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Game Design Reader

The book "Game Design Reader" of 2006, gives us a great information by collecting the theories, knowledge and experiences of different actors. In order to develop a good videogame, the proposed theories will be understood and the most relevant chapters will be compiled for the project, as well as the key elements that will be involved in the development of the videogame.

The player experience

In this chapter we will focus on the different reasons why a player is interested in playing a video game. This is how we will seek to understand and understand the variety of psychological or physiological experiences that a player can experience when playing, we will see how the mechanics affect the behavior of the player and what is aesthetically the pleasure of the player.


We started with David Sudnow's in his 1983 text "Eyeball and Cathexis", which focuses on the actions and reactions that the player experiences within the game. The moment in which the player executes a certain action generates a reaction, and is the element by which a player is interested in the game, in order to discover and enjoy the interactions that they generate with each other. On the other hand, Richard Rouse makes an analysis of the game "Centipede" of 1981, and from which he manages to extract that, the pleasure that this game is centered on how the mechanics manage to create different waves of enemies allowing the game to have an increase of progressive tension. This type of mechanics allows the player to experience drama and tension that is not random, but is controlled by the same game. It is in this last section in which Marc LeBlanc in his essay "Tools for creating a dramatic game dynamics" of 1996, teaches us how we can create games that capture our audience through the dynamics of games since depending on how they behave the game, it will be this that determines how the player feels. LeBlanc recommends that the designer be in control to determine the dramatic quality of the game and the gaming experience it produces. Being able to understand how to generate in the player sensations of fun, is the biggest challenge facing a game designer.
The drama and all the visceral engagement that generates the experience of playing is just some of the experiences related to the games, Tom Chick in 1998, who makes a review of the computer action game DOOM 3 exposes us in his essay that in addition to the traditional elements that constitute the player's experience, there are other factors that are also part of the player's experience and are external elements to which the game's programming refers. In this review shows how there are players waiting for hours in a row with the sole intention of getting the game, and although in the review of DOOM 3 points to the game as a great failure, it also teaches us that the player's experience it exists long before the launch of the game and this experience is fed by the player when reliving or dreaming of unmemorable hours of play, reading articles, looking for information are concrete situations in which the player is building his own experience.


In order to explore more deeply about the experiences of the players Roger Caillois in his text "Definition of Play: The Classification of Games" (1961), he identifies four game rubrics, each one based on the different types of pleasure of a player. . The pleasure of competitiveness is the feeling obtained by the superiority that the player feels when completing a personal or game achievement. The pleasure of change that is focused on how the player discovers and how the player is tied to a destination. The pleasure of making things reality is the pleasure of pretending to be someone else and finally there is the pleasure of vertigo which is focused on the physical sensation generated by the game. Caillois does not determine what kind of pleasure is bigger, but they are elements that allow a control the way in which a game can be developed.
Finally, in the text he invites to see the player as another variable within his own experience, as Richard Bartle puts it in his essay "Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades Who Siut MUDs" (2002), in which he presents us four types of players who also feel pleasure for different elements. Those focused on achievements are all those players who are proud of their status and how good or efficient they are to overcome a game. Scouts are those who have a great knowledge of game mechanics. The socializers, who find their satisfaction in creating a communication and being able to share related elements of the game with other people. And finally the murderers who are proud of their combat skills. In addition to the type of players, there is another important variable to consider as Henry Jenkins explains in his essay "Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Game as Gendered Play Spaces" of 1998, in which he is focused on exalting how the difference of gender determines the pleasure that each player experiences and how games that are interesting for one genre are not necessarily for the other.
(Tekinbaş & Zimmerman, The Game Design Reader, 2005, ppg. 3-8)

Game Rules

In this chapter you will understand what the rules are and how they affect both the game and the player. First it must be understood that without rules there would be no games, it is a basic rule for every game to exist and a game is nothing more than a set of rules. For the philosopher Bernard Suits the rules are the elements that make the act of playing possible, in his book "Grasshopper: Game, Life and Utopia" (2005), he says that to play is the simple fact of following the rules since these are the responsible for telling the player what he can and can not do to achieve his goal. The rules then are the element that defines the way in which a player will play in the game. Additionally, Suits argues that the rules are the element that give reason and meaning to the game and that these are linked to achieve the goal or end of the game.

Equally Greg Costikyan makes an approach to what are the rules in his essay "I have No Words & I Must Design" (2002), which is an expanded version of what Suits said. Costikyan focuses on defining the rules to explain how they interact or affect the player's experience through aspects of the game and the strategies to develop them. Costikyan exposes how the player confronts the rules that are found in the game or the rules that have been imposed in that space by the creator of the game. It is important the analysis generated by the player in relation to these rules, because it is he who decides to accept them or not, as well as these will affect their gaming experience. The player will then decide which action is the next to take and what decisions he must make in order to achieve his goal. It is now when you can understand that although the rules work to create an objective, it is these that depend on the decisions that the player makes so that this objective is fulfilled. Costikyan suggests that a game can have more meaning for the player when the rules that govern his world multiply the resources or interactions existing in the game. This is how the more resources present a game, the decisions that the player will make will be more complex, because in this way there will be more factors that the player must take into account in order to make the best decision, reaching interesting decisions and "the Interesting decisions make interesting games "argues Costikyan. It also states that interesting decisions emerge from the complex relationship between rules and interactions in which the player must overcome a difficulty, all this is possible only through a careful design of rules. In order to deepen this function and shape of the games, we use Staffan Bjork and Jussi Holopainen, who make a detailed explanation in "Games and Design Patterns" (2014). This text explains how the rules are an element that not only governs and determines the parameters of the game, but it is an element that is constantly interacting and evolving with the dynamics established by both the game and the player. This is how these two authors determine that the rules are intertwined in a network of structural relationships with other elements of the game, such as objectives and sub objectives. These rules allow generating actions by the player and as a result the game events are generated. The rules according to Bjork and Holopainen are the material with which the designer can create the game.


However, from the point of view of Stephen Sniderman in his essay "Unwritten Rules" (1999), we can see the official rules constitute only a part of what the game is, since there are other types of rules. This other type of rules are focused on determining or controlling the behavior of the player with regard to the dynamics of the game in order to play. These rules are never explicit, but the player accepts them and respects them. and that in summary accounts is something that Bernand Suits calls "consecutive rules" or consecutive rules. These are the logical rules for playing and are focused on the cultural notion of what playing means. For Sniderman a game is fundamentally a social contract in which the rules are related to the real context that surrounds them.(Tekinbaş & Zimmerman, The Game Design Reader, 2005, ppg. 9-14)


This chapter is focused on the different levels of immersion, in which a player stops being the person behind a screen, to become that character and thus experience all the adventures, misfortunes and passions. The relationship between the character and the player is extremely complex and revolves around identity. Regardless of factors such as controls, the various menus to start the game or the simple fact of the appearance that our character may have, all these factors do not prevent or limit that the player can appropriate the identity of that character, this relationship being unique, which can not be compared to other media such as television, cinema, theater or even books.

Understanding how players can absorb the identity of the character and how the player experiences the different levels of this relationship in a psychological and emotional cognitive way, allows designers to have the ability to create relationships that produce a greater degree of depth and achieve a catch during the game. These problems are developed by Roger Caillois in "The definition of play: the Classification og Games" (1961), in which he talks about the complex degree of imitation that the player engages with the character and how they really become the character in The moment they are caught by the game. The games not only allow the player to be someone else, but in addition to doing so also motivate and increase the degree of transformation of other players. On the other hand, Gregogry Batenson expands on "A Theory of Play and Fantasy" (1987), expressed by Caillois. Batenson, in addition to talking about the player, also involves the spectator and describes what he calls metacommunication. Process in which a spectator alien to the game, but close to a player, validates the degree of immersion and transformation of the player by accepting their actions as an element that is part of the action of playing, which, although they are not real and are not validated As real both the player and the viewer enter into dialogue raised by the game.

Engagement in games does not occur by random elements, but it depends on Immersion and Mediation, Michael Mateas and Andre Sten, based on the narrative theories of Janet Murray (2000) discuss the relationship between Mediation and Immersion. The first is determined as the ability of the player to perform actions that are transcendental in a fictional world. The Immersion is described as the degree of involvement that the player presents with the narrative environment and how he accepts and experiences the logic of this new world. "The predisposition of the player to disengage from the real world allows the player to gain the ability to enter into a character and make transcendental decisions through their mediation." Mateas and Stern emphasize that designers must find the balance between mediation and immersion, allowing the player to passively accept this new world but actively interact with it so that history can advance.
When metacommunication mediation and immersion come together, the result is a fusion of identity between the character and the player. This element is clearly evidenced in the RPG, in Spanish Games of Roles or by acronyms in English Role-Playing Games. In these games, the player literally assumes the identity of the character in order to perform correctly in the narrative environment of the character. Gary Allen Fine in "Frames and Games" exposes the three models of player identity: First the person: the social being of the real world defined by external elements. Then, the player: the participant as someone who plays. Finally, the character: fictional character represented by a player through the mechanics of the game. The relationship between character and player is complicated to study, being the players that really determine all the elements and are those that determine the degree of engagement in relation to reality and fiction. (Tekinbaş & Zimmerman, The Game Design Reader, 2005, pp. 27-32)

Game Economies

"The best way to make the decisions that the players make is significant is by giving the players some kind of resource for them to administer. These resources can be from tangible elements to more abstract elements such as the love of a woman "(Costikyan, 1986)

The word economy does not necessarily refer to the currency, but also to any element that can be collected within a game. An economy in a game is a set of elements that depend on the actions of the player, be these actions of winning or losing, exchanging or discovering different objects. When thinking about the systems of the economies of a game, you should think about how to mask them and at the same time the way players interact with them. Among the most important questions, one must consider how conscientious is the player of the economic system that governs the game. The game mechanics will have a direct impact on the experience and the way of operation of the economic system of the same, as well as its relationship with the external context.
Gambling economies

Richard Gatrfiel in his essay "The Design Evolution of Magic: The Gathering" (1993). Analyze the economy generated by the Magic card game. Magic is composed of a broad economy and which is based on a complex relationship between the different types of cards that can be collected, exchanged and played by different players. The objective of the game is to collect as many cards as possible, with the benefit that, in this way, the player will be able to create a powerful deck of cards that allows him to face other players. Collecting cards, creating and designing decks and dealing with duels are the elements that allow you to explore the economy of the game and which are actions that are determined by the interactions between the players. The economist Edward Castronova on the other hand studies the economy of the so-called virtual worlds or MMORPG that are multiplayer role-playing games. Castronova applies the economic theories to the MMORPG games when determining, for example, the GNP index or the conversion of the currency traded in the game with the real currencies. Thanks to his observations Castronova highlights three elements in which players interact and influence the economy of the game. The character as an identity element which must be personalized as to fulfill this purpose, the collection of interactions that my character can do with the world and finally the social status or the way other players recognize me.

This is how Richard Bartle in his essay "Why Players Suits MUDS" (MUDS or multiuser domains for its acronym in English) (1995), does not study virtual currencies, but instead studies the players and their relationship with the system. Bartle then identifies in this economy four types of roles that we have already explained: the murderer, the explorer, the socializer and the one who focuses on the achievements. These four roles are what move the economy of a game and allow it to survive or die. Bartle also identifies how to alter the economy depending on the relationships between these roles. To increase the number of people focused on the achievements it is necessary to diminish the murderers, and to decrease the number of murderers the number of explorers must be increased. To reduce the number of people focused on the achievements, it is necessary to increase the number of murderers, and to increase the number of murderers, the number of explorers must be reduced. These elements of cause and effect allow to see how the economic system of a game presents a structure interconnected by different elements of the player, as well as by the interactions as by their roles. Also these elements are independent of whether the currency is virtual or dynamic. (Tekinbaş & Zimmerman, The Game Design Reader, 2005, pp. 59-64)

Game and Communities

The behavior of the game is impossible to predict, players will always do things they were not supposed to do, break the rules and sometimes behave quite badly. But likewise players can be generous and share their knowledge with new players, create tools to help each other. All this happens without the need for rules that demand this from the players. This happens because players are an integral part of the game and they all share the desire to play. The players are the key to understanding how communities work and although it seems logical the communities are all different and you can not identify generalized behavior.


Entering a community of a game involves joining and sharing the social culture of the game, playing well means playing well together. Membership in a community requires that the player knows not only what the rules of the game allow, but also understands the "label" that exists between the players. For all beginners the most useful resource to enter a community is to observe the most veteran players and learn how they develop in the game. In "Virtual Worlds: A First-hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Forontier" (2001), Ed Castranova writes about his experience in EverQuest, there he studies the economics of Norrath proposed in 1998 that make part of the worlds of this MMORPG Castronova studies, through the behavior of the players and of the same, the true value and social meaning in Norrath. He discovers then that something that is quite remarkable to him, that Norrath is not simply an environment in which players gather and enjoy a social reward system, but that it is also the place that many players call home.

The community of a game in other words can transcend and go beyond a simple space in which a certain game develops, to become a human community with its own rights. F. Randall Farmer and Chip Morningstar in their case study "the Lessons of Lucasfilm`s Habitat" (1991), explore how in the Habitat game (a large game with multiplayer system) the players are able to converse with the others play together and go on missions, create businesses, collect and exchange elements and generate a wide range of social practices. Farmer and Morningstar focused their study on learning to build worlds, the most important lesson of Habitat, is that it is a game that was developed based more on the interactions that players can do than on the technology on which it was to be implemented. A community emerges from the relationship between people, places and activities. By designing a wide range of places and activities in the Habitad, the community was increased and fostered. A good community is achieved by understanding the elements of the game system acquire meaning and value for the participants.


In the end the communities can be reduced, increase and change in general, all this is determined by the type of players that are in that community, this power or right that players present on the communities, Raph Koster questioned in "A Declaration of the Rights of Avatars "(2003), the essay debates about who should have control over the rights of players. Koster, unlike Farmer and Morningstar, proposes a series of goals, rules and guidelines for both the design of the game and the behavior of the player, these guidelines must be transversal for the whole game. Finally, we recommend looking beyond the limits of the game when we consider the natures of the community. Linda Hughes, in her text "Beyond the Rules of the Game: Why Are Rooie Rules Nice?" (2004), tells us that the rules of the game are in constant negotiation and reinterpretation. This process is the frame of reference for the interaction of players and encompasses the social matrix of rights and obligations. (Tekinbaş & Zimmerman, The Game Design Reader, 2005, pg 3944

Game Design Proces

This chapter will discuss the design process, methodologies and protocols of development, decisions based on the results of testing the game and that allow generating new prototypes of games Renier Knizia game designer says that "The fun and excitement of playing can not be calculated in the abstract, it must be experienced "and that is why the game must be played as it is created. Knizia speaks to us from his experience in the creation of games, and one of his basic actions when developing a game is the fact of playing it. Through game sessions in which they focused on collecting data from specific points about the dynamics and interactions of the game. With this information the game was reconsidered to be played again and to continue evaluating both the changes made and the changes to be made, this procedure was repeated continuously for months or years.

"The inspiration of a game can come from anywhere," Salen and Simmerman say. As concrete case Chris Crawford in his game "Eastern Front", in which his early development did not generate what we consider as fun, but as something happens with all the games that are in this stage of development. Crawford then decided to make the appropriate adjustments to his game and for those I request the collaboration of the "playtesters" (people responsible for testing the games) to improve the game, however, in this element you have to be very careful with the feedback that you are people provide so that they really make sense with the process of the game. Crawford then decided to categorize the recommendations into corrections, additions, improvements and others. In this element it is important to understand the amount of information and improvements that you want to make regarding the game, since in many cases any correction and improvement, however simple, may take time. If you do not have a clear horizon of what you want with the project this can end in an infinite cycle to make corrections and improvements, causing the game never to come to light, that is why Crawford then decides which elements to take from the outside and that others de-end with their "sense of design". Another case of study is that of Richard Garfiel who exposes us in his text "The Game Design Evolution of Magic" in which he also wants to start creating a game, however, this designer starts from the paper and does not want the software. From his inspiration to the balance of rules and first prototypes to the final commercialization. Garfiel is focused on a design that is determined by what the game seeks to convey in terms of experience. Being able to build a game that allows you to feel the large size of the possibilities, is what allows Garfiel to survive among all the dilemmas that arise when creating a game. "Magic" was the first card game in which people won or exchanged cards for each game. The challenge for Garfield not only focused on generating the rules and key mechanics that would guide the game, but also in some moments he had to study the "economy" of the cards to assess how they affected the already established dynamics. Part of his work was delegated to the same players who acted with a control which established the parameters to generate a balance and therefore a correct operation of the game.

For other cases, in the development you can discover new elements for the game Half-Lfe by Ken Birdwell, this game like Crawford's was not entertaining. In his experience, Bridwell does not talk about how the game, after several months of development was not entertaining and although there were several useful elements for this purpose, in general, as a whole and as a whole the result was not what was expected. It was then when it was decided that it was time to start from the beginning and remake the whole game. The development team then had to generate new forms and new processes for what was involved in the design of games, which they called the "cabal" process, in which the team generated its own theories of games. Additionally, they developed specific objectives to unite people, regardless of the differences they had regarding the direction the game should take. The result of this whole process was the decentralization of the development of the game. This element allowed each director or area manager of one aspect of the game to have the flexibility and autonomy to make his contributions and be part of that game design and in such a way that was centered on a single individual

Game Design Models

There are different models in everyday life, such as the model of the solar system among many that does not always have to be tangible. Video game designers create systems, some more complex. These systems are integrated by multiple elements and among more elements the system is more complex and it is for this reason that the models in video games are so important. The models are abstract representations that allow us to represent in a simplified way, some element of the particular game system that we want to evaluate, allowing the designer to focus their attention on that particular element.

The game designer Doug Church in his essay "Formal Abstract Design Tools" of a model that could be considered as "A toolkit that allows the designer to understand his own vision of the game or detail the way in which our games operate". Church develops a model that has been formalized in a set of ideas and methods, which address the essential aspects of games. This model provides three tools that serve the designer to analyze the game. These tools or concepts are defined by: Intention, perceptible consequences and history. On the other hand, game theory gives us a different approach that starts from the well-known "prisoner's dilemma". While Church's model simply focuses on complexity from computation and video games, game theory takes a reverse approach by simplifying the model into two players and taking their analysis to a great level of detail.

The theory of games can be considered as a model of video game design to some extent. On the one hand, this theory has not been developed to be applied in video games and the games or scenarios that they propose are not really fun. However, game theory is very useful to analyze certain decisions of the players. It is the great capacity for detail and analysis provided by this model that reminds us that in the vast majority of cases the key to balancing a game comes from mathematical elements. Stalfan Björk and Jussin Holopainen are two writers who have incorporated both the spirit of game theory, and the study of pattern design by Chritopher Alexander, to generate the concept of "video game pattern design". Björk and Holopainen propose that this concept can be used to: identify and classify videogames, analyze the way they work, diagnose problems in the design process and solve these problems. One of these patterns is to "produce and consume", which contemplates how the resources of a game whether they are elaborated by the system or by the player will be "consumed" in the moment of the game by another element of the game or by the same player. These game patterns are the best examples for the abstract model proposed by Church with its design tools.

The biggest challenge in creating a video game design model is to be able to conceptualize games on a more simple abstract level while at the same time providing more information to solve a design problem.

Games and Narrative

Throughout the development of the videogame industry the debate has been generated as to whether videogames really generate some kind of historiography or narrative, the truth is that they do, but there are different points of view among the different authors who focus in specific points of the narrative. For LeBlanc the dramatic arc model (climax climax conflict) is the basis for building drama in games. LeBlanc's dramatic arc is a model of the behavior of the game, in which dramatic tension is defined by "an amount that can be accumulated and dissipated, increased and diminished over time". Although the dramatic tension can not be measured, the game can be developed so that it increases or decreases its value at different times, by manipulating the uncertain and the inevitable.


Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern again show us a new form of narrative called in-teraction and narrative, from their work "Interactive Drama, Art and Artificial Intelligence" Mateas and Stern plan a drama that is interactive and based on natural recognition. They, beyond looking to create and control every aspect of the narrative, are more interested in designing an emergent narrative generated by the player. "A rich construction in which each player controls their own narrative or groups of players can engage in the social generation of narrative constructions". In "Game Design as Narrative Architecture" Henry Jenkins focuses on the realm of spatiality, thus connecting the games with the historical tradition of space-centered narration. Henrry defines four ways of approaching the creation of an inversion narrative: stories based on space, can evoke pre-existing narrative associations (evocative space) can provide a basis for presenting a narrative event (stories presented) can develop narrative information thanks to its staging (development of narrative lives) or providing resources for emergent narrative (emerging narratives).

On the other hand, Gary Alan Fine in his essay "Frames and Games" focuses on the complex realm of role plays. In the RPGs are purely narrative, as players interact with the world helping to build and maintain it. A creator of RPG games has a great task in creating a narrative that fits perfectly with this fantastic world and that in turn can respond actively depending on the actions of the players. Develop narratives from episodes, in these cases, allow them to be flexible and can present changes, in addition to that, contemplate the emerging possibilities and allows everyone to engage in this process. In order to develop them, it is essential to have a great knowledge of the rules of the game, its mechanics, the dramatic structure, especially the ability to predict the player's behavior. Fine focuses on the player's actions and their interaction with their environment, as the basic element for the development of the narrative. To achieve this it is necessary to understand the identity of the player and his relationship with the character in the game. It is understood the player with an individual of three stages in which he handles different types of information, the person, the player and the character, this generates a confusion when making decisions and performing actions in the game since each stage of the individual It has a different way of doing things. It is then determined that the narrative maintenance is determined by the player's ability to handle the different stages.

Play the game

"If you can not play it, change it. If it helps, cheat. "- Bernard DeKoven. (if you can not play, change it, if cheating help, do it)

There are different ways to play and for that reason the rules can be affected by this. The rules of the game are designed as a technical element of how the game should be played, however, the player can creatively find other ways in which he can play. I have interacted with the game in a different way, which generates another type of rules, and making them the true rules of the game. In this chapter we will see how the theory differs from the practice and how all the ecosystem that was raised in the design table varies when the player faces the game. In Stephen Sniderman's essay a distinction is made between what are the explicit rules, which would be the specific rules of the game, and the implicit rules that are all those that are generated to be able to play and that in a certain way fill the empty that the explicit rules leave, by not containing all cases and variables in which a player can play a game. Thanks to the fact that this set of rules exists, it allows each player to take the game more serious or less serious, regardless of the context in which he finds himself. Additionally this set of implicit rules exists as a result of the appropriation of the game by the players and these are respected thanks to the social relationship that the players create in relation to the game.

The game as a social contract is the one that Linda Hughes studies, in her text "Beyond the Rules of the Game: Why Are Rooie Rules Nice?". Hughes offers us a difference between the rules and the rules of play. In his study Hughes discovers how children generate rules to maintain the relationship and coexistence on the playing field. These rules do not intervene directly in the actions of the game, but are focused on generating guidelines for social interaction. This is how we can see the "play community" exhibited by Bernard DeKoven in his essay "Changing the Game". Dekoven believes that the change in rules and social interaction is what generally "play properly" to play properly and strengthen the "play Communitys."

On the other hand, just as the rules are in constant change, the game and its objectives also do so. In the world of digital game you can observe different ways or methods to play the game. The players in this level understand better the system of the game than the same designer that created it, all this thanks to the different mechanisms that allow to explode the elements of the game. This information is obtained by the players when sharing tips and other resources online, that more than "cheat codes" (trap codes) the players are creating an information network in which they share with other players what they are capable of doing when change or modify the rules of the game. This is how the fact of playing is not only central in what constitutes the interaction of the player and the game, but also takes into account all the communities and groups that decide how to play the games they play.
In some cases, being able to anticipate the actions of how the players are going to play is a waste of time, especially in multiplayer games. In the essay "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat" by Randall Farmer and Chip Morningstar, it is expressed that the player never behaves in the way that the designer expects. It is in this essay the element that generates a new paradigm and determines that the fact of creating a game also involves the fact of playing them in their creation process.