, it encourages players to go to some places and see for themselves. Also, the more the player roam freely on Egypt, the more question marks which represent that there are somethings worth doing at those locations appear on the map. They are like chocolates in a box, and the player has to go there to know the flavour of them.

#9: The Lens of The Elemental Tetrad

    The Egypt that has been crafted is surely one of the most beautiful game worlds ever created. Every aspect of the environment has been crafted with such painstaking attention to detail. Every part of the world players explore would have their full attention. When I played this game, every town I encountered, every swamp I passed through, every pyramid I conquered, everything felt so perfectly placed and authentic.
    Assassin’s Creed Origins is playable on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game was developed using the AnvilNext 2.0 Game Engine which is capable of generating structures in a flexible and automatic manner while following specific design rules and templates. However, There was quite a number of bugs at launch enough to hamper the player’s gaming experience.
    The most outstanding feature in mechanics is the revised combat mechanics. Previous titles in the Assassin’s Creed series used a “paired animation system” which was a series of predetermined animations based on player inputs and scripted AI movements. Now Origins uses a “hit-box system”. When the player wields a weapon, they will strike at whatever is in range. Thus, the player should learn the attributes of individual weapons.
  4. STORY

    The player takes on the role of a Medjay named Bayek and his wife Aya. They work to protect the people of the Ptolemaic Kingdom during a time of widespread upheaval. Bayek’s role as a Medjay brings him and Aya into contact with the secretive forces manipulating historic events and into becoming the first Assassins. Origins tries to start a new journey in its long and storied history, but the story isn’t well distributed.


WarCraft III

Image result for warcraft iii
The Warcraft III series consists of its original starter base game (Reign of Chaos, released in 2002) and its more widely known expansion (The Frozen Throne, released in 2003). It is a fantasy real-time strategy game created by Blizzard Entertainment and has been well known to be the spark of the WarCraft universe that led on to the creation of the widely popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft. During its prime, WarCraft III was known to be a competitive game and had several eSports (as we know it now) competitions held for it. More importantly, the game’s bundled map editor provided endless versatility for game enthusiasts to create a wide variety of experiences and gameplay which allowed for many mini-games within itself, some even growing to be even more popular than itself (Defense of the Ancients [DotA] and now DotA 2).

Here’s the link to some footage of the gameplay:

As I review this game, I refer to playing the Campaign and standard gameplay according to the original game and not custom maps made by the community.

Breaking the game down with the Elemental Tetrad:

  1. Mechanics:
    Eliminate all structures of all opponents (in a standard game) or finishing the defined mission objectives. This follows standard real-time strategy games such as StarCraft and Command & Conquer games and it simply means annihilate your enemies.
  2. Story:
    Image result for warcraft iii arthas
    This is where I feel WarCraft III shines over all other games in its genre. It uses its wide spectrum of characters to a story within a fantasy universe that we come to enjoy and love. The WarCraft universe has always been centered around wars and diplomacy between the various races to survive and it is no surprise that we see commander-like gameplay mechanics to suit this story.
  3. Aesthetics:
    The game is aesthetically acceptable at its time of release, it wasn’t the best in  immersing me in its universe due to its blocky style but its varied and detailed environments, impressive cinematics and flavourful hero design did create a strong impression of the game. The gameplay however feels slow paced and sluggish which although helped to make the game easier and manageable but made not much sense in a war.Image result for warcraft iii grunt stats
    It takes ~33 strikes from an Orc Grunt to kill another Orc Grunt with his axe; that ain’t happening in real life man.
  4. Technology:
    This game was made strictly for PC and I don’t think it would have been possible to re-create it on any other console at that time. Playing it on a controller would have been quite frustrating.

Analysis through other Lenses:

#31 Lens of Challenge
The game had varying levels of challenge as it not only had AI that pretty much straight up cheated for an edge, but it also allowed for LAN competition where human players play against each other. So whether it was in the Campaign or Multiplayer (through Battle.NET), we were sure to have a suitable level of difficulty. I agree that all games should try to use multiplayer to create that variable level of difficulty but I like how WarCraft makes sure that there is the fallback option of a good and challenging AI.

#32 Lens of Meaningful Choices

Image result for warcraft iii human armies
Crucial to any real-time strategy game, the game permits you to spend resources in any way you seem fit to surprise or counter your opponent’s army composition. WarCraft III makes the important design decision to place a higher population resource requirement on strong individual units that makes sure that no one can snowball the game out of control with the mindless accumulation of them. This ensure that there is no straightforward dominant strategy in the game (except for extreme ones that competitive players come up with).

#46 Lens of Economy
Of course, as mentioned above, this game is all about spending resources in the game’s economy. Securing of resources must be fought for and the thoughtful spending comes along with it as resources are rather scarce in the game. WarCraft III has this unique economic design called upkeep that basically reduces the income as your army rises in population. I believe this was meant to reduce snowball rushes with armies but what it means is that players are given the option of risking expansions early on, which ultimately provides more avenues of gameplay.

Image result for warcraft iii upkeep


#01 Lens of Essential Experience
Ultimately, I think WarCraft III caught my attention because through the campaign, I could resonate with the heroes going through their struggles in their conquests.

Image result for kael'thas warcraft iii

The game does so with effective storytelling, unique and personalised characters and managing to capture the feel of leading troops into battle for their own agendas. The whole real-time strategy genre really fits into the theme and it ultimately creates an story-telling experience like no other that I have felt before.


SimCity 4

SimCity 4 is a 2003 city building simulation game by Maxis/EA. It is the last and hands down the best game in the illustrious SimCity franchise[1]. You play as the mayor of a city, taking charge of everything from finance and zoning to transport and utility.

Playing this game is an incredibly addictive experience to me. The simulated city feels organic and alive, and as a system demands constant attention. From fires that needs responding to, to tweaking the taxes to ensure the finances goes smoothly, to adding yet another residential block to the city to satisfy the needs of the Sims, the game satisfies a need no other game can.

The game has no fixed goals, not even a scenario mode like its predecessors and other simulation / god games. This makes it interesting to analyze – the traditional tertrad would not work here at first glance because there is absolutely no story. Yet that is not quite true – the player themselves tells the story here, as the simulation allows them to craft any sort of experience they want, and the through the growth of the city the player creates their own narrative. Is the city going to be the model of Small Town USA, with cornfields as far as the eyes can see, or a bustling metropolis of a million people? Each of these can only be arrived at only with the conscience decisions made by the player. Think of games with branching narratives, except in this case every macroscopic change to the city can be considered a branch in the narrative, and the game supports a near infinite number of them.

Simulation games are also frequently viewed through the lens of creativity and curiosity. SimCity 4 naturally fulfills both of these. By allowing the player to save at any point, and providing a huge set of tools, the player is allowed to experiment with many options, not all of which are positive. Disasters like earthquakes and UFO attack for instance are hugely destructive, yet at the same time fulfills a primal urge we human have to see just what if everything goes wrong. And if the player doesn’t like what they see, they can simply rewind back to their last save and restart.

Another lens which we could analyze SimCity 4 through is the lens of skill – the game is brutally difficult, because as a sandbox simulation, the game presents you with a near infinite number of choices, most of which will not do anything useful. Playing the game requires a mastery of its mechanics – at what tax rate would the correct proportion of rich and poor Sims come into the city to drive the economy? Which power plant should I build first, and what funding level should I set it? The game does not teach any of these in its bare-bones tutorial, instead leaving it up to the player to experiment, fail, and learn from their mistakes. However, it is this mastery that makes the game satisfying, as the first skyscraper appears in the city you can look back and realize how much of the game’s mechanics you have mastered.

[1] SimCity 2015? Nah, you must be mistaken. Maxis never made another SimCity game *plugs fingers in ears and runs screaming away*



Gardenscapes is a game from Playrix, available on iOS, Android and Facebook. The game starts with the player inheriting a house from a relative, and with the help from the butler Austin the player has to make the ruined garden beautiful again.

By playing match-3 puzzle games the player receives stars which can be used to restore some part in the garden, for example fix a broken fountain or plant flowers. While the player gets to higher levels, new parts of the garden is opened and ready to be fixed. During the game new characters and challenges are introduced to help the player to grow his/her garden.

A screenshot of the garden.

A screenshot of a puzzle-game.

The lens of the element tetrad


Besides the parts of the garden that is yet not fixed, the game is very colorful with a happy soundtrack and sound effects when the player achieves something or interacts with the environment. There is a big contrast between the dark, fallen garden and the color full and flourishing garden, which makes the player want to solve more puzzles to transform more parts of the garden.


The game can be played on the users phone which makes it easily accessible for everyone who owns a smartphone, and can be played anywhere and at any time.


The player can achieve stars by playing puzzle games. The puzzle games have different goals that need to be achieved within a specific time or with a limited number of moves. The goals can be achieved by moving and removing fruits and flowers. When there is a row of three, or more, of the same object, those objects are removed. The goal can for example be to find hidden gnomes or collect flowers/fruits of a specific kind. The player can also get different objects, like bombs or shovels, to help achieve the goal.

When the player wins a puzzle-game he/she gets stars, which can be used to restore the garden, but if the player loses a game he/she loses a life. When the player has lost all lives, he/she can achieve new lives by waiting or get new lives from friends who also play the game.


Austin, the butler, is one of the main characters of the game and gives the player new tasks to be performed. While the player gets to higher levels new characters are introduced, that can help restore the garden and new parts of the garden are opened. The story can only move forward and while the user can make some choices, for example what color the flowers should have, the story evolves in the same way, independently from the users moves.

The lens of problem solving

Every puzzle-game has a problem that the player needs to solve. By matching the same objects together the player can collect flowers or find hidden objects beneath. The problem needs to be solved within a specific time range or with a specific number of moves. There are often many possible moves for the player to make and all moves effect the game in different ways, and gives new possible moves.

In the beginning the puzzles are very easy but as you get to higher levels the puzzles get harder and new goals are introduced. This makes the player interested in continue to play and keeps him/her challenged.

The lens of endogenous value

This is used in the game by giving the player stars for achieving goals by solving puzzle-games, which can be used to restore the fallen garden. When the player has enough stars he/she can choose from a list of ”To Dos” in the garden. This makes the player want to play more puzzle-games to be able to achieve all the things in the list. As things on the list are achieved, new things are added to the list, so the player always have a reason to continue collecting stars.

Screenshot of the To Do-list.

The lens of accessibility

When the player starts to play Gardenscapes, he/she is introduced to the character Austin. Austin helps the player to progress in the game, and introduces new goals to be achieved, so the player is never left to alone figure out what is the next step. The puzzle-games are very similar to other 3 match-puzzle games, for example Candy Crush, and doesn’t need much explanation of what to do. If the player is not familiar with the concept, he/she can explore the different moves and objects available and will quickly learn the mechanics of the game. To make it more obvious and help the player if he/she is stuck, the objects blink and move to suggest the next move.

The lenses of character function

There are many characters in Gardenscapes, which are introduced as the player gets to higher levels. Instructions and new challenges are given by the character of Austin, who speaks directly to the player. Austin also gives compliments and comments during the game as if he is talking to the player directly, which makes it feel more personal.

Grand Theft Auto 5 game review

Grand Theft Auto V: Official Gameplay Video (how the game is being played)

Grand Theft Auto 5 is a mimic of the America City, Los Angeles. As a player, you are in control of a character in the game to explore the city and do missions along the way. You literally feel like you are a citizen of the city as you get to do all kinds of things from sleeping on the bed to buying groceries to talking to anyone on the street. The world created in the game is huge and there are different characters with different abilities to be used. There is also a unique storyline to the game which gets harder as time passed by.


Everything in the game is controllable so the player is in full control to do anything he or she wants to achieve. There is a list of missions to choose and I can decide which mission to embark on. There is close to no penalty in the game as you will be revived at the latest saved check point. As a result, the player can explore different options or ways to accomplish the mission in any number of attempts.

Lens of Surprise:

GTA 5 is filled with surprises. To start off, as a citizen of the city, I can already do all kinds of things such as buying guns, stealing cars and even fight random people I dislike in the game. It is even more surprising when some of them fight back with me, making the interactions more realistic. On top of that, the missions vary a lot. From simple missions like delivering things from places to places to fighting the cops. I also get to drive a wide variety of vehicles to travel around such as bicycle, sports car, helicopters, speed boats and even airplanes. All these things which cannot be done in the real world can be achieved easily in the game.

Lens of Fun:

Personally, I really enjoyed playing GTA 5. Although GTA 5 has a well-developed storyline and missions for players to complete, the player can also do anything they want in the city. You can simply ignore the missions provided and talk to random people to gather different responses. Or you can choose any car and owns them. Basically, you are like the king of the game. Even though the cops will come and chase after you if your wanted level increases, the thrill of running away or fighting against them is really fun. Even if I am “busted” (caught), I will be revived at the previous checkpoint which I saved. This allows me to explore the city and play the game in any way I enjoy.


Lens of the Player:

I feel that a player who plays games want to do something which cannot be done in the real life. This can bring the player from the real world into the virtual world and do whatever he or she wants. The virtual world needs to be as realistic as possible so that the player can link things in the virtual world to the real world. Ultimately, the game should allow the player to be excited and engrossed in playing it. The player should not feel bored or do mundane things but things that pose a challenge to him or her to continue playing the game.


Lens of Pleasure:

In GTA 5, I feel that I really get to experience the character of the storyline built by the creator. As a result, I feel really absorbed in the game. I also get to experience characters with other background. However, all these characters are limited. I thought that it will be really joyful to have more options when talking to different people. This can create an even more realistic view of the virtual world. Although the missions are fun but ultimately upon completion, there isn’t much more things to explore. Hence, it will be cool to have a score system to compete with different players in GTA 5, increasing the competition and making it more challenging.


Lens of Beauty:

I really enjoyed the graphics of GTA 5 however it certainly can be improved. Each human is rendered using relatively large polygons, hence able to see small uneven edges on the face etc. I believe that some of the features can be rendered more clearly. All these things may not be so significant when I saw the view of the city from the sky. In the general perspective, everything looks so beautiful and I am so amazed at how far this city in the game stretches. I would appreciate more if more things in the game can be customized to suit the artistic beauty of each player.

Dota 2

Dota 2 is a highly successful free to play game of the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre developed and published by Valve. As with most MOBA games, 10 players are divided into 2 teams of 5, with each team defending their base separated at corners of the map, while attacking the other team’s base at the same time. Each player controls his/her own hero with its own unique abilities and style of play. The win condition is to destroy the opponent team’s ancient, located at their base.

Based off the widely popular community-created mod DotA (played on Warcraft III), this stand-alone game boasts 81 of the top 100 highest-earning eSports players (money earned from prize pools in competitions) and is famous for its steep learning curve and extremely high skill cap.

Dota 2’s Website:

Gameplay introduction and tutorial for beginners

Screenshot of the game


Lens of Elemental Tetrad:


The aesthetics style followed closely to that in the original DotA mod, where the 2 factions were Sentinel (Protectors of nature, druids, elfs with forest as backdrop) and Scourge (undead, with blight everywhere they go). The art style was described to be more realistic and dark compared to other popular MOBAs like League of Legends.

As each hero has their own unique abilities, each ability needs to have a unique look to it as well so that players can differentiate between the many abilities that are casted during the chaos of the game. Valve even takes it further by making the sound effect of every single ability different (easily up to 400-500 different abilities), so much so that there are mini games where many players can name the ability simply by listening to the sound effect.

Numerous voice actors and actresses are also hired to voice the heroes in major languages like English and Chinese to make the game more immersive for its players.


While each hero has its own background story and Valve has also hinted at main storylines (we call them lore) in the Dota universe, much less emphasis is placed on the story of the game compared to the mechanics and the balance of the game. Valve does release its own occasional comic series when new events and heroes are introduced to add more story to the game.

The heroes themselves come from various origins. There are heroes from Greek mythology like Zeus and Medusa and also from Chinese mythology like the Sage Monkey King (Sun Wu Kong, Journey to the West).


There are almost too many mechanics to be able to write about them in a single post. Largely speaking, every hero has a health pool and a mana pool. Mana from its mana pool is used when casting its abilities, and the hero dies when its health pool reaches zero. The player whose hero dies will have his gold deducted, while players who participate in killing a hero obtains extra gold and experience.

Gaining a certain amount of experience causes the hero to level up, obtaining skill points to enhance or learn new abilities. Gold earned can be used to buy items, strengthening your hero or giving it useful abilities to use, aiding them in their quest to destroy their opponent’s base.


Dota 2 has been ported to Valve’s new Source 2 engine with a new in-house physics engine named Rubikon. The source 2 engine is free to use for developers, with support for the Vulkan graphical API.


Lens 38: The Lens of Challenge

Dota 2 is without a doubt one of the most challenging games out in the market with this level of popularity. While Valve has tried to make an in-game tutorial for absolute beginners, it has been criticized for being inadequate and seen as not of importance to Valve.

The Dota community has thus become the provider of tutorials and knowledge, from having detailed wiki pages of all skills, mechanics, interactions, to numerous Youtube channels teaching people how to play the game at various skill levels, to professional players streaming their games on, showing how they play and explaining why they do certain actions.

Nonetheless, the steep learning curve (a player has to at least know all 112 heroes and what each of their 4 or more abilities do in order to know what’s happening) and often toxic community (towards beginners and people who make mistakes) meant that new players mostly turn away from the game after a few tries. Unless the player really enjoys the game and has the perseverance of learning the basics of the game, or has someone patient enough to teach them, it seems highly unlikely that they will continue.

This has proven true for Dota 2, as the growth rate of the game has stagnated for a long time, with players of the genre turning to less punishing and more beginner friendly alternatives.

As for the matching of players within the game, Dota 2 has an algorithm in place to match players of similar skill level. The method to determine a player’s skill level is similar to the Elo rating system, a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players in zero-sum games such as chess. Basically, the more games you win, the more your rating improves, and you get matched to players with higher ratings, giving you more skilled opponents to play against.


Lens 41: The Lens of Skill vs Chance

According to “A deck of lenses”, games that rely on skill tends to be more serious than games that rely on chance. This is certainly true for Dota 2. While there are many players who play the game casually, most players treat the game seriously, up to the point where they start blaming and scolding both their teammates and their opponents when things do not go their way.

Stories where friends fall out because of events that happen in game are not uncommon. Personally, I feel that the level of frustration that the game brings to people can show the best and the worst in individuals, revealing a side of them that even really close friends might not have seen before.

Previously, there were many elements of the game where the effects of the abilities happen randomly (eg. 25% chance of dealing more damage). However, the trend in recent years is to reduce the reliance on such mechanics by either replacing such skills, or using a pseudo-random distribution (PRD). PRD refers to a statistical mechanic of how certain probability-based items and abilities work. In this implementation the event’s chance increases every time it does not occur, but is lower in the first place as compensation. This results in the effects occurring more consistently. This has indeed resulted in more reliance on skill and allowing players to feel more in control.


Lens 44: The Lens of Cooperation

In a MOBA game like Dota 2, teamwork and communication can be considered one of the most important aspect of the game. Valve has done a pretty good job in this aspect. Since players can play both in a party with friends, as well as with strangers (possibly speaking different languages), communication must be universal and easily understood.

Besides enabling voice chat to players of the same team, Valve has also introduced additional ways of notifying your team your intentions, via what we call the ping wheel. This can convey messages such as “Attack”, “Retreat” or “Enemy Vision nearby” at certain locations on the map. The video below shows the ping wheel in game.

Players of a team are usually divided into 2 roles, “Cores” and “Supports”. Cores are deemed to have higher farm priority, which means that they are given more opportunities at accruing gold at the early stages of the game, while the Supports should be protecting their Cores while gank-ing up on the opponent team’s Cores at the same time, allowing their team to gain an overall advantage.

Some heroes have better skill synergy than others. However, most of it still comes down to the players’ execution and timing of their skills. Done correctly, and the synergy can be game-winning. However, if teamwork is lacking, then even heroes that work well theoretically can lose games easily.


Lens 53: The Lens of Balance

With over a hundred heroes and close to half a thousand of different abilities, the number of interactions between skills is massive. Debugging itself is a chore, balancing the game is definitely a great challenge.

This is where the players come in. As a competitive video game with the most money in its prize pools, the professional scene becomes very active. Competitions happen all year round with top teams participating in many of them. The heroes most often picked during these competitions form what we call the “meta”. With every major patch, heroes in the meta gets nerfed a little while heroes that gets rarely picked are buffed, thus circulating the pool of heroes in meta.

Compared to other similar MOBA games, Dota 2 has been praised for having a much larger pool of heroes in meta, with 95.5% of the hero pool picked in its last major competition (The International 2017). The most popular pick, Earthshaker, appeared in less than half of the games, with a pick rate of 36.98%.



In conclusion, Dota 2 is a game that I find myself coming back to again and again, be it to have an entertaining time with friends, or for personal enjoyment and a sense of achievement when I win an especially tough game. It is definitely one of my favourite game of all time and one that I hope survives for a very long time.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo, released for the Nintendo Switch and Wii U consoles on March 3, 2017. A part of The Legend of Zelda series, it follows Link, who awakens from a hundred-year slumber to a mysterious voice that guides him to defeat Calamity Ganon before he can destroy the kingdom of Hyrule.

Game Website:

If you haven’t played Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW), you are truly missing out on a masterpiece. Let’s dive into the Kingdom of Hyrule and analyse what makes BotW so great!

Lens #9 The Elemental Tetrad

  1. Aesthetics

    The moment I walked out of the shrine of resurrection, and watching the intro scene, I knew I was in for a great time. The way the grass swayed in the wind, twisting and tumbling as you dash through it, the sound of birds chirping, water splashing as you run over it, the minimal user interface; all of it serves to immerse you into the kingdom of Hyrule. I still get goosebumps when watching the intro scene. You’ll realize how vast the world is, there’s no loading screens when running from one part of the map to another, something which would break immersion if there was.

    Another feature that adds to the immersion of the world is that you can tell the game tries to emulate the real world. You can tell whether it’s late or early, cold or hot, exhausted or not. Link will shiver when you do not have enough protection, you’re set on fire if you walk on lava. He also pants if he runs out of energy from sprinting or attacking. You feel at home when you enter a stable, with the warm mood and music playing. You feel threatened when you face a boss, with tense music playing in the background.

  2. Mechanics
    What makes BotW so engaging to play its the use of creative mechanics. In combat, you can time several different actions to make combat rewarding with a high skill ceiling. Time your parry to execute a perfect block against enemies attack, time your dodge and you’re rewarded with slow motion flurry attack. Flip off your horse in air to have a longer time to aim at enemies weak points for a critical hit. Glide in the air if you want to travel from high ground to low. Shield surf if you want to use your shield to slide down mountains. Sneak behind enemies and perform a sneakstrike. Link also has a Sheikah slate that can spawn bombs, create ice blocks, freeze time for awhile, and magnetise metal objects.You can even use the game’s environment to kill your enemies. Push a boulder down the mountain to kill some bokoblins, lure him into a trap, leave and blow up explosive barrels beside their faces when they are sleeping, there are many possibilities!The initial goal of Zelda BotW aka main quest is to defeat Calamity Ganon, the game’s final boss. Yet the game doesn’t tell you to rush into Hyrule castle and beat him with the first stick you find. You are encouraged to explore, with multiple side quests, also find and solve puzzles in shrines.Album of gifs:
  3. Story
    Link wakes up from a deep slumber and he has forgotten his memories. He soon discovers that the land of Hyrule is plagued by an evil being, Calamity Ganon which resurfaces many times over the history of Hyrule. Each time that Ganon resurfaces, he was defeated by Princess Zelda with the help of her champion, which is Link. This time he discovers that Princess Zelda is still trapped in Hyrule castle for 100 years in attempt to stop Ganon and Link must now go to her aid. The story is told as the player advances along the main and side quests, which recovers Link’s lost memories to help him and the player make sense of the events and characters that played a part to lead to the current state of events.
  4. Technology

    It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.

    Botw can be played on Wii U, Switch and on PC (Emulated) if you know what you are doing. On Wii U and Switch, the maximum FPS is 30 fps and may dip to a fps floor of 20. The resolution on Wii U is 720p and on Switch is 900p if you play it docked. On the PC, there are emulators that removes the 30fps cap, 60fps and even 144fps if you want to. You can even increase the resolution to 4k if you wnat to.

Lens #58 The lens of the Puzzle

In a sense, the entire Kingdom of Hyrule is a puzzle. You start of the Great Plateau and discover Sheikah Towers that lead you to unlock a part of a map (which are the pieces of the puzzle), if you are a completionist, perhaps you may want to find every single location on the map.

Example of using mechanics to solve a puzzle. Source

There are also multiple shrines in the game, which essential act as whole puzzles. The goal of each puzzle is to get to the end, which you will get a spirit orb. Along the way, you’ll have to figure out how to get there, and if you look hard enough you can even find one or more treasure chests, which rewards the player for being observant. The beauty of these shrines is the eureka moment. You are presented with props and a set of clues. Eg, in the Toh Yasah Shrine, before you can even find the shrine, you have to solve a puzzle. Which involves putting 4 orbs into 4 corresponding sockets according to their symbol. Sounds simple? The orbs are not close by the sockets, which to make things worse are on a raised platform with lightning falling everywhere. Eventually, a eureka moment struck me. I used the stasis rune to freeze is in time, generate momentum and launch it away with my weapon. The satisfaction of solving small problems towards a goal really feels amazing.

Lens #79 Freedom

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in contrast, is all about what you can do. This is a game that says “yes” to anything you ask of it. From the very beginning, you can swim in any lake, pick up any boulder, and cross any pit.


Again, one of the best parts of BotW is the amount of freedom you have in the game. Want to explore the Kingdom of Hyrule? You can run, climb, jump, glide, swim, mount horses, ride sandseals, and etc. Want to climb the highest mountain in Hyrule? Go ahead, the only thing that restrict you is your stamina; you can’t climb forever as you’ll tire out.

Want to complete the entire game in less than an hour? Go ahead. You can reach and defeat Ganon (the final boss) using creativity and ingenuity, leading to speed run records where expert players find the fastest ways the game allows to complete it.

You can choose to fight your enemies head on charging in with your best weapons, or you can plan how to take them out one by one, using the game’s environment and stealth mechanism. The possibilities are endless, but are confined by the games’ physics and mechanics.

Lens #34 The lens of skill

One of the things I love about BotW is the combat, the controls on the switch. There is hardly any input lag. You attack when you hit the Y button, you dodge and it happens. The interface and controls are quite intuitive if you’ve held a console controller before. XYAB pad with left and right triggers, along with the D-pad for camera movement and direction.

You can even prove your skills and knowledge acquired in the game by challenging yourself to the Master Trials, where you have to survive increasingly harder levels with multiple enemies in order to perfect your master sword.

The combat in this game has quite a high skill ceiling. It’s not easy to fight a lynel for the first time as they pretty much 3 shot you. You have to memorise the enemies movements, attack and timing. Imagine facing 3 of them at the same time. Time you dodges and parries with perfection, the moment you can do that, you feel proud of yourself for the level of improvement and precision you achieved.


Lens #29 The Lens of Secret

Another really interesting feature of BotW incorporated in the open world is the amount of secrets out there for the players to discover and unlock, which encourages keen observation, experimentation and curiosity. There was once which I was in front of a dog. He seemed to react to my movements, and then he started to like me! Then i tried giving him a piece of raw meat, which he then ate it. Afterwards he led me to a pleasant surprise! A hidden treasure chest that you will not find unless you interacted with the dog in the first place.

Another example was when I noticed at five frog statues in Karkariko Village. One was missing an apple. I decided to try to put on the statue without an apple. POOF! A korok appeared and rewarded me with a korok seed, which is needed to expand your inventory space.

Lens #1 The Lens of Emotion

We’ve talked about the puzzles, sense of freedom, skill and secrets. But what makes someone want to come back and play? The emotions the player feels when he/she plays the game. BotW gave me feelings I could never forget as I played the game. Feelings of empathy and sadness for Mipha’s love and sacrifice for Link (spoilers), of courage and braveness from Daruk as he fought of one of Ganon’s henchmen Fireblight Ganon. Each character in BotW has a story behind them, and personalities that embody them. The memories that return as you unlock them, of Princess Zelda deciding to sacrifice herself to face Calamity Ganon alone when you (Link) ran out of power and failed so you had to go into a deep slumber. Of your friendships and how they describe you.

In summary, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not about what you cannot do, but what you can do. Everything you do has a purpose in the game, which indirectly or directly rewards you as you explore, experiment and  experience the vast and magnificent Kingdom of Hyrule.