Playing Video Games Notes

February 19th, 2009 § Comments Off on Playing Video Games Notes § permalink

Playing Video Games: Motives, Responses, and Consequences (Lea’s Communication Series)
by Peter Vorderer (Editor), Jennings Bryant (Editor)

•    Games are in every culture of human society
•    Animals use play to learn skills for survival
•    Traditionally, games are not required. People play because they want to. As games become activities, people can be required to play, but we should always keep the spirit of play alive.

•    Games are interactive
•    Interactivity is a perceived characteristic of a communication act.
•    Not all action is real/true interaction. A furnace and thermostat is interactive, but not a game. Why? The interaction is not very meaningful

•    Game vs TV vs. Book
o    TV and Book all the planning and work is done allowing the user to just absorb the product.
o    TV and Books have built on years of use and expectations.
o    Video games are starting to define those parameters
o    A game must be purchased, installed, learn the controls, learn the game play, etc.
o    Content is modified as user plays, very different from other media
o    You are taking the user’s TIME in undetermined blocks. A very valuable commodity. Even if your game is free, time is not.
o    Games lead the way in UI design, AI, asset and database development, hardware interfaces, computer hardware advances.

•    Study on play vs. problem solving on paper
o    Play group use 2-3 more strategies and tactics than the problem solving group on the same game situation
o    Play encourages experimentation and free thought

•    People play video games to reach goals or to fulfill other interests or needs

•    Games are/can be coping mechanisms that enable users to deal with their real life.

•    Computer games can target performance related issues of life.

•    Learning/behavior has 2 groups of input variables
o    Personal – the user, what they already know and feel
o    Situational – What we control, making the game

•    Players are motivated by a desire to achieve a positive outcome. I DID IT!
o    If they do not feel like they can do it, they will not try very hard to win.

•    Scripts
o    Organized sets of knowledge that define situations and define behavior
o    Narrative learning
o    How to act in movies, restaurants, etc.

•    Games can be explained with input-output loops. Game does this, player does that.
o    We can define the mechanics and dynamics this way.

•    Games can force users to make decisions
•    Games can also reward or penalize users on the speed of their decisions.
•    Audio, visual, tactile input and feedback to user
•    Games can  also reward or penalize users on the speed of their decisions.

•    Game should allow user to master some skills, allow them to think they can win.
o    This is the basis of the casino industry, and casino game theory
o    Inconsistent rewards will keep a user coming back much longer than if they win every time, and if they never win.

•    MDA
o    Mechanics
•    What can happen in the game. The Rules
o    Dynamics
•    How mechanics interact. Creates unpredictability
o    Aesthetics
•    Describes the reactions in the player. How they feel/act while playing the game. Psychological arousal and emotions triggered.

•    Game Path Styles
o    On Rails
•    Linear path – linear removes interactivity. All the user can do is view the state. Click and endure. If the end is predetermined, the user loses interest quickly
o    Emergent Game play
•    When unscripted effects arise from indirect mechanics or dynamic connections. The game emerges as they play
•    Flow
o    A sense of concentration and immersion.
o    Experienced when people are challenged enough to do their best, but not challenged beyond their abilities.
o    People who are resistant to more traditional didactic (define) methods of teaching and learning are often happy to engage in the productive play and hard fun of interactive games.

•    didactic
o    designed or intended to teach

•    Temporal Congruency
o    How quickly what you do produces and effect you can see. Takes very little cognitive effort to understand

•    Input-Output Ratio
o    Small input creating big changes emphasizes importance of users decisions

•    Selective attention is weeding out the info that is not necessary to the task at hand
o    GoDaddy site.

•    Pacing
o    Humans can only process so much information at once.
o    Beyond that, they get lost. Remember this while testing, you already know what is going on.

•    Players can get tired of playing over time
o    Plan zones of varying activity to reduce fatigue.

•    Games for younger children usually have more clear cut good and bad issues.
o    This could follow for early levels of games

•    Cause and effect relationship of users actions is very maleable

•    2 types of character actions
o    Dispositional – based on the characters temperment
o    Situational – reactions to the characters surroundings
o    If a character does something very out of character, make sure it gets explained as situational so the user doesn’t notice the disconnect as much.
o    Motivations of characters are important.

•    Humans are attracted to bright colors, flashes, moving images, rhythmic or explosive sounds, specific proportions of form and color. This is the basis of game play and visual design
o    Use all the elements of visual design to strengthen your game
o    Cats are attracted to string. Dogs chase balls. Humans follow moving things.
o    These are perceptual hooks. Use to your advantage.

•    Short term Thought
o    Perceive the whole game at once. Puzzles.
•    Long Term thought
o    String together lots of small tasks.

•    Sandbox games
o    No “goal” just do whatever you want.

•    2004 Focus group data resulted in 6 dominant dimensions or reasons to play video games
o    Arousal
o    Competition
o    Challenge
o    Diversion
o    Fantasy
o    Social Interaction
o    Challenge is the number 1 reason
•    What was missing from these reasons?
o    Learning
o    Even similar surveys of TV and Movies had learning as a reason to use them

•    What drives players?
o    Competition
o    Challenge
o    Will frequently buy because it is challenge

•    3 aspects of Traditional narrative
o    Curiosity
o    Surprise
o    Suspense

•    Focus on human experience.

•    As groups build games, there are “filters” that help revise a game during the development process
o    Artistic impulse
•    What feels right?
o    Demographics
•    Who is this game for and is it going to appeal to that audience?
o    Experience Design
•    What will it be like?
o    Pacing
o    Intensity
o    Difficulty
o    Innovation
•    What is new or different about this game?
o    Business and marketing
•    What will sell?
•    How does it fit into the market?
o    Engineering
•    How can we build it? Is it possible?
o    Social/Community
•    Will it have a community, social, or multiplayer aspect?
o    Testing
•    Play the game and see if it works
o    Always consider every step all the time

•    Every action should have a sound
o    Music soundtrack
o    Can it be customizeable?

•    1988 study proved that a musical sound track would cause viewers to assign different personalities to a geometric shape

•    1996 study showed that an audio component can significantly influence the visual component, but the reverse is not as strong.

•    Even predictions of future events are strongly affected by the musical score.
o    What will be remembered later is affected by the score.

•    Full spectrum of sound contains
o    Score
o    Ambient sound
o    Dialogue
o    Sound Effects
o    Silence

•    How much control of the audio will the user have?
o    RPG usually less control. The sound contributes to the experience.
o    Racing/Driving games more control. Sound is more user related and doesn’t push the story.
o    True test is if the user can still stand the music after an hour of listening to it.
•    Perceptual Imersion
o    Sense of perception/senses buy in to stimuli.
•    Psychological Imersion
o    Degree user feels involved or engaged with stimuli from the game environment
•    Diegesis – Dee Gee sis
o    The world of the characters and story within the film.
o    Musical score that is audible to player, but not the characters is non-diegetic.
o    Score coming from a car radio in GTA is diegetic.

•    Musical score is more effective if not 100% of the time

•    Heros Journey
o    Series of trials often including a decent into hell, in order to come to a revalation and return to the ordinary world.
o    Basis of 3 act structure

•    Laitmotif –
o    Musical theme that becomes associated with a character or event.

•    Music/sfx can maintain continuity between scenes when loading graphics or when CPU is bogged.

•    If you “fake” the environment, you can make all the rules.
•    If you mimic an environment, there is a basis for comparison where the user can say you got it wrong
•    If you establish a set of rules, you need to follow them all the time. Even if your rule is the rules change all the time.
•    A game lets you teach perfect behaviors in an imperfect environment. It is a constructed abstract place that lets you focus on specific elements.

•    Typicality
o    People are more willing to accept atypical events in an unfamiliar surrounding.

•    Designers need to consider all aspects of realism
o    Sensory
o    Emotional
o    Typical Actions/reactions

•    Many youth focus group participants say that when given a choice of good and bad graphics, good is better, even if game play is poor.
o    This contradicts other studies.
o    What people say they do and what they do are frequently very different things.
•    Novelty of graphics is a big draw

•    Every new technology brings dreams of utopian democracy as well as fears of social disorder.
o    Telegraph
o    Nickelodeons
o    Telephone
o    Newspapers
o    Movies
o    TV
o    Videogames
o    Internet
o    Sure to follow soon
•    IMing
•    Cell phones
•    Social Networks
o    It is easier to blame the media then to address the primary risk factors:
•    Abuse from relatives
•    Neglect
•    Malnutrition
•    Above all, poverty
•    This does not make media guiltless. Media has the power to influence and provide role models

•    Game designers can fall into stereotyping, but can also break down stereotypes.
•    Pay attention to gender roles, they can sneak in unknowingly.

•    The social value of games over the last few decades has been murky. Is this something that can change? Does it need to

•    Evoked Narrative
o    Pre-existing storyline that serves as a broad backdrop. Doesn’t really effect users path.
•    Enacted Narrative
o    Narrative that presents broadly defined goals and conflicts.
o    Provides limited choices and paths the user can take.
•    Embedded Narrative
o    Discovered only when players deeply process information in the game world. Players must process to achieve game goals. Myst, Detective games
•    Could there be a game where the success of your civilization depends on your story telling experience? Have to pass info to future generations.

•    Without narratives, players need to go through a complicated cognitive process to figure out what they need to do.
o    Most knowledge we use every day is stored as narratives in our minds.
o    Creating a narrative creates a compelling curiosity to see the end of the story.

•    What is realism? Is it perception? Magnetic fields, aura’s? We build our reality internally. Remember the girl from Harry Potter who saw all the creatures that no one else believed in? Luna Lovegood.
o    In a game, you define the reality for everyone
o    How “real” is it to race cars in downtown HongKong?

•    Current state of video gaming is a novel that puts almost all effort into describing the scene
o    We know how to make it look real, but not necessarily how to think it is real.
o    More and more, characters are interested in character development over time.

•    Favorite Game Genres
o    Shooter – 57%
o    Role Play – 54
o    Adventure – 48
o    Strategy/Puzzle – 48

•    74% would rather give up TV
•    70% would rather give up Movies

•    Game Genres
o    Puzzle – casual
o    Shooters – FPS, Graphics are important traditionally. Game play is perceptually driven
o    Role Play – 3rd person, story and game play important
o    Sports – Rules and physics
o    Simulation – cognitive engagement
o    Strategy
o    Game Genres

•    Game types
o    Games of chance
o    Games of competition
o    Games of physical or sensory pleasure
o    Mimicry – fantasy, make believe.

•    Is there a victory condition? Can you win?
•    Systematic approach

•    Relationships between personality factors and game choice
•    Entertainment Software Association
o    $7 billion in 2003
•    8-9th grade boys average 13 hours a week gaming
•    8-9th grade girls average 6 hours a week

•    Humans are driven to have sex, but not just to reproduce
o    They fulfill more immediate urges, and the goal of reproduction is achieved.
o    This is a way to think of games and teaching

•    Cognitive Intervention Potential
o    Ability of a message to engage an individual’s attention

•    A new generation is learning by games at a young age and will seek that reward structure/feeling as they get older

•    Surgeons who play video games do laparoscopic surgery better (Rosser 2004)

•    There is a difference between learning or knowing the information and actually using it.

•    Baranowski 2003 study
o    Game increased 4th graders fruit and vegetable intake
o    How long did effect last?

•    3 types of basic seed ideas
o    Technology
•    New technology makes a new game possible
o    Theme or story
•    Someone has a story they want to tell
o    Game Mechanics
•    A new way for how a game works, removed from the above two items.

•    How do you explain goals to the user? IMPORTANT

•    Is it possible to create a series of games focusing on simple skills/traits, and then market directly to those who prefer a category? Those who choose skill/competitive games get that marketing push/strategy

•    ESA 2004
o    Average gamer 29 years old
o    17% over 50
o    46% of adult MMORPG ers sacrificed sleep, work, education, socializing to play a game
o    Even higher among adolescents

•    Top 10 Industry Facts (2005)
o    Average gamer age 30
o    Average gamer age 30

Notes from Game Design Workshop

February 19th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Game Design Workshop, Second Edition: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games (Gama Network Series)
by Tracy Fullerton (Paperback – Feb 8, 2008)

• Define a game
o A closed formal system – when you take up a game, you set rules of life aside, and use the rules of the game. When game is over, you pick up rules of life again.
• This part of the definition is already starting to crumble, and it was defined only a year ago.
o Engages players in structured conflict in some way
• Showing cracks already – SimCity, the Sims
o Resolves uncertainly in an unequal outcome
o The definition will always be evolving.

• 4 types of play
o Game – object is winning
o puzzle – object is the goal of the puzzle, to complete
o Toy – no goal or object
o Story – no interaction

• Procedures (how a game is played) are effected by the limitations of the environment in which the game is played. Hi/lo res screen, sit close or far, controller/keyboard? Always consider the options and variables a user may have.

• by jesse Schell
• In good interactive and traditional storytelling, the desire to act and all the thought and emotion that go with it are present. The difference is the participants ability to take action. A good story teller creates and manipulates this desire and knows when and when not to fulfill it.
• If you really want to understand how to create good interactive entertainment, study the classics first. Then try to improve on them. Riddles, crossword puzzles, chess, poker, tag, soccer, and thousands of other games existed long before computers.

• Dramatic arc
o Exposition
o Rising action
o Climax
o Falling Action
o Resolution
• Should also mention with this 3 act structure.
o Act 1
o Act 2
o Act 3
o Act III comprises the final quarter of the film. (For a two hour movie, Act III would be the final 30 minutes.)

• What happens in Act III (Resolution)?

o Climax (Second Culmination)–The point at which the plot reaches its maximum tension and the forces in opposition confront each other at a peak of physical or emotional action.

o Denouement–The brief period of calm at the end of a film where a state of equilibrium returns.

• Dramatic elements engage a player emotionally
• Exercise
o Devise a reason for capturing the other pieces in a checkers game. make a back story or something. how does it change the game when you play it?
o Dramatic elements like story and narrative put the game in context and help us relate it to the struggles in our own life. If you gave a kid a tamogotchi and told him to press the button when it beeps, it is no fun. but when you make it a pet, suddenly it is the most important thing in the kid’s world.

• Example: imagine you are a set of data. your objective is to change your data to increase its values. To do this, you engage other sets of data according to complex interaction algorithms. If your data wins the analysis, you win. Crap, right? this is the programmatic description of a typical combat game.

• Games are a series of rules that create a sense of fun. You persevered and “won” despite rules that make it difficult to do so.
• The structure of our world is based on complicated sets of rules that all could be great inspiration for a game.

• Playcentric approach
o Build the game for the player. have player testing at every stage of development
o Set player experience goals
• Descriptions of interesting or unique experiences you hope the player will find in the game on their own “players must cooperate to win, but the structure makes it difficult to trust each other”
• Don’t focus on how to accomplish yet.
• Ask what experiences will they describe to friends to explain the high points of the game.
• Prototype and playtest as soon as possible

• Steps in game dev
• Brainstorming
o define player experience goals
o mechanics that might achieve goals
o Due: treatment and rough visuals.
• Physical Prototype
o Playable prototype with paper/craft supplies
o fast basic concepts
o due: prototype + 3-6 page treatment
• Presentation
o Made to get investment
o Due: demo artwork + solid gameplay treatment, rules, control concepts
• Software prototype
o Test as soon as possible with minimal graphics.
• Design Documentation
o Every detail of the game
o could be a doc, could be a wiki
o some are more detailed than others, if you are working with a team, the more complete the documentation, the less trouble people will have producing
• Production
o This is not the time to design the game. It should be done by now. Some tweaks for sure, but the less questions here, the better.
• Quality Assurance
o Testing testing testing

• Advice from Peter Molyneux
o Learn to program – know the basics at least.
o The more you know in any area, the better. Learn everything.

• Exercise
• List 5 games. List the objective for each one in a single sentence
• Exercise

• Games have rules. By playing the game, you are implicitly agreeing to play by those rules. If you don’t, you aren’t playing the same game. The challenge of winning within the rules adds to the game. What if the rules change? how does that effect the game? The fun?
• A basic idea in any game is problem solving. When you create the rules, are you giving the user a reasonable set of tools to solve the problems?

• Strive to resolve a conflict in their favor while the rules and procedures of the game thwart those efforts.

• Each game defines a unique place in the universe where the game rules apply. Some are physical (fields, card table) some are conceptual (space, imagination) game of questions from Guilderstern and rosenberd are dead
• Uncertainty of outcome is important aspect. If end is predictable, it is lifeless. Books and movies are still entertaining even if we know the outcome. Why?

• Exercise
o Create a 3 player version of tic tac toe
o How would you go about this? How would you start?

• Game player structures
o single player vs. game
o multiple individual players vs. game
o player vs. player
o Unilateral competition (team vs. one player or enemy)
o Multilateral (everyone vs. everyone)
o Cooperative play
o Team vs. team

• Video games can model a world and persuade a user to understand a different way of viewing that world.

• Exercise
o List the procedures for black jack. what are the steps? who will do what to play the game?

• Procedures are effected by the limitations of the environment in which the game is played. Hi/lo res screen, sit close or far, using a controller or keyboard, good speakers or none? always consider the options and variables a user may have.

• How does your player learn the rules of your game? Instructions? Trial and error? Guides? Players need to clearly understand the rules they play by so they don’t feel cheated when they get a consequence.
o The less they understand the rules, the less control they will feel they have in the game.
o Do your rules change or evolve? Does it make sense? Consistency is important, even if consistently inconsistent.
o Rules can restrict player actions as well as define allowed actions.
• Rules Can
o Define objects and concepts
o restrict actions
o determine effects (if this happens, this is the result)

• Resources are the elements the player uses in your game
o resources must have utility and scarcity.

• three classic sources of conflict in single and multiplayer games
o Obstacles
o Opponents
o Dilemas – one choice over another

• Advise from Lorne Lanning
o The best ideas come from left field, so spend a lot of time in left field. If you only work with current game designs and designers, you will have a tougher time coming up with new elements. The best ideas will come not from other games, but from areas that have nothing to do with games.

• Exercise
• Sid Meier’s SimGolf. marc LeBlanc feels this is a tutorial in level design.

• Elements of flow
o a challenging activity that requires skill
o The merging of action and awareness
o Clear goals and feedback
o concentration on the task at hand
o the paradox of control – only when the outcome is uncertain do you feel like you are in control
• loss of self-consciousness
• transformation of time
• experience becomes an end in itself.

• a challenging activity that requires skill
• The merging of action and awareness

• Exercise
o List the procedures for blackjack
• How does your player learn the rules of your game? Instructions? trial/error?

• From Dr. Ray Muzyka
o Be passionate but self critical. Never compromise on quality, but do realize there is a point of diminishing returns on effort.

• from Dan Daglow
o Enjoy the journey, not just the wrap party. Do what you love, keep growing while you do it. If you keep looking for how to do a task better then the last time you did it, you’ll grow.
o Important to note here “the last time you did it”. Make sure you get it done.

• A game is a system interacting and balanced

• Objects are basic building blocks with properties, behaviors and relationships
o How would you define the objects in checkers? Each piece would have color, location, type (king/normal). How would the objects change if you wanted to have the occupied/unoccupied squares act differently? Location would be a shared property.

• Exercise
o Define the objects in a board game. Properties?
o Behaviors are actions an object might perform

• Addition of more potential behaviors tends to add choice and lessen the predictability of the outcome in a game.

• Relationships – if there are no relationships between objects, you may have a collection, not a system.
o If you can remove a component without effecting the whole, it is part of a collection

• Relationships in checkers. Each piece’s relationship changes depending on its location, and it’s proximity to other pieces.

• Relationships can be defined by rules (basic damage – target armor + piercing damage = total damage) or by chance, or by some combination of both.

• Possibility space
o Each component contributes to a system, and the whole is more than the sum of parts. Game design is a “second order” problem, meaning we cannot directly determine the player experience. We cannot (or should not) be able to exactly determine how the game will play out. We craft a “possibility space” and define a range of things that could happen.

• System Dynamics

• Economies
o Simple Bartering – Values are always the same; Pit
• Amount of product = Fixed
• Money Supply = n/a
• Prices = fixed
• Trading Opportunities = not restricted
o Complex Bartering – Values can change; Settlers of Catan
• Amount of product = Controlled Growth
• Money Supply = n/a
• Prices = market value with cap
• Trading Opportunities = restricted by turn
o Simple Market – Monopoly,
• Amount of product = fixed
• Money Supply = controlled growth
• Prices = market value
• Trading Opportunities = not restricted
o Complex Market – UltimaOnline, EverQuest
• Amount of product = controlled growth
• Money Supply = controlled growth
• Prices = market value with base
• Trading Opportunities = not restricted
o Metaeconomy – Game does not include an economy, but the culture of players outside the game create an economy that impacts the game; Magic: The Gathering
• Amount of product = controlled growth
• Money Supply = n/a
• Prices = market value
• Trading Opportunities = not restricted

• Emergent Systems
o Very simple rule sets can create very complex results
o Ants alone are pretty useless and can’t do much, but thousands of them can do incredibly complex tasks together

• Game of Life – John Conway – 1960’s
o Download emulators
o Game has 3 rules
• Birth: If an unpopulated cell is surrounded by exactly 3 populated cells, it becomes populated in the next generation
• Death by lonliness: if a populated cell is surrounded by fewer than two other populated cells, it becomes unpopulated in the next generation
• Death by overpopulation: if a populated cell is surrounded by at least four other populated cells, it becomes unpopulated in the next generation
o Very complex behaviors such as “gliding” or “walking” across the screen happen spontaneously
o Different starting positions evolved in vastly different ways.
• Halo uses emergent systems for the AI of NPC.
o Perception of the world around them
o state of the world (memories of enemy sightings and weapon locations)
o Emotions (scared when under attack)
o NPC will attack or run depending on their own environment at that time.

• Fun Killers
o Micromanagement – too much control? too tedious? who is audience? has this been done?
o Stagnation – in a part of the game where nothing changes. same task over and over.
o seeming insurmountable obstacles, no sign of progress.
o abitrary events – badly designed randomness
o predictable paths – only one way to win, only 1 play

• Objectives of games
o capture or destroy something of the opponents
o Chase and catch opponent, elude opponent
o Race, get to a goal before opponents
o alignment – spacial configurations
o Rescue a thing
o forbidden act – get opponent to do something that is not allowed, twister, don’t break the ice, laugh
o construction – build
o exploration game – usually combined with other objective
o solution – find solution to a puzzle faster or more accurately
o outwit opponent – trivia, jeopardy

• Reward Schedule
o fixed – every 5 minutes
o fixed ratio – reward after 5 (or so) actions
o random – reward offered randomly

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