At the end of semester I always experience a kind of slump. I try to put it off as long as possible but it generally wins. I can broadly categorize it as a period of really high productivity during exams, then a lull where I have no external drive to be productive. I start my holidays with a list of things to do and then generally push them back until I give up even pretending I’m going to do them. The thing is I really like being productive. I really want to do these things on my list. I don’t like sleeping in late, waking up, watching TV, then giving up and going to bed. I’ll admit, it’s satisfying to be sloth sometimes, but it’s ultimately the enemy.
Anyway, so my project for these holidays is to make a computer game. It’s nothing big, it’s one of those old Text Based Adventure games of the style Go north; look at tree; take key; set fire to the house, etc. If you were born after ’86 (at the latest) you probably have no idea what these games are like. Well, they’re awesome. I’ve found there’s a whole internet community bonded by this IF (Interactive Fiction) concept. There’s competitions, forums, beta testing communities, and naturally, designer. Thanks to some generous software engineers out there there is some powerful software for designing such games. I’m using one called ADRIFT.
In my spare time I do like to write, so I thought why don’t I write a story that’s interactive? I’m not a huge player of computer games (it takes a lot to hook me, and if I don’t feel like I’m being ‘productive’ playing it, I’ll find something else to do). This lead me to think – what makes a computer game addictive? How can I make mine as engaging as I’m capable of?
Przybylski, Rigby & Ryan (2010) suggested that, historically, good computer games satisfy psychological needs for Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness. Competence refers to balance between difficulty of the game, and the mastery of the game. That is if a game seems easy people give up, and if it’s too hard, people give up. The objective is to challenge and push them. Autonomy is freedom – how linear/non-linear the path or process is to achieve any given goal, or the game in general. It seems that social pressures are also highly influential (i.e. forming and breaking alliances with NPC [Non-Player Characters] or other Live [Actual] players). Finally, Relatedness relates to the social bonds that players share over a game (think WoW and real-time, authentic interactions). Well, relatedness is beyond the scope of my game, but it seems that a challenging (but achievable) set of tasks, and the freedom to solve it a wide variety of ways is key.
Dormann and Biddle (2009) say (and I’m keeping this point short) that humour works too. Make games funny and people like them more. That doesn’t mean you have to base you’re entire game (or game playing experience) on slapstick, but can just as easily relate to sharp and witty writing and insider jokes.
However, the best study I could find about how I should make a game was done by Hsu, Wen and Wu (2009) who defined 11 variables and then assessed the degree of influence each had over the gamer’s experience. The eleven variables were: challenge, fantasy, curiosity, control, reward, cooperation, competition, recognition, belonging, obligation and role-playing.
Now I’m going to rip their results section and paste it here, because it’s clear, concise and informative. I don’t think I could do a better job of explaining it than they do. If you don’t know stats, just ignore them, I’ve posted them for curiosities sake – but for the uninitiated the key element is the asterisk (*)
Regression results indicate that the significant predictors of MMORPG addiction are curiosity, role-playing, belonging, obligation and reward. Note that the other factors challenge, fantasy, control, competition, cooperation and recognition are not shown in this regression formula due to their low predictive power. In addition, the ranges of Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) for the experience factors were all smaller than 1.929, which demonstrates that there was no collinearity of the factors in this study (Kutner, Nachtsheim, & Neter, 2004). In this analysis, the R2 value demonstrated good accuracy of the prediction, with the model accounting for 65.1% of the variance in addiction. In addition, the Durbin–Watson coefficient was 2.042, which is near to the optimal value (DW = 2.0) and represents no autocorrelation in the residuals of the regression. Table 1 shows the regression model of MMORPG addiction.
The regression model of MMORPG addiction.
R2 = .651, Adjusted R2 = .642.
Curiosity -Broadly speaking Curiosity in-game can be divided into sensory curiosity and cognitive curiosity. Sensory curiosity refers to the gaming sensory experience (the sounds and the graphics); cognitive curiosity is when one is intrigued or ‘drawn in’. My game is text-based, so I’m going to have to rely on creating a rich world of fine detail and high involvement.
Role-Playing - this appears to refer to the depth of immersion one can undertake within their role. In the context of my project I imagine this is depth of back-story and freedom of future developments. Though, having said that, many hugely popular MMORPG involve no, or very little, back story for characters. It’s all you. Perhaps one is better leaving it to the imagination, yet allowing them to form their character/avatar in whatever image they see fit.
Belonging and Obligation – more relevant to MMORPG, but this is when one is a group member (belongs to a group/clan/tribe) and obligation is the duties to contribute to said group. In my game I might perhaps be able to allow people to shape the nature of NPC’s, but I’ll have to do more than that to compete on the same playing field. Also, I don’t know if it’s technically possible (at least at my skill level).
Reward – Reward is fairly simple. Do you earn gold, acquire unique items, develop status or powers. My game will involve the acquisition of objects and a high degree of flexibility in their use (I hope). I’m not sure that’s going to really cut it, but then again, my game is a bit of a puzzle/problem solving game so hopefully there is reward inherent in it. I guess I’ll be letting other people decide in time.
Oh, and it’s a Zombie story. I always wondered how good I’d be at surviving a Zombie invasion. Well, now I get to figure out a solid plan. If there’s interest I’ll post the product when it’s finished – or, by request, people can beta-test it and let me know what they think. I hope to have the first ‘chapter’ done by the end of the week. And I’ll know I’ve done a good job if you start getting freaky dreams. Oh yeah, Gackenbach, Kuruvilla and Dopko (2009) have shown that the immersive, multimedia experience leads to more bizarre dreams.
Hsu, S., Wen, M., & Wu, M. (2009). Exploring user experiences as predictors of MMORPG addiction Computers & Education, 53 (3), 990-999 DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2009.05.016
Przybylski, A., Rigby, C., & Ryan, R. (2010). A motivational model of video game engagement. Review of General Psychology, 14 (2), 154-166 DOI: 10.1037/a0019440
Dormann, C., & Biddle, R. (2009). A Review of Humor for Computer Games: Play, Laugh and More Simulation & Gaming, 40 (6), 802-824 DOI: 10.1177/1046878109341390
Gackenbach, J., Kuruvilla, B., & Dopko, R. (2009). Video game play and dream bizarreness. Dreaming, 19 (4), 218-231 DOI: 10.1037/a0018145
Tags: Computer Games, Engagement, Games, Technology