University of Art and Design Helsinki
Interaction Design Collegium
Chalmers University of Technology & Göteborg University
In GDTW2007 Proceedings
Fifth International Game Design and Technology Workshop and Conference
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
14–15 November 2007
This paper explores how games can be designed to make the social networks of characters as part of the gameplay. We start with a premise that game characters and social relations between them are import in games. We examine several games and derive gameplay design patterns from those games. Models from social network analysis, actor-network theory and Egri’s model for dramatic conflict is used to focus the analysis. In addition to isolating design patterns from existing features of the games, we look situations where game structures do not support social networks or conflicts as proposed in above-mentioned theories. Patterns identified include Competing for Attention, Gain Allies, Social Dilemma, Internal Conflict, and Social Maintenance.
Gameplay Design Patterns, Gameplay, Narration, Non-player Character, Computer Games, Gameplay Design
As social creatures, humans easier to engage in a game and narration when characters portrayed in these have social relations to each other, or in other words that the relations between characters form a social network. This is common knowledge within scriptwriting theories for theatre and film (see, e.g., [6, 7, 17, 19]), and these theories are also applied to creating games. However, social relations in games are typically part of the storyline (see, e.g., Thief II: The Metal Age , Dead or Alive 3 , Silent Hill 3 , and Half-Life ) and games typically do not let players directly act to influences those relations, instead letting them be consequences of other (most commonly physical) actions that are shown through cut-scenes. One example of this can be found in Quake 4  where the relation between the player character, Matthew Kane, and the other characters in the Rhino squad are only changed in the cut scenes. No possibilities to do so are available during gameplay, including making it impossible for the player to terminating the relationship by killing the other team members. When players are given direct choices to influence the relationship this is typically done as explicit choices between a limited set of alternatives, and the effects of these are localized and seldom have the complexity of nuances of real social relationships, including how one change in a relationship can propagate through a whole network. Although these limitations typically make sense from gameplay or storytelling point of views, we think that the above-mentioned ways limits the design space of games, and having further alternatives would expand the expressive design space of games.