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Searching for a specific game theory about basic interaction

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Hi everyone,

 

some time ago I had a very nice chat with someone who studied game design. We talked about theory and I asked him if there were any standard works, books about game theory that are a must read. He said they did not use those at his college but he did explain that there was one basic theory that was central to all design. I can't remember the name of the theory (or whether it had a formal name) but it ran something like this:

 

Interaction works in cycles. Every cycle consists of three phases:

 

- Presentation: give the player/person a choice to do something

- Action: the player/person takes the action

- Reward: there is some kind of reward for the action

 

He argued that you can break down most things (including games) into this, and it can help you to figure out why people do stuff, and how you can make your games better.

 

I've been googling for this, but have not found any specific game theory results. Perhaps it is more behavioral psychology, but it seems very relevant to games. So I was hoping someone would recognize this theory and could point me in the right direction.

 

Cheers!

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I don't think that there's any particular name for the theory. It's pretty much the general view of interactive game "science", if you could call it that. Maybe this might help:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1524/

In fact, a lot of the articles posted on Lost Garden deal with this very topic. You should check them out.

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We talked about theory and I asked him if there were any standard works, books about game theory that are a must read.
 
Game Theory has a different meaning from what you are using it for. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory
 
You mean Game Studies or Gaming Theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_studies (quite a few references to nice papers in there too)

Interaction works in cycles. Every cycle consists of three phases:
 
- Presentation: give the player/person a choice to do something
- Action: the player/person takes the action
- Reward: there is some kind of reward for the action
 
He argued that you can break down most things (including games) into this, and it can help you to figure out why people do stuff, and how you can make your games better.

You could be referring to the "skinner box" way of thinking about game design: http://winterfate.hubpages.com/hub/Skinners-Box-and-Video-Games

Summary of the skinner box game design: players are like mouse in a box with a button that dispense food (randomly is most effective). The mouse is driven to push the button because of the reward for the action.

Be careful about adopting this philosophy. It is the "dark side" of game design. Ref Farmville and grind-fest MMOs.

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Todd Howard talks about some of that stuff in this video

 

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But as far as "how we do our games" talks go, that may be just an "idealized" vision about what he does rather than actual methodology for designing games.

Edited by TheChubu

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Thx for all the tips and links, took me a while to pore through them but it was fun! Especially looking for the right video in Extra Creditz's...

All in all, most articles are similar but not exactly what I was looking for (but still good, so I'm thankful for them). CulDeVu, the article you referenced (Chemistry of game design), comes closest to what I am looking for and is an interesting read. I'm not sure I buy the 'gameplay = learning' as an end-all concept but the material is surely useful.

Skinners box application to games is coming close, but I think there is more to it than just the negative 'grindstyle' implementation. All games must be Skinner boxes at some level because we would not do anything if it wasn't rewarding. It all depends on what question you want answered. Instead of 'how can I make players play longer' you could also use it to try to answer 'how can I make players be more engaged'. The person I got the theory from mentioned something about 'pathing' (not sure it was exactly that word) to describe the way you get players in stage 1. (Presentation) to understand which actions they can take.

Anyway thx again, I'm going to stock up on my general knowledge of 'Game Studies or Gaming Theory' smile.png

Edited by Verik

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