Psychic drive

October 6, 2010 2 comments

Thanks to a relatively psychedelic article on psychology in games, I have decided to look into some of the games I played as a kid/youth. And then try to figure out where psychology was being applied to keep me playing.

Pokemon Gold

Pokémon was probably the one game I played THE most by myself. And the primary drive, I guess, was the continuous rewards in form of new Pokémon, lvls, abilities and so on. Coupled with a feeling of accomplishment when beating a gym, or even the Elite Four (quite the big thing first couple of times you do it). And that is a great example of providing motivation and reward in measured amounts at specific intervals (of course, slightly disturbed by the playstyle of the player) to keep the player playing. And even the story and the characters you come across are parts of drives crafted to keep you playing. There is a reason you have a rival, besides kicking his/her ass/having your ass kicked at specific intervals in the game. Its all a part of shaping your behaviour and getting you excited and happy over newer and more awesome Pokémon.

Not 1.6

Amazed by psych type Pokémon yet? How about a mindless shooter next?

Probably my most striking example, is what psychological effect CSS (Counter Strike Source. Yes, I am aware that I did not play 1.6) had on me. The reason I kept playing that game for way more than I now see as reasonable (considering its incredibly repetitive gameplay), is because it made me to belong to a group. By playing CSS, I was one of the CSS gamers. There were people to relate to, experiences to share and things to talk about.

Now you see, according to Abraham Maslow and his theory about human psychology, and his hierarchy of needs, CSS was now a part of my third and fourth most important needs. Only physiological needs (breathing, food, water…) and comfort (safety, protection, limits…) were hierarchically more important than what CSS had become a part of. Because CSS had become a part of my belonging needs (social belonging, love, community) and my esteem needs (success at CSS gave hightened self esteem).
And of course, as all games tend to do, it was a part of the fifth and topmost part of that hierarchy, self-actualization, but that is rather complex, so I won’t divulge into that now.

And thinking back on these things now… Is slightly unsettling ^^

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Tl/dr?

September 28, 2010 5 comments

So in light of my last post, which was a wall of text about what turned out to be only multiplayer games, I figured I’m going to write some about singleplayer games, and what makes them just as awesome. Also, I’ll try to stick to analysing gameplay elements and other things that affect your gaming experience, because at first glance, that is where singleplayer games differ the most (in my eyes) from multiplayer.

Or am I completely off the mark again? Is the gaming experience of a singleplayer game not the most important part of it?
You tell me ^^

Categories: General

The most popular gameplay in the world?

September 27, 2010 6 comments

All games consist of some sort of gameplay, graphics and goal, or at least all games I have ever played did. And those three are used as valid arguments when defending why you play the games you do (with story and highscores falling into the goal category). And most gamers, as I have experienced, find gameplay to be most important.

And then you look at the most popular games in the world. World of Warcraft, Counter Strike and Farmville (do note, those are my assumptions, as real statistics is really expensive and hard to come by). Very different games that all appeal to a different type of gamer, and they have very distinguishably different types of gameplay.

Taking Farmville first, because its the oddest one. Its gameplay basically consists of sowing seeds and harvesting whatever those seeds turned out to be. As simple as that, sowing, harvesting, selling.
Looking at it from the side, its hard to see how that is going to work at all.
But couple it with social gaming and the networking of Facebook, and you have a gaming phenomenon that has grown just about insanely large. It is one of the most played games in the world. And the major drive behind it, is the functionality that facebook offers. Facebook can pop you a friendly reminder that you might want to check on your crops, or they might just die, and you will loose progress and work. That somehow appeals to the gamers, either with the fear of loosing progress and work, or simply appealing to the same emotions that make sure you keep feeding your cat and taking your dog for a walk. Kind of a tamagotchi effect, if you dont take care of your virtual creature, it will die on you, and you will feel bad. Brilliantly cruel.

Oh, and do note, I have never actually played Farmville. My analysis is therefore based on what I’ve heard from friends that fell victim to the game and what the internet had to tell me. So please chew me out if I’m completely off ^^.

Then taking Counter Strike, which is the easier to break down, its gameplay basically consists of killing and not getting killed. Some might rage over such a simple definition, but you cannot argue that it summarizes the core of the gameplay (in just about any FPS for that manner). However, its core gameplay is riddled with elements that make Counter Strike the game it is, and make the game as well known and played as it is.
For example:
Its directly competitive. With that I mean that you get to compete with other people right there and then. You don’t compare highscores on a list somewhere, you are smack down in the middle of it with other people that are all trying to kick your ass and being the best player on the server. Its an action gameplay element that is fundamental to competetive FPS.
You all start on equal footing, and then earn your own loadout, depending on how well you play. Which is basically rewarding development of skills. It also allows you to vary your game however you yourself choose too, and gives you goals to strive towards. The very same gameplay element is used in just about any modern FPS that focuses on multiplayer, BF2, COD4 and so on.
Its twitch based. Which is a gameplay mechanic/element that focuses the game on split second decisions and movement. If you have ever cut a corner in Counter Strike and suddenly found yourself face to face with an opposing player, you have probably experienced what twitch gameplay is. Fast, and sometimes feeling really random, or totally justifiable to blame on the lag ^^.

And of these three examples, CS is the only one I have played thoroughly myself. So again, I’m guessing I’ve got some things wrong in this next section.

And then of course, World of Warcraft.
But where do you start to analyse that social phenomena? Its just too vast, not just because of its 10 million players (more than twice the population of norway), but because of its long running success, the reputation of its company, what it had to live up to when it was originally released, its competitors and so on.
But strictly gameplay wise, its simple, and relatively repetitive. It focuses on quests, killing monsters, looting, getting better gear, lvling up, developing your character.. Pretty basic RPG. Nothing too fancy as far as I’ve understood. So what keeps people playing? A friend of mine explained it as the social factor, that eventually, the game is more about the people you meet and hang with than the grinding of lvls and such. So if you find some awesome fellas, they will keep you coming back, and if they stop playing, you might end up quitting too, because you don’t really have a reason to continue with that expensive subscription. That I actually know from personal experience, as it happened to me when I played Age of Conan for a while. And Runescape, but that belongs to my dark video gaming past… And its off topic, so back to WoW.
So the gameplay elements that make WoW the success it is, is mostly a combination of the classical RPG and a social factor. It is also coupled with smaller gameplay elements, but I havent really got much of a clue what they are… Bad choice of example? Maybe so.

Right, so the most popular games in the world (as I see it) are games that use a very strong social factor to stay alive and to make a large group of people come back to play more. Rendering the social factor of gameplay, perhaps the most popular gameplay element in the world?
And really, games are a social thing, no?

Aesthetics in video games

September 22, 2010 4 comments

In this blog, I want to take a look into what makes games tick the right way. With regards to games design, graphics, storytelling techniques, gameplay elements and so on. I might also dabble into the debate of whether or not games can be considered an artform, but that is for a later post. Right now, this is merely an introduction of the subjects.

And aesthetics in games is actually quite an interesting subject. Pondering about what makes good games good, not only in the visually pleasing way, but also with thought to other aspects. Such as what makes a game enjoyable, what makes you replay games and what makes some game experiences unforgettable.

But if you are now getting your hopes up for a blog from some proffesionals view, Im going to have to dissapoint. I am merely a student that wants to take a look at games, slightly from the side, not beeing completely in it,  and also beeing far from outside it.

And with that, I’ll try to gather a lot of good information here, talk about these subjects and try to provoke debate in the comments section ^^.

Also, if this subject interests you, check out www.gamasutra.com. They write articles, as they put it themselves, about “The art and business of making games”.