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Invited OS  GD PD

About Player Self-Expression in Gaming

August 31 (Tue) 16:30 - 17:30
Session (60min.)
Expected Skill

Ideally they have thought about the player experience during gameplay, and the balance between designer authorial control and player driven behaviors. But not necessary.

Ideas Take Away

This is a talk about possible future directions for design. While it pushes on specific things that can be done, it is still primarily conceptual, as attendees will be given many examples of how these ideas have been approached in the past and could be approached differently in the future.

Video games are unique among art and entertainment forms because of the interaction between the game and the player. This ability to react to the player's actions gives us the gameplay that's the hallmark of our form, things like shooting down the space invader, going left or right in a maze, avoiding or engaging a foe, deciding what weapon to use, or even choosing an option in a dialog.
But what can a player express with these actions? Games tend to focus on learning and mastery over a series of challenges to achieve a pre-defined goal. This emphasis on learning and mastery can end up neglecting player expression; the player can perhaps express some stylistic approach, like what type of weapon to use, but not much more.
We rarely design games to amplify the player's expression and unique play experience, and instead concentrate on tight feedback loops supporting the game's primary goals. As games have reached new levels of fidelity we are creating richer experiences in more varied environments, but in supporting this fidelity, designers are often constraining and explicitly leading the player. This guidance provides additional intensity and more "movie-like" moments, but it betrays much of the potential games have.
I believe more expression and more uniquely player-focused experiences will provide stronger and more sustained levels of engagement. What design choices can we make to allow players to express more, without losing the ability to generate compelling experiences? This talk will look at a range of examples, discuss design choices and their implications for the players ability to express, and articulate how this player focus will boost players' involvement in our games.

* The session contents are based on the information provided by the speakers.

  • Doug Church

    Nomadic game designer, programmer and producer

    Doug Church is an Nomadic game designer, programmer and producer. In the 90's he was part of teams that built some early PC first person action/role-playing games, such as Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief. In the 00's he ended up working on smaller parts of several projects, including Deus Ex, Tomb Raider Legend, Boom Blox, and others. These days he is consulting on a range of game projects. He also has been involved in the Game Developers Conference, IGDA Education Committee, and various misguided cooking experiments.