Exploring the Design of Game Enjoyment Through the Perspectives of Novice Game Developers

Exploring the Design of Game Enjoyment Through the Perspectives of Novice Game Developers

Fengfeng Ke, Nilay Yildirim, Jacob Enfield
DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2012100104
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In this collaborative research, the authors explored the ways in which novice game designers utilize strategies and methods to promote player enjoyment. Adopting the GameFlow model and an exploratory survey, this study examined the perceptions of the 2011 Global Game Jammers at three different sites in regards to designing games that result in player enjoyment. The results of the study were consistent with the findings of the current literature on game enjoyment, and insinuated the notion of interconnected relationships between each GameFlow element. The study also suggested the existence of five latent groups of novice game designers who differed in their preference or perceived importance of game enjoyment elements. Lastly, there appeared to be an association between individual characteristics and perceptions of game flow design elements among novice game designers.
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Theoretical Framework

Providing an enjoyable experience for players is one of the utmost important goals of video games (Sweetser & Wyeth, 2005). Player or game enjoyment is a multidimensional construct, comprising not only the joy of playing but also the sense of satisfaction after tackling challenges and competitions in the game (Lazzaro, 2005). Klimmit (2003) has argued that player or game enjoyment can be determined by elements at three levels: (1) input and feedback loops between the player and the game as a result of the interactivity of digital games (Garris, Ahlers, & Driskell, 2002), (2) cyclic feelings of suspense-relief and increased self-esteem, and (3) the facilitation or experience of perceived alternative reality in the gaming world (e.g., immersion or presence). After reviewing the previous theoretical and empirical research on enjoyment of digital games based on Klimmit’s three-level conceptual model, Wang, Shen, & Ritterfeld (2009) argued that the flow theory by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) is the most credible framework to depict Klimmit’s third and highest level of game enjoyment – immersion or presence.

Flow state, a term created by Csikszentmihalyi (1990), indicates that an activity can generate an enjoyable, immersive experience in which people are in a state of flow. Flow can be characterized by “focused concentration, loss of self-consciousness, a sense that one is in control of the situation, distortion of temporal experience, and the experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding” (Sherry, 2004, p. 336). Being in a flow-like state for gamers equates to being deeply engrossed and immersed in the gameplay. As a popular phenomenon, “immersive gameplay” has been at the center of all the conversations related to the concepts of fun, engagement, motivation, and entertainment (Becker, 2006).

Although the importance of player enjoyment through immersive gameplay is commonly mentioned and discussed (Garris, et al., 2002; Koster, 2005), there is a lack of well-structured design models that provide comprehensive directions on how to design for player enjoyment in games. Game researchers Sweetser and Wyeth (2005) take the flow theory as a foundation to develop a design model of player enjoyment in games - the GameFlow model. The GameFlow model comprises eight essential elements that can be used to design and evaluate the flow state afforded by games: concentration, challenge, skills, control, clear goals, feedback, immersion, and social interaction.

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