The Aesthetic Motives of Play

Sunrise, sunset… one paper falls as another rises. My piece The Aesthetic Motives of Play will appear later this year in Springer’s Emotion in Games: Theory and Praxis, edited by Dr Kostas Karpouzis and an old colleague of mine, Professor Georgios Yannakakis. Here’s my abstract:

Why do people enjoy playing games? The answer, in its most general form, is that there are aesthetic pleasures offered by games and other play experiences that meet powerful and profound human and animal needs. As such, we can identify specific aesthetic motives of play, and one of the clearest ways of characterizing these motives is in terms of the emotional experiences associated with them.

This was a super-easy paper for me to write as I’m only summarising work I’ve already done, but it is an excellent précis of where I’m up to and I hope will complement the other chapters in this collection.

Yee Rides Again

Great to see Nick Yee getting back into player modelling over at Quantic Foundry. However, it seems he hasn’t looked into the similar work International Hobo was doing with BrainHex five years ago. In a recent post, Gaming Motivations Align with Personality Traits, he states:

Action-Social isn’t hinted at in any Existing Model: When we first saw the Action-Social cluster emerge, we were a little stumped. This grouping is unintuitive and hasn’t been proposed by any existing model or taxonomy.

That’s not true! In fact, if you look at the subclass distribution for BrainHex you’ll see that the third most popular is Conqueror-Socialiser (6.1% of sample), which is what maps most closely onto Yee’s Action-Social.

To be fair, I haven’t written much about BrainHex recently because my primary take away from that research effort was that this isn’t how we should be proceeding in this area if we want to get to anything like a science of player modelling. To see why, check out my 2011 DiGRA paper with Lennart Nacke and Rebecca Lowenhaupt, Player Typology in Theory and Practice.

Looking forward to seeing what else Nick turns up in his current round of research.

Cross-posted from

The Player Experience Conference

GamersPleased to announce that I’m part of the team behind a new conference provisionally entitled The Player Experience: The Emotions and Worlds of Digital Games, due to launch in the Summer of 2016. An inter-disciplinary event, we are intending to sit at the intersection between Game Studies and Cyberpsychology, but will accept submissions from philosophy, narratology, neurobiology, or any other field with connections to the subject. We also welcome delegates from the games industry who’d like to give a presentation, or who’d just like to attend.

The theme for the first conference in the series is Avatars: Presence and Immersion, looking at the representation of identity in and around the fictional worlds of games, and how these lead to presence (high fidelity of experience) and immersion (deep engagement) within those imagined worlds.

The conference will be hosted at the University of Bolton in Greater Manchester UK, and we expect the Call for Participation to begin in February 2015 and close around 30 May 2015. The conference organisers are myself, Dr. Angela Tinwell, and Dr. Julie Prescott. At the moment, we are asking for Expressions of Interest consisting of an email stating that you would like to take part and your academic field and institution, or your company.

Please email px [at] ihobo [dot] com - or click this Email Robot – to let us know this event interests you. Hope to hear from you soon!

Cross-posted from

The Constraint Histories of Digital Games

Over on ihobo today, a consideration of whether histories of constraints would be the best way to consider the temporal element in game designs. Here’s an extract:

Attempts to provide a taxonomy of game genres founder on the lack of consistent criteria, and usually have to be arbitrarily assigned. Connecting ‘shooters’ into a lineage suggests scrolling shooters were direct influences on first person shooters, for instance. But there's no evidence suggesting Zaxxon has any connection with the design of DOOM, or that Space Invaders inspired Zaxxon. As a historical tool, genre categories can provide some useful connections – DOOM certainly did influence GoldenEye 007, for example – but genre cannot be used as a unifying framework for game history because the genre lineages are narrowly valid and do not constitute a complete description of game history. An alternative approach can begin by considering the historical constraints that acted on any given title, grouping games by common constraints into related clusters.

You can read The Constraint Histories of Digital Games over on ihobo.

Player Typology in Theory and Practice

Here’s a link to the paper I presented at DiGRA this year entitled Player Typology in Theory and Practice, and the abstract:

Player satisfaction modeling depends in part upon quantitative or qualitative typologies of playing preferences,  although such approaches require scrutiny. Examination of psychometric typologies reveal that type theories have—except in rare cases—proven inadequate and have made way for alternative trait theories. This suggests any future player typology that will be sufficiently robust will need foundations in the form of a trait theory of playing preferences. This paper tracks the development of a sequence of player typologies developing from psychometric  type theory roots towards an independently validated trait theory of play, albeit one yet to be fully developed. Statistical analysis of the results of  one survey in this lineage is presented, along with a discussion of theoretical and practical ways in which the surveys and their implied typological instruments have evolved.

Thanks to everyone who attended my presentation and the boardgames panel! It was a great shame to only be able to attend one day of the conference.

Cross-posted from

Videogame Cultures 3/Fighting Used Game Sales

Skip over to ihobo for my thoughts on the conference I just finished:

Where does the games as art debate go now? How much do stereotypes of the gamer dominate and distort perspectives of games in culture? Can counterplay and co-creation in games change the relationship between the makers and players of games? Issues such as these were the focus of lively debate in-and-out of the conference halls at Videogame Cultures 3 in Oxford University’s Mansfield College.

Read the whole thing in Highlights of Videogame Cultures 3.

Also over on, a short rant about how Fighting Used Game Sales is Suicide. This is an old topic of mine, but I think I mostly wrote about it before I started blogging.

Much Needed Refreshment (and Forthcoming Papers)

Right, I really needed that break from blogging… Frankly, I was feeling incredibly weighed down by the weight of academic papers that I had to write, and needed to focus on them. Here’s a list of all the papers, book chapters and presentations I’ve written or worked upon in the last month and a half:

  • “Player Typology in Theory and Practice” (with Rebecca Lowenhaupt and Lennart Nacke)
  • “BrainHex: Preliminary Results from a Neurobiological Gamer Typology Survey” (with Lennart Nacke and Regan Mandryk)
  • “Neurobiological Foundations for Player Satisfaction Modeling” (with Lennart Nacke) in Game Telemetry and Metrics (eds. Mady Seif El-Nasr and Anders Drachen)
  • “Chaotic Good in the Balance” in Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy (eds. Jon Cogburn and Mark Silcox)
  • “Dungeons & Dragons & Dice &… Prop Theory for Role-Play”
    in Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy (eds. Jon Cogburn and Mark Silcox)
  • “Prop Theory for Game Aesthetics”
  • “Orthodox Science Fiction and Fictional Worlds”
  • “Fictional Worlds in Films and Games”

That’s a lot of papers for someone who doesn’t work as an academic! Anyway, I now have this workload under better control, so with luck I should be able to get back into the blogging.

Blogging resumes again next week - hope to see you in the comments!

Cross-posted from ihobo.

What is Endured Always Enhances Enjoyment

It is one of the strangest aspects of play that whatever can be endured will ultimately serve to enhance the enjoyment of the player who perseveres. Tolerating repetition adds satisfaction to the completing task. Tolerating difficulty in challenges turns mere success into glowing victory. Tolerating frustratingly obscure puzzles leads to smug triumph when they are eventually cracked.

Of course, each of these ordeals to be endured will also exclude certain players from reaching their eventual rewards. Not everyone is willing to endure tedium, difficulty or obscurity. But it is striking to note that the same things which cause certain players to give up a game are the very things which make it worth playing for others. This is more than just ‘different strokes for different folks’ – it seems as if whatever a player will endure ultimately ends up enhancing the reward they experience.

Cross-posted from ihobo; comments accepted on either blog.