GDC 07: Game Studies Download

 Posted by (Visited 33994 times)  Game talk
Mar 092007

Game Studies Download
Jane McGonigal, Ian Bogost, Mia Consalvo

Criteria: relevance to devs. Novelty, weird questions. Surprising insights.
Common theme: examine how games work and how they work on the players, relationship between design and how players react.

This is not a prescription of eternal truth, just inspiration. Research evolves.

Last year’s top ten list was very popular, 10k downloads. Feedback that there was a desire for a broader palette of sorts of studies. OK, here we go:

1. Games need more laughter in the slaughter. What is the role of humor? Carleton U and Victoria U. Specialists in humor theory and HCI. Studied FEAR, GTA, Psychonauts, etc. Humor makes games stickier (relief theory). Creates social bonding (superiority theory, as in a bit if schadenfreude and social bonding when you all laugh at the same thing). Supports cognitive immersion (incongruity theory, which is that we laugh when things surprise us. Most surprising insight: to make a really immersive world, there needs to be little things that don’t fit, because it reinforces how much the rest of the universe makes sense).

2. Players want to help other players do well in the game even when the game is competitive. IT U in Copenhagen. Question was, do players seek to win? In games, players do play rationally, to win. But while playing, they will encourage other players, verbally even in competitive games, because they go out of their way in order to level the playing field. So fairness is important. They would do it verbally, but not within the confines of the game, during competition. So fairness was important, but only happened in certain ways (outside the game). So players go out of their way to estaboish a level playing field.

3. Games need non-white characters who are not gangsters or criminals. Game Studies Journal independent researcher. uestion was, do players project aspects of their lives onto their chars? If you are male or female, how does that affect how you build a family? Female players get Sims pregnant 60% of the time, males only 11%. If parents are divroced, so you marry your Sims? Players who have married parents keep their sims married 73%, divoerced families only 53%. There is a weak correlation between personality and ingame behavior. Strong correlation between player race and character choice, it’s the exception. And females are a lot more likely to have babies in the Sims. Players are a little likely to want to enact their personlaities, but very likely to want to enact their race and their gender. Got positive racial roles in your game?

4. Gamers are less social than you think they are, less social than even THEY think they are. From the PARC guys. Q: why do players spend so much time playing alone? Players who said they were playing for others, were actually not doing so. They only play with others 30% of the time. The rest,they played alone. Players favoried the soloable classes by a high degree. 56% of WoW players are not guilded. Or if they are, they are the sole member. So, there’s a new middl ground to social play. They take the gamers are their word, but gamers get the benefits form shared presence, little or now directed interaction. Playing “together alone.” Any MP game can take advantage of this middle ground.

5. How do players learn to play? If it looks like a sniper, it should act like a sniper. CMU, US Military Academy. Took a bunch of newbies, and with a cog sci eye using mental modeling, watched them learn. Asked players to group C&C units based on how much they wr elike or unlike each other. What they found was that novices relied on physical appearance: tanks, flying units, etc. Over time, many shift from appearance to function — specifically, them ore successful players. So, sorting by capabilities, not looks. The players who tended to quit from frustration were the ones who could not make the leap past the visuals to the underlying capabilities. Looks do matter a lot — visual design should mimic function, it will help all players progress.

6. Gestural interfaces that make sense, make sense for specific reasons. How do players learn new gestural controls? Glasgow School of Art. Seems like spellcasting systems is everyone’s first idea with gestural controls… anyway. Feedback calibration is key — Wii Play added this little thing that tells you when you are not pointing at the screen. Building in little building blocks for basic basic stuff is important. Complex gestures fail. People didn’t understand them. Common movements good, artificial movements bad: they are hard to learn. All the WarioWare style actions, everyone gets them, and leveraging them helps everyone learn it, whereas there’s no coupling between gestures and spellcasting. Players experience attenuates expectation for accuracy: if you are a bowler or tennis player, Wii Sports has low fidelity, but there’s just enough spin and whatnot so that it fits the expectation. So if we need cmplex gentures, we need to build them out of bits of gestures we know. The goak isn’t to only make games that mimic real world motion, but instead to understand that we will train oursleves in the vocabulary. Right now, it’s possible that the games that work will be the ones with one-word gestures. If you gesture is one word, that’s good. Andgive immediate feedback on the quality of the gesture.

7. You can quantify which factors matter most in immersive game design. U Helsinki, Nokia Research. They used metrics and numbers to tackle immersion. The first game studies research that holds up to stataiticakl academic standard for psych, and professional polling standards. 2082 gamers, then took 300 into the lab for extensive sessions. Really pro solid research. Used hardcore gamers from any genre, but was mostly RPG, driving, and FPS. Started 83 vars from other research that increase immersion, folded them into small set of factors. Physical presence, copresence, role engagement, attention, arousal, interest, importance, and interaction. physical presence. social presence, involvement were the three categories.

When ranked, Role engagement is #1, and physical presence (which includes graphics and presentation) is the least important. Ranked by importance:

  1. role engagement
  2. attention
  3. interest
  4. importance
  5. copresence
  6. interaction
  7. arousal
  8. physical presence

We never talk about role engagement — understanding your role in the system, captivated by the role you play, telling the player what their role in the narrative is, what their goal is, how they relate to everything else. #4, importance, was the meaning and relevance of the game to the player, which speaks to the finding earlier about projecting player sense of self into the world is important. We don’t talk about that much either.

So you gave these specific 8 ways to strengthen imnmersion.

8. There are multiple ways to approach realism. Catholic U of Leuven in Belgium. How do players define realism. From a media studies perspective. At first, the players interviweed talked about graphics. But going deeper, it got into the question of what was real and not real, and there wasn’t a lot of consensus, but there were some themes. Players enjoy different sorts of realism. Accurate depictions: a map of the city matching the real world. Past historial events matching reality. Games heavy with items from the real world with lots of detail: historical games having the right stats on the weapons. They regretted the lack of reliasm in character development. Limited range of emotions — related more to sports. A differ3ence of opinion on the activities they woul engage in — some would take any game position regardless of morals and ethics, where others could no separate themsleves from th egame situation. So to players, realism is not just about graphics and physics.

9. There is such a thing as ethical videogame design. Copenhagen again, and the question was what is videogame ethics. He’s a philosopher. Black/white and good./bad decisions are not ethics, so Black & White, Fable, KOTOR, doesn’t count. It’s a parody. Ethical games allow players to practice or reflect on ethics — they force thinking about player’s choices in terms of real moral values. Instead of saying “any decision is good.” Supporting the player community is a part of ethical game design — referencing my talk about how web communities are king, and the companies follow what the users want. Cool graph plotting games on a grid:

Graph of ethical games

Games that present viewpoints, make a strong ethical claim, and invite player reflection, are ethical games.

10. Death matters. Lisbeth Klastrup, also @ Copenhagen. What does it mean to die? Game over, or power loss? What does it look like visually when you or others die? And how to players tell stories about it? Looking at MMOs, online games. So she went and died in as many games as she could. Then she set up a website called and asked gamers to send in tales. Then did ethnographic interviews on 27 of the respondents. There’s a list of famous last words on the website… in UO, “I regret nothing!” in WoW “don’t trust anyone unless you know them in RL and you can beat them up” in CoH “give me back mny underwear.” Visual markers heighten gameplay intensity — the dead body staying in the environment, is very important — it matters that you can see the consequences of not doing well. Death rituals make a game feel more balanced and meaningful in the long run: a few more decision, but interacting with the system for a unique death, like graveyard runs. Actively dying makes the game more meaningful. Non-trivial death encourages heroic, social and individualizing gameplay. Sacrificing rhemselves for their teammates, last minute resignation in impossible circumstances, etc, were the stories that they liked to tell. In fact, liked to tell death stories as much or more than stories of victory, because there is that heroism. Takeaway: death is an underdesigned aspect of many games.

And the bonus level! Sneak in a bit of what the panelists have been up to.

11. Ian’s new book is about how commercial games have had serious games style claims. Mia also has a book, about cheating in games. Everyone cheats, but in different ways. Jane just finished her dissertation, about mobile and ubiquitous games.

Download slides:

  31 Responses to “GDC 07: Game Studies Download”

  1. Various developers, producers, journalists and gamers have mentioned GDC in their blog posts. Here’s some of them: GDC: MMOs, past, present and future – great insight regarding the future of massively multiplayer online games. Raph Koster covered GDC 07: Game Studies Download – definitely worth checking to design better games. GDC: Miyamoto’s keynote – Nintendo talk. Why the GDC sucks – a different take on GDC by Psychochild. While I don’t think GDC is automatically not worth it, I think there

  2. have had serious games style claims. Mia also has a book, about cheating in games. Everyone cheats, but in different ways. Jane just finished her dissertation, about mobile and ubiquitous games. Download slides: by Raph at March 09, 2007 10:41 PM

  3. It sa very old website, and things are outdated, but it s great to get a sense of history and the way things were. And the British writing style and colloquial way of speaking is something to which I aspire. … GDC 07: Game Studies Download Then she set up a website called and asked gamers to send in tales. Then did ethnographic interviews on 27 of the respondents. There sa list of famous last words on the website in UO, I regret nothing!

  4. Latest Finds Goombah: Music Search and DiscoveryYouTube – Xplay – Life of a MiiKongregate: Play Free Online Games & Upload Your Ownif:book: pay attention to the danceRaph’s Website » GDC 07: Game Studies Download

  5. Raph Koster’s Notes on Game Studies

  6. с удовольствием выражают свою расу и пол, но не индивидуальность” — Game studies download session —, презентация Статистика для блогов: — абсолютно не понял, как ее прикрутить к ЖЖ. Но интересно: как я понял, не

  7. [IMG Visit Raph’s Website » GDC 07: Game Studies Download] Raph’s Website » GDC 07: Game Studies Download View Details

  8. GDC 07: Game Studies Download

  9. […] GDC 07: Game Studies Download fascinating stuff from Raph Koster. Hero of game thinking. (tags: games culture usability) […]

  10. Thanks for coverage of that, Raph!
    I found it quite interesting to read and very thought provoking 🙂

  11. […] Raph Koster’s notes on GDC… a stunning insight into the innovation WoW brought to the MMO realm… given the chance, […]

  12. […] – great insight regarding the future of massively multiplayer online games. Raph Koster covered GDC 07: Game Studies Download – definitely worth checking to design better games. GDC: Miyamoto’s keynote – Nintendo talk. […]

  13. Interestingly enough there is significant overlap in the NCR study with how we’ve categorized our data set in at least 3 categories directly, and overlap
    conceptually in the other 5. Very good stuff, I wish I’d have made this session.

  14. […] Apart from that, I attended an absolutely excellent presentation about localization at Square Enix by Richard Honeywood. As always, the Game Design Challenge that Eric Zimmerman runs was well attended and the design solutions to this year’s "Needle and Thread as Interface" were very well done (click here to read more about the designs and to see who won). Kudos to Celia Pearce for walking up to the mic and asking why no female designers were taking part in the competition (or had in the past competitions). The applause greeting her comment was great to hear, and I’d like to think that CMP will work with Eric to remedy that omission for next year. I had my own presentation on Friday, along with Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost, the Game Studies Download 2.0. Even with a 9 AM timeslot it was well attended, but for those of you who could not make it, Raph Koster has a rundown of the top ten and a link to the slides. […]

  15. […] was a fantastic session at GDC (game developer conference) that Raph blogged about – the 10 most interesting academic studies on […]

  16. […] am in noble company on the 07 GDC Game Studies Download Top 10, as covered by Raph Koster. Here are the slides. Technorati Tags: game […]

  17. […] We’ve been completely silent for the last week due to the Game Developers Conference, which just wrapped. Apologies to our readers: I didn’t blog a stitch during the event. That said, you can find Mia Consalvo’s wrapup of our Game Studies Download over on Terra Nova (get the list itself here). Raph Koster also blogged the session in detail. […]

  18. Thanks Raph for this download-of-the-download. I thought the second finding was particularly interesting and wanted to apprise you and your readers of the work of Bernie De Koven, author of The Well-Played Game and co-founder of the New Games movement. De Koven talks in detail about how players adjust gameplay for fairness in a variety of non-digital context. Very interesting and highly relevant to both this research and your work.

  19. […] Game Studies Download (Koster’s notes from a panel he attended; info about the Game Studies Download […]

  20. […] have learned in 2006 which may benefit developers. One of ’em was fewer racial stereotypes (via Raph):Games need non-white characters who are not gangsters or criminals. Game Studies Journal […]

  21. […] Design Professionals Are Into Some Hairy Areas Link: Raph’s Website » GDC 07: Game Studies Download. […]

  22. […] Raph’s Website GDC 07: Game Studies Download “Female players get Sims pregnant 60% of the time, males only 11%. If parents are divroced[sic], so […]

  23. […] Recent News: We were delighted to hear that at the Game Developers Conference in March, the annual "Top Ten" list of academic papers on game studies in 2006 included our paper "Laughter in the Slaughter", by Claire Dormann, Pippin Barr, and Robert Biddle. See: […]

  24. […] Either way, I thought it was a thought provoking piece that deserved to be more widely read. Maybe in a year or two, something like it will make it into this excellent GDC presentation. […]

  25. […] Raph’s Website > GDC 07: Game Studies Download HOTLab > Games and Media wrote on March 27th,… 28.04.2007 – 76 Kb –… – – […]

  26. […] Link: Raph’s Website » GDC 07: Game Studies Download. […]

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