Player Character Engagement in Computer Games

My article  Player Character Engagement in Computer Games came out. Here is the abstract:

This article argues how players can control a player character influence interpretation and facilitate engagement within a game. Engagement with player characters can be goal-related or empathic, where goal-related engagement depends on affects elicited by goal-status evaluations whereas characters facilitate empathic engagement. The concepts of recognition, alignment, and allegiance are used to describe how engagement is structured in games. Recognition describes aspects of character interpretation. Alignment describes what kind of access players have to a character’s actions, knowledge, and affects. Allegiance describes how characters elicit sympathy or antipathy through positive or negative evaluation of the character.

Keywords: game characters, player character, engagement, empathy, goals

Games and Culture July 2011 vol. 6 no. 4 291-311, doi: 10.1177/1555412010391088

Character-Driven Game Design & Lies and Seductions

Lies and Seductions

The game can be downloaded for free at http://www.liesandseductions.com or get with the Character-Driven Game Design. OSX and Windows versions available. Works also in Linux via Wine.

Lies and Seductions is a single player game about seduction, lies, and betrayal.

Are you able to guide Abby to seduce a rock star, Chris, promised to stay virgin untill marriage? In order to success you need to gather dirty little secrets, use those secrets in your advantage, and make an impression on Chris.

Features:

  • four seduceable characters
  • flirt, mislied, eavesdrop, and pump information
  • persuade characters to help you to reach the goal
  • play Texas hold’em poker
  • dance to impress
  • non-player characters forms opionnions based on your choices they perceive
  • three different endings

Character-Driven Game Design: A Design Approach and Its Bases In Character Engagement

| Buy the book | Free PDF |

Back cover says:

In the Character-Driven Game Design, Petri Lankoski presents a theory that illuminates how game characters contribute to shaping the playing experience. Based on this theory he provides design tools for character-based games which utilize methods and theories derived from dramatic writing and game research.

“The use of Lajos Egri’s bone structure for a three dimensional-character and of Murray Smith’s three levels of imaginative engagement with characters allows the candidate to expose the full complexity of the imaginary persons represented and controlled in a single-player game. What makes his design-center approach even more interesting is that gameplay is an integral part of it.”
Bernard Perron, Associate Professor, Université de Montréal

“Lankoski does a great job laying out the theory of primary interest to him, and making the case for the need to tether character design to game design more tightly than has been the case in the past. Certainly, too, putting attention to social networks of characters and finding useful design patterns to guide this level of game design is also of great value, and underexplored in the field.”
Katherine Isbister, Associate Professor, Polytechnic Institute of New York University

CONTENTS

List of Publications9
Acknowledgements10
Introduction11
– Characters as Facilitators of the Playing Experience?12
– The Context of This Study13
– Game Design14
– Game Research15
– Cognitive Sciences and Film Studies drawing on Cognitive Sciences16
– Dramatic Writing for Theatre and Film17
– Goals18
– Methods18
– Qualitative Analysis19
– Gameplay Design Patterns19
– Structure of This Thesis20
Game Characters21
– Understanding Other People21
– Mimicry and Empathy22
– Person Schema22
– Player Characters23
Game and Gameplay Design29
– Game Design Approaches29
– Game Design and Character Design30
– Missing Link: From Character Design to Gameplay Design33
Character Engagement and Game Design35
– Characters in Computer Games: Toward Understanding Interpretation and Design35
– Player Character Engagement in Computer Games35
– Gameplay Design Patterns for Believable Non-Player Characters36
– Gameplay Design Patterns for Social Networks and Conflicts37
– Lies and Seductions38
– Character-Driven Game Design: Characters, Conflict, and Gameplay38
Conclusions41
– Characters and the Playing Experience41
– Game and Character Design44
– Concluding Remarks46
References47
Appendix 1: Research Material57
Appendix 2: Gameplay Design Patterns61
– Actions Have Social Consequences61
– Character Defining Actions62
– Detective Structure63
– Enforced Character Behavior64
– Faction64
– Information Passing65
– Internal Conflict66
– Internal Rivalry67
– Loyalty67
– Melodramatic Structure68
– Outcast69
– Player-Designed Character70
– Social Gatekeeper70
– Social Maintenance71
– Social Norms71
– Traitor72
– Trait Regulated Behavior73
– References74
Appendix 3: Lies and Seductions Credits75
Articles
– Article 176
– Article 292
– Article 3116
– Article 4132
– Article 5156
– Article 6162
Abstract182

Lectio Praecursoria 12.5.2010

Introductory speech at my defense:

Honoured Custos, honoured opponent, ladies and gentlemen.

My research is about designing single player character-based computer games.

With character-based games, I mean games such as Thief II: The Metal Age, Fahrenheit, Ico, and Half-Life.

From the design point of view the player character, the character controlled by a player, is the most important character in the character-based games. Game designer Steve Mereztky claims that “the element that is  most likely to leave a positive lasting impression on players are the primary character or characters“, because “humans are hard-wired to respond to other humans“. However, some researchers and game designers have been critical towards whether player characters can have personality at all, because the character is controlled by a player. It is argued that the presentation of the character is irrelevant, because it does not make one to play differently. I think that this is a simplistic view that overlooks how gameplay can guide interpretation and playing experience.

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Public Examination of my Doctoral Thesis at May 12

Academic dissertation to be presented for public examination with the permission of the Research Board of the Aalto University School of Art and Design Helsinki, in Sampo auditorium (Media Centre LUME), Hämeentie 135 C

on May 12th, 2010, at 12 noon.

MA Petri Lankoski “Character-Driven Game Design: A Design Approach and Its Foundations in Character Engagement”

Opponent: Phd Ian Bogost, Georgia Institute of Technology

Custos: Professor, DA Lily Díaz, School of Art and Design Helsinki

Welcome!

Character-Driven Game Design is Out

| Buy the book | Free PDF |

Updated 14.5.2010: Added download link.

Back cover says:

In the Character-Driven Game Design, Petri Lankoski presents a theory that illuminates how game characters contribute to shaping the playing experience. Based on this theory he provides design tools for character-based games which utilize methods and theories derived from dramatic writing and game research.

“The use of Lajos Egri’s bone structure for a three dimensional-character and of Murray Smith’s three levels of imaginative engagement with characters allows the candidate to expose the full complexity of the imaginary persons represented and controlled in a single-player game. What makes his design-center approach even more interesting is that gameplay is an integral part of it.”
Bernard Perron, Associate Professor, Université de Montréal

“Lankoski does a great job laying out the theory of primary interest to him, and making the case for the need to tether character design to game design more tightly than has been the case in the past. Certainly, too, putting attention to social networks of characters and finding useful design patterns to guide this level of game design is also of great value, and underexplored in the field.”
Katherine Isbister, Associate Professor, Polytechnic Institute of New York University

CONTENTS

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Building and Reconstructing Character. A Case Study of Silent Hill 3

This is old publication from 2005. The paper was presented at Changing Views: Worlds in Play Conference, Vancouver.

Proceedings of DiGRA 2005 Conference: Changing Views – Worlds in Play.
© 2005 Authors & Digital Games Research Association DiGRA. Personal and educational classroom use of this paper is allowed, commercial use requires specific permission from the author.

Petri Lankoski
Hypermedia Laboratory

ABSTRACT
Characters are in an important role in many games. A good player character is likely to leave good lasting impression about the game. It has been argued that creating the personality for a player character is problematic. However, there are multiple methods used in games to inform a player about the nature of a player character: predefined functions, goals, possible and impossible actions, and more traditional audiovisual means. In this paper the player character of Silent Hill 3 is analyzed using presented categorization. This paper shows that the classification is a useful analytic tool, but it needs to be developed further to include belongings and space as elements describing a player character. The categorization also highlights aspects that need to be addressed when designing player characters.
Keywords
Game characters, interpretation, computer games
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Characters in Computer Games: Toward Understanding Interpretation and Design

This is an old paper published in 2003 containing an early version of character recognition framework developed further for my thesis. This version contains some edits compared to version available in Digra Digital Library due to quick html conversion (no foot notes, tables are lists, etc.).

Presented at Level Up Conference Proceedings, Utrech: University of Utrech, November, 2003. A presented version is downloadable at digra digital library http://www.digra.org/dl/db/05087.10012.pdf, © Authors & DiGRA, 2003. Free for educational and research use; commercial use restricted and only by permission.

Petri Lankoski, Satu Heliö, Inger Ekman
Hypermedia Laboratory
University of Tampere

ABSTRACT
Interpretation of characters is a fundamental feature of human behavior. Even with
limited information available, people will assign personality – even to inanimate objects.
Characters in computer games will be attributed personality based on their appearance
and behavior. The interpretation of these characters affects the whole game experience.
Designing the protagonist character in computer games is different from the design of
static characters (e.g. film or literature), because the player’s actions will affect the
nature of the character. There are, however, many ways to control and guide the actions
of the protagonist and thus the character’s nature. By setting goals, scripting pre-
defined actions and choosing what kind of actions to implement, the game designer can
restrict the player’s freedom. This, together with the characterization of the character,
will affect the interpretation of the character.
Keywords
Characters, Design, Interpretation

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