Multiplayer payoff matrices and the Domains of Play

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 2016 Selected Workgroup Topics, 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

This topic builds on Jason Vandenberghe’s work mapping game elements and player preferences to the Big Five motivational factors.

Looking specifically at multiplayer game scenarios, it appears that:

1) using a Prisoner’s Dilemma approach, and

2) assigning weights to various player options (as available in the game’s feature set) to create

3) a Nash equilibrium payoff matrix that attributes to each player a set of payoffs based on each player’s particular Big Five motivational model

…we might theoretically be able to predict player enjoyment and likely play styles when placed into a known game milieu with other players whose Big Five motivation maps and play choices are also known (or knowable).

How true is this theory, on a scale of bullshit to canon?

How practical/useful is this today? If the answer is “not much,” what would we need in order to really apply it? (Yes, a comprehensive motivational payoff matrix for an MMO in this model challenges even today’s definition of “Big Data.”)

Where might this be leveraged, and how? AI? Feature prioritization? Social interaction design? Marketing? Server/clan recommendations? Improved game designer navel-gazing?

What does it tell us about the opportunities for player enjoyment?

How can our games be smart about this, and help players find their particular fun in a multiplayer experience?


The Five Domains Of Play:Mapping Psychology’s Five Factor Model to Game Design

The Care Bear Myth:Debunking a Game Design Urban Legend

Game Theory in Video Games: How You’re in a Prisoner’s Dilemma

Promoting Positive Psychology

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in 2016 Selected Workgroup Topics, 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

I’ll happily own that I endeavor to create games/mechanics which foster positive behaviors in games. Karma systems, advanced/complex social systems, etc., are strewn throughout my work. Recently, a new Basket of Desirables landed in my sphere: the concept of positive psychology in games. How do we foster/encourage/teach and internalize things like:

Growth mindset

in games? Is it doable? Desirable? I think yes to both.

Creating Games in a Post-Publisher World

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in 2016 Selected Workgroup Topics, 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

In the (not so) Good Old Days, a publisher gave you (barely enough) money to create a game, which you created, and then you shared the profits (in the same way that the lion shares the kill with the hyena).

At this week’s Game Designers Workshop, Gordon Walton brought up an interesting topic. In today’s mobile game world and beyond, this role of the publisher (as funder and, in rare cases, as helpful mentor) is going away. Where will the funding come from to make games? And more generally, how can “the little guys” make games in this post-publisher world? VCs have no interest in funding individual game projects. Kickstarter (or, as Warren Spector calls it, “Kickfinisher”) showed promise for a while, but appears to be waning in effectiveness.

Are we facing a future dystopia in which the 1% feasts and the 99% starves? What are the current avenues for getting games funded, and what are avenues that don’t exist, but should be willed into existence? We discussed some of this during Gordon’s session at the GDW, but I think it deserves a longer discussion.

Designing for Collaborative Play

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 2016 Selected Workgroup Topics, 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

Games focused on collaborative play take many shapes and forms (think about the differences and similarities between LoL, WoW, DayZ, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Spaceteam, etc). Competitive play has been analyzed thoroughly over the past decades and have a well established taxonomy that shapes a lot of our modern game design thinking (yomi, counterplay, etc). Can we define the various methods of creating meaningful collaborative play, and create a taxonomy for these design patterns?

Designing a Friendship Leveling System

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in 2016 Selected Workgroup Topics, 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

How do we level up player relationships? We work hard at leveling up their skills with careful scaffolding of level difficulty combined with a slow drip of new concepts. We level up their virtual skills and sense of power with RPG style leveling schemes. But can we level up players from strangers to friends that cooperate?

In psychology, there’s numerous studies on how friendships form. They identify factors like similarity, repeated unplanned interactions (logistics) and the economics of reciprocation loops. All those are factors we can directly manipulate with our game designs. We do this already in a folk design fashion with blindly followed MMO conventions. However, we can explicitly design systems that methodically create positive human relationships. What are the exact tools? What elements should a crafted friendship leveling system contain?

This is a group that would require some research ahead of time. Collect some papers. Bring them with you. Let’s not just sit around and bullshit, but start with materials and distill out something real and useful.

Some initial reading and viewing that might be of interest

Games that are BAD for you!

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in 2016 Selected Workgroup Topics, 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

Many game designers (myself included) have been thinking about how to make games that aren’t just fun, but also make people better, and/or change the world for the better.  It’s hard, ’cause while we know of games that already try, it’s always harder to evaluate game MECHANICS for “goodness”, instead of just “fun”.

So I had a thought; suppose we find the games that benefit us (as humans), by trying to find the opposite of games that hurt or poison us (as humans).  And to do that, we first have to find, study and design games that hurt or poison us (as humans).

Clearly we’ll run straight into the embedded thinking we all share; games are Art, artists can do what they want, personal responsibility, who are you to judge, blah blah blah.

And I can’t help the thought that this workgroup might be creating Ultron, or otherwise Meddling in God’s Domain.

Still, I’d like to join a few brave, foolhardy souls in an examination and analysis of games that are BAD for us (so we can eventually make games that are GOOD for us).