March 23, 2015

Why you should play games with Barbie in the title

Ubisoft game designer Jason VandenBerghe wanted to understand the psychology behind those who played his games. In 2013, he gave a talk on his findings called Acting like players - Applying the 5 domains of play. I can't embed it, so here's the link

Lessons learned
  • The "Big 5" is a structure of human psychology that is being used by academia worldwide. The 5 are:
    • Openness to experience
    • Conscientiousness
    • Extraversion
    • Agreeableness
    • Neuroticism
  • But Jason VandenBerghe has translated the Big 5 to the world of games. So in the same order as above, the 5 domains of play are:
    • Novelty
    • Challenge
    • Stimulation
    • Harmony
    • Threat - "Ragequit" is included here! It reflects the parts of the game that may cause the player to stop playing when they are otherwise enjoying it. 
  • We need all this because it is important for a game designer to understand what is going on inside the heads of the players. If you have played a lot of games, you will understand a few of the players, namely those who are similar to yourself. But you will not understand all of your players. So you have to leave you own personal biases in your home, and come to the office without them.
  • What you should do is to play games as if you were someone else and try to understand why other people like the games. So play games with Barbie in the title (if haven't already played them)
  • There are different models you can use:
  • Novelty (Skyrim is for fantasy and explorers) Also notice that some players can like both sides, such as building and exploring.
    • Realism or fantasy?
    • Building or exploring?
  • Challenge (The Sims with cheats is for those who are less skilled and play different games by impulse)
    • Easy or hard?
    • Work or impulse?
  • Stimulation (Call of duty is for those who like to play solo and thrilling games)
    • Group or solo?
    • Thrilling or serene?
  • Harmony (World of Warcraft is for those who like team and context)
    • Player-vs-player (just want the other players to lose) or team (be a part of a larger cause)?
    • Context (why should I win?) or mechanics (how do I win?)?
  • Players are not evenly distributed among these categories, even though the humanity as a whole is, because not everyone is playing games. 

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