2.vi Game-Design Insights and Best Practices

Aarseth, Espen J. 2012. “A Narrative Theory of Games.” In Proceedings of the International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG ’12), 129–33. New York: ACM. doi:10.1145/2282338.2282365.

Aarseth considers the foundational debate that took place in game studies between narratologists, who followed Janet Murray in approaching video games and electronic texts as stories, and ludologists, who contended with Jesper Juul that the computer game is not simply a narrative medium. Aarseth sees video games as a combination of games and stories through software, one that can result in a variety of ludo-narratological constructs. This ludo-narrative design space consists of four dimensions: world, objects, agents, and events. Aarseth sees agents/characters as the most important dimension in video games, a key element differentiating video games from other narrative environments.

Anthropy, Anna. 2012. Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People  Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Anthropy calls for more people to make video games in order to broaden the perspectives communicated through video games and thus push against the  exclusive  nature  of  current  video  game  culture.  She  argues  that  the current video game scene and its history is dominated by a small group of people—educated men who have grown up playing games and then decided to become game designers. Because of this, most games communicate stories and experiences from that male perspective, and games lack diversity. Anthropy argues that since games are particularly good at exploring dynamics, relationships, and systems, they are experiences created by rules. As the player must play the game in order for it to take place, it is through the player interaction with the rules that it becomes a game. Based on this requirement for interaction, the game creator tells stories not just through the content, but also through the design and the system of the game. Highly personal, complex stories can be told in this way, which is why Anthropy highlights the importance of bringing in more perspectives. In order to facilitate this, Anthropy describes different forms of hacking, “modding” (modifying), and game development that do not require any coding knowledge or particular design skills. Game-design tools are becoming increasingly available and accessible to wider audiences; as such, Anthropy calls for the rise of video game zinesters—hobbyists, makers, and players—to express their stories in the form of video games.

Bjork,  Staffan,  and  Jussi  Holopainen.  2005.  Patterns in  Game Design.Hingham, MA: Charles River Media.

Bjork and Holopainen outline an approach to game design that considers elements of games as game-design patterns that can be analyzed and applied. This toolset offers game designers and scholars a language to talk about the elements of gameplay, which is currently lacking. Bjork and Holopainen explain that design patterns are useful for analytical purposes of existing games or prototypes and for game design during the creation of games, since they can help at the stage of idea generation and structure the development of game concepts. The authors aim to construct a language based on interactions, rather than narratology, as has been common in game studies in the past.

Bogost,  Ian.  2011.  How  To  Do  Things  With  Videogames.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bogost provides an overview of the many different applications of video games. As he demonstrates, combinations of applications reveal that the medium of video games is much broader, richer, and more relevant than generally acknowledged. The extensive scope of video games indicates that they should not be simplifi and regarded as a medium for leisure or productivity, but recognized as a medium that offers a wide range of potential uses.

Caillois, Roger. (1961) 2001. Man, Play, and Games. Translated by Meyer Barash. New York: Free Press of Glencoe. Reprint, Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Caillois assesses social practices as rule-bound games that serve to limit freer forms of play within cultures. Structures of games culturally acknowledged as such (e.g., chess) derive from outmoded social practices. Caillois’s work on games has been particularly significant in defining play and games. He defines gameplay as that which is free, separate, uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, and make-believe. Furthermore, Caillois argues that all games contain one or a combination of the following categories: agon (competition), alea (chance), mimicry (simulation), and ilinx (vertigo). The distinction between active, exuberant, and spontaneous “paidia” and calculating, contrived “ludus” is still relied on and often referenced by contemporary game scholars.

Coleman, Susan L., Ellen S. Menaker, Jennifer McNamara, and Tristan  Johnson.  2015.  “Communication  for  Stronger  Learning  Game Design.” In Design and Development of Training Games, edited by TalibHussain and Susan L. Coleman. New York: Cambridge University Press, 31–54. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107280137.003.

Coleman, Menaker, McNamara, and Johnson discuss the challenges of learning game design (LGD) teams, and how to improve their effectiveness through communication. They argue that a shared mental model is needed in order to address the challenge of diversity in LGD teams. The authors conclude that one’s team must understand the individual expectations and principles of team members in order to promote communication well.

Deterding, Sebastian. 2012. “Gamification: Designing for Motivation.”Interactions 19 (4): 14–17. doi:10.1145/2212877.2212883.

This forum offers multiple perspectives relevant to the discourse on gamification by Sebastian Deterding, Judd Antin, Elizabeth Lawley, and Rajat Paharia. Antin asserts that online gamification participants do not work for free, but are paid with good feelings. Gamification mechanisms such as badges have a bad reputation, not because they do not work, but because they are frequently implemented inappropriately for the audience and purpose. As Lawley points out, successful gamification applies game design, not solely game components. The forum urges practitioners to recognize the value of gamification beyond the stock features commonly implemented.

—. 2015.  “The  Lens  of  Intrinsic  Skill  Atoms:  A  Method  for Gameful Design.” Human-Computer Interaction 30 (3–4): 294–335. doi:10.1080/07370024.2014.993471.

Deterding analyzes conceptually the design challenges behind reviewing existing methods of gameful design. He presents a method (the “Lens of Intrinsic Skill Atoms”) that restructures the challenges inherent in the end user’s goal pursuit into a system that would provide enjoyable and motivating experiences. Deterding works with two case studies to illustrate his method: “Innovating Gameful Design” and “Evaluating Gameful Design.” He concludes with a list of criteria for gameful design, shows how his proposed method meets them all, and affirms the usefulness of his approach.

Ferrara, John. 2012. Playful Design: Creating Game Experiences in Everyday Interfaces. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media.

Ferrara structures his book as a guide for user experience (UX) designers to apply game design as part of their approach. While critical of the buzz around gamifi and the imprecise application of the term, Ferrara stresses that game-design approaches can be highly successful if focused on the player experience. He offers an extensive overview introducing the reader to game-design approaches that may be relevant to general UX design. The fi section, “Playful Thinking,” explains the ways in which games can be effective when applied to the everyday or the real world, defi es games and their relation to everyday experiences, and outlines aspects of player experience and player motivation. “Designing Game Experiences” addresses more practical aspects of building user experiences based on game-design approaches. This section outlines tips for building game concepts, creating prototypes, play testing, behavioural tools, and the potential of rewards in games. The fi al section, “Playful Design in User Experience,” looks in more detail at how games can be used as methods for action, learning, and persuasion in the everyday. Ferrara concludes with speculations on future trends.

Gamification   Wiki.   n.d.   “Gamification.”  https://badgeville.com/wiki/gamification. Dublin, CA: Badgeville.

This wiki offers an array of resources related to gamification and game mechanics. It contains general information on gamification as well as links to books, examples, presentations, and videos. Specific areas of gamification include education, marketing, government, social good, and design.

Høgenhaug, Peter Steen. 2012. “Gamification and UX: Where Users Win or Lose.” Smashing Magazine. n.p. https://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2012/04/gamification-ux-users-win-lose/.

Høgenhaug outlines the ways in which gamification can improve the user experience of websites and applications. He begins by defining four key actions that comprise games: play, pretending, rules, and goals. Practitioners who plan to use gamification should not consider it an add-on, but include it in the design process itself. Game models and approaches that work well in UX design include tangible user interfaces, constructive and helpful feedback, storytelling, and Easter eggs. Gamification should not be overused, but rather considered a tool to improve user experience by complementing the content and structure of a site or app. Høgenhaug also suggests what to avoid when using gamification.

Kim, Bohyun. 2012. “Harnessing the Power of Game Dynamics: Why, How to, and How Not to Gamify the Library Experience.” College & Research Libraries News 73 (8): 465–69.

Kim acknowledges that gamification of the library experience is becoming increasingly common in academic libraries. She recognizes the advantages of gamification in terms of motivation, engagement, and increased achievements of tasks toward a goal. Kim also outlines tactical opportunities and approaches to avoid when gamifying the library experience.

Liu, Yefeng, Todorka Alexandrova, and Tatsuo Nakajima. 2011. “Gamifying Intelligent Environments.” In Proceedings of the 2011 International ACM Workshop on Ubiquitous Meta User Interfaces (UbiMUI ’11), 7–12. New York: ACM. doi:10.1145/2072652.2072655.

Liu, Alexandrova, and Nakajima review the ways in which digital designers apply gamification methods in the design of intelligent environments in order to improve user engagement. They provide two case studies to determine the effectiveness of this approach (UbiAsk, a crowdsourcing application, and EcoIsland, a persuasive application to reduce carbon dioxide emissions). The authors conclude that gamification approaches are only effective in driving participation when they are implemented as additional components supporting an otherwise functioning app or environment. Game actions also must be initiated by a deeper game structure throughout the environment.

McGonigal, Jane. 2008. “Engagement Economy: The Future of Massively Scaled Collaboration and Participation.” Edited by Jess Hemerly and Lisa Mumbach. Palo Alto, CA: Institute for the Future, Technology Horizons Program.   http://www.iftf.org/uploads/media/Engagement_Economy_sm_0.pdf.

McGonigal contends that the current economy of engagement is no longer just about competing for attention; now, engagement relies on interaction and contribution by users. She claims that innovative organizations need to tackle the challenge of participation bandwidth, and ought to learn from the world of play to do so. McGonigal explains that the digital environment contains more and more mass collaboration and crowdsourcing platforms and networks, which makes it increasingly difficult to encourage and maintain engagement. She asserts that gaming approaches can help to optimize participation bandwidth because of the importance of emotional incentives in today’s social mindset. McGonigal infers that designing for positive emotional goals will keep users of all levels of participation more engaged. Finally, she suggests that the most effective way of ensuring a continuous engagement life cycle is to structure platforms that empower community members to invent their own tasks.

Play the Past. 2010. http://www.playthepast.org.

Play the Past is a collaboratively authored and edited website that looks at the intersections between cultural heritage and all kinds of games. The authors write about diverse topics related to culture and games, including theoretical approaches, philosophical reflections, and practical considerations. Topics range from online gaming experiences to pedagogical applications of games.

Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. 2004. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Salen and Zimmerman analyze games as designed systems, and outline key concepts for the creation of games, thus establishing a critical discourse for game design. The authors define core concepts (such as play, games, design, systems, and interactivity), as well as rules, rule levels, and rule systems. As Salen and Zimmerman explain, all games have rules, and the rules of a game are what distinguish it from other games. Thus, players accept the rules and limitations defined by a particular game when they play it. Salen and Zimmerman note that the play of a game is the experiential aspect of a game, and outline different categories of play type, as well as three phenomena of play behaviour (game play, ludic activities, and being playful). The authors also outline the social relationships, player roles, and community aspects of gameplay, as well as the structure, environment, and social contracts that are required for the culture of a game to flourish.