Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Multi.player 2011 - Richard Bartle Keynote

Presentation at multi.player 2011 by Richard Bartle. Keynote speaker, so no abstract in the handout.

Richard Bartle started out from a designer's viewpoint, looking at what people might want from games, because if we knew what they want we'd know what better meant and how to achieve better games.

He claims that the current genre of social games are barely social and barely games - barely social because you don't have any shared immersive space to socialise within the games (which means the communication happens outside of the game) and barely games because you can't win them. I guess that seems pretty reasonable, although in the case of games like Farmville where the communication takes place via Facebook, I would question where the game ends. Is Facebook (as the framework that the game is part of) a part of the game? I don't feel it's very social, yet it seem to be a good way to bug a lot of your friends so it does offer some interaction. As far as the winning goes, that harks back to Jesper Juul and how the classical model of a game has been tweaked. Is it possible to lose at Farmville? Can you win at Space Invaders? Only by beating an opponent or your previous scores I would guess. I may come back to this idea.

He went on to talk about his 4-type player model, only briefly discussing the extended 8-type version. He was basically talking about all the attempts to apply it that he'd seen, and how he felt they misused or misunderstood the model.

His model was developed with a very limited criteria in mind: it only applied to people who play for fun, not (for example) researchers or gold farmers who have very different motivations for playing. I guess that would also exclude professional players? This harks back to some of the problems with defining games - pro-players are often seen to break the model of games having no real-world outcomes.

Bartle also found fault with experimental design, where people had decided to look for his four player types and designed the experiment in such a way that only information that supported the theory would be captured. He said in these cases it wasn't surprising to find that the theory was supported, even if a different theory would actually have accounted for the differences better. That is a problem that Tuckman found in his 1977 review of the literature of social groups. Sociologists had a clear idea of what they were looking for and discounted information that didn't fit their theory.

A good warm-up act!

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