Foundations of Gameplay

Sammanfattning: People in all known cultures play games and today digital gaming is an important leisure activity for hundreds of millions of people. At the same time game design has developed into a profession of its own. There are several practical game design guidelines and text books but they rarely manage to connect their findings into relevant areas of research such as psychology and design research. Understanding game design, both as an activity and as an end result of that activity, in a more profound way could alleviate this problem. The main goals of this thesis are to understand in a more profound way how to design games and based on that understanding develop frameworks and methods for aiding game design. By extending knowledge about game design can not only improve the quality of the end-products but also expand the potential design space even in unpredictable ways. Game design contains many sub-areas. Character, story, and environment design are integral parts of the current game development projects. The aim of this thesis, however, is to have a critical and exploratory look at structures of gameplay as design material. Gameplay is the interaction between the game rules, challenges, elements, and players.In one sense gameplay defines the game. The focus of the thesis is mainly analytical, although parts of the results are based on practical research through design activities. The thesis contributes to game research in three interralated ways: (1) An analytical contribution to understanding gameplay was done in the gameplay design patterns work. The patterns are described as an approach to both analyse existing games and aid in designing new games. The patterns describe recurrent gameplay and also analyse these structures from the design material point of view. (2) A theoretical study of basis for gameplay experiences was conducted through review of relevant models and theories in neuroaesthetics, cognitive and social psychology and game research. The framework offered in the thesis explains why certain gameplay structures are more recurrent based on defining gameplay as caricatures of intentional behaviour. (3) The game design patterns approach and research through design projects have contributed to the analysis of game design as an activity and practical guidelines for concrete design work in more specific areas of game design. The goals of this thesis are ambitious and many questions are left unanswered. Using the patterns approach in conjunction with game design and ideation methods is still in its infancy. The concept of gameplay as caricatures of intentional behaviour should be explored further, especially in conjunction with other theories and frameworks relevant for understanding gameplay experience such as user engagement, immersion, and presence. Empirical experiments validating or falsifying this view on gameplay would be valuable as further contributions to game research.

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