Posted in gaming, marketing

GDC09 Notes: Designing Engaging Relationships

GDC09 presentation by Scott Rigby at Immersyve
Powerpoint deck and white paper available at:

– Fun can have negative aspects – not always positive
– work involved, stress, etc – all can be fun

– Collecting Behaviorial Data (telemetry)
– Outcome based rather than Causal

– The underpants Gnome Dilemma (South Park reference)
– 3 part business plan
– Collect Underpants
– Something
– Collect Profit
– We know that if we make the game fun then people will love it, but what is the middle part – how do we ensure fun

– Motivational Research is happening at the academic level

– Player Experience of Need Satisfaction (PENS) Model
– Competence – to grow in skill
– Autonomy – experience personal agency/choice
– Relatedness – meaningful connection to other players – real or NPC

– Just tracking fun is not an indicator of retention – using PENS is better
– long term and short term (they had data from their study to back claim)

– efficiency, growth, mastery
– High intention to outcome ratio
– Mastery in Moment-to-monent gameplay
– getting good feedback in wins and loses
– granular, sustained, cumulative
– w/i session, w/i game, global
– guitar hero is a good example of this
– Rewards
– not just happy things, but also info to get better works well as a reward
– Challenge
– stretch, don’t overwhelm
– watch for boring and anxiety extremes
– sustained challenge is high on fun, but low on PENS
– player gets exhausted if challenge is sustained too long
– being able to express mastery is key
– Shaming is not helpful

– sense of personal agency or volition
– I am the cause of my actions, not the game design
– Opportunities for Action (OFA)
– Interactive opportunities x Possible Actions = OFA
– Not about creating more, but about perceived opportunity
– density of choice
– Make sure schemas are met
– If in other situations things work a certain way, make sure that it consistent
– in one game when you shoot at a box on the wall it explodes, but in another level the box is just a texture on the wall and does nothing when shot
– player is reminded of his place in the game at that point and enjoyment decreases

– connected/mattering to other people, either real or NPC
– Give positive contextual feedback – especially in the case of NPC, don’t make them just filler
– Random dialogue and serious attitude in NPCs is demotivating to players

– Ask questions during game design phase
– How will overall or specific game play satisfy needs?
– Can I satisfy multiple needs simultaneously?
– Heat Maps in Game
– Push Short Surveys in game in different areas to gauge what needs are being met or not in what areas of the world

These concepts were found to be fundamental – across geography, age and game genre



Joi Podgorny has spent the better part of the past 2 decades working on the bleeding edge of the technology and entertainment industries, from content/brand development and production to leading international support, moderation, community and social teams. Most recently, Joi founded Good People Collective, a consulting agency focused on helping companies and organizations establish, assess and pivot their internal and external cultures to help maximize their potential. She and her team are currently working on an exciting new software project, combining corporate training and virtual reality.

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