Playing Video Games Notes

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