How does one measure play? Are there instruments we can construct that detect different kinds of play? Nicole Lazzaro employed Ekman's instrument of emotional cues to build an observational model, but what other tools are available that we might use to build a working model of play, and of play styles?
It has been some time since I've posted on the journey towards the DGD2 audience model. To a considerable degree, this has been a result of being incredibly busy - working on Fireball, helping to set up a company in India, working on the Game Writing book and so forth. However, the other problem I'm facing is that I have set the bar rather too high for a next step.
I'm very keen to pursue the game tests as a means towards DGD2, but what I need to reach a new model in this way is a rather large collection of tests - and in truth, defining even one of these tests is a difficult challenge. I am therefore faced with the decision of either breaking down the task into smaller steps, or choosing an alternative course of action.
Science is the process of measuring. In order to do this, it uses instruments, which in some cases are broadly reliable devices - such as rulers, voltmeters and radio telescopes - and in some cases are subjectively agreed forms - such as biological taxonomies, social experiments and personality inventories. The value placed in these instruments is largely a product of the dominant scientific paradigms, and therefore of prevailing belief systems among scientists. Even apparently reliable instruments often depend upon more subjective instrumentation to proceed to conclusions - for example, see the telltale signs of cognitive dissonance in the cosmologist when you ask them what it would mean if the speed of light were not constant...
If DGD2 is to proceed to a next stage via game tests, then what I am facing is actually an instrumentation problem. I need to define instruments. And realistically, I cannot hope to be providing all this instrumentation in a single step, as each instrument is in effect a seperate experiment, and hence a seperate measurement. It may behoove me, therefore, to narrow my focus, and consider what instruments can be designed to measure play.
The hypothesis I am working on for DGD2 at the moment is something like this:
Different people enjoy different forms of play. Temperament Theory suggests that there is an applicable model of skills in four related clusters: Logistical, Tactical, Strategic and Diplomatic, expressed to different degrees by all people. These skill sets can be applied to play...
That, however, is the point that the paragraph runs out. What exactly is the hypothesis guiding DGD2? Always bearing in mind that my hope is not to prove the hypothesis correct - I'm perfectly happy to prove it wrong (we did with DGD!). The goal is to produce a new model based on experimental observation - measurement, if you will. The hypothesis just determines the direction we head out in, not what we will ultimately find. But this hypothesis is currently incomplete.
Having now identified that coming up with a suite of instruments for DGD2 research is too large a problem to be solved in a single step, it follows, therefore, that I should either choose one skill set and attempt to produce an instrument to "detect" it (or to detect enjoyment in people employing it), or I should choose some element of play, determine an instrument to "detect" it, and then produce a hypothesis as to the expected results in the context of the model I already have.
And this is roughly as far as I have managed to come. I need tools to measure play, and I believe it may be possible by constructing mini-games or micro-games (a la Warioware). But I still need a more solid framework before I can design these games, or find partners (academic or commercial) to realise the instrumentation.
Perhaps part of my problem is the attempt to produce these games in isolation, and in fact I would do better to choose existing games and to produce instruments that detect different play inside the same game (which could be done with observational metrics). Perhaps my problem is continuing to work with Temperament Theory, and I would do better to give up the model I have (despite it's apparent utility) and try another approach. However, since I find the subjective instruments of Temperament Theory to be useful, and they are validated to some degree by the capacity for other people using the same model to communicate meaningfully with me, it seems a shame to give up the map that I have, before having a means to build a new map.
Whatever the reason, I am currently stalled, and can find no obvious way to proceed. I continue to think about the problems at great length, but the brutal truth is I may be stuck like apocryphal Newton under the tree, waiting for a clue to hit me over the head.