The Psychology of Player Experience: Game Design Fundamentals | Jack Wakem | Skillshare

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The Psychology of Player Experience: Game Design Fundamentals

teacher avatar Jack Wakem, Video Game Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

4 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Why Do We Play Games?

    • 2. Entering the Mind of the Player

    • 3. The Pleasures Of Video Games

    • 4. Congratulations

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About This Class

Welcome to this course on the psychology of player experience. 

You will be learning the fundamentals of player psychology and how to use this as a game designer to maximize players enjoyment and retain your player base. 

This course is for all levels and professions in the video game industry. Whether you are an aspiring game designer or a master programmer, understanding how the player will react positively to your game is useful to all members of the development team at all stages in the project. 

So, be sure to join this class and learn how to appeal to your players and make your game one of the greats!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jack Wakem

Video Game Designer


Email: [email protected]

Discord: Alpenglow#1251

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1. Why Do We Play Games?: Why do we play video games? This is a crucial question to the gaming industry. What is the psychology in the motivation behind play? Well, in this lesson, we're gonna find out why. You see the answering of this question is crucial to creating wonderful, um, compelling and memorable experiences for the plow concept of plight used directly linked to human nature. Humans have been playing for thousands of years, and the K fundamentals are consistent. But the medium in which we present these plan has just changed over time, he said. His question can be answered through psychology, which is the study of human nature. It offers several reasons behind the motivation off play. Psychologists have noted three main motivations behind play competency, autonomy and delighted nous competency. We like to feel good at something, and we like to be recognized real level of skill. Video games. Mastering a situation and progressing through increasing challenges triggers key regions in the brain. It feels good to achieve a goal. Just you get elevated sense of accomplishment. Competency plays a key role in the player experience for again, such as fortnight in a battle royal that pits player against player. You would normally think that the less skilful players would quickly grow board of losing. But this is not the case. Ah, large proportion of the player vase are casual, the players get more skillful and they play. And this sense of progression just cheers on the place to keep in better and better. Like I e. They see themselves lasting longer and matches, getting more killed in perhaps winning a few games. Gradually mastering the game gives a sense of accomplishment at every stage, which encourages regular play in a world where we constantly feel out of our debt and control, experiencing a situation in video games where we have completely in control of what happens is really addictive. Gaming appeals to the human desire for independence. Our results of 100% dependent on our actions instead of outside influences games off of this as well of the safe space to take risks without riel consequences that would affect us in l. Laugh seems for office. Such autonomy plays directly influence that characters virtual life. They choose the direction that seems to go in their life, their job, their relationships, their world factors that the player in their own lives don't directly influence this system of having the player decides such things on their own terms. In steals in a flighted sense off independence Relatedness refers to humans overarching desire to connect with one another. Gangs can artificially create these positive relationships that are extremely fulfilling towards the player. These connections can be made into personally with other players all. They could also be made empathetically with the game's characters. In their stories. The game have. Our hotel is built on interpersonal relationships. It serves almost a gamma fied social media or chat room plays are attracted to the game because off the related nous that they feel with other players is overarching. Desire is just integrated into the game really effectively. I mean, the core purpose off the game is to literally walk around and chat with other players from across the world. So in summary, there two things you take wife from this video. The 1st 1 is that in order to create an authentic experience for the plow, you absolutely have to have their mind in thought. And the second thing is that plays are attracted to games for three main reasons. Competency, autonomy and relatedness as a game designer, you need to integrate one of these three things, possibly even mawr into the core purpose off your game in orderto appeal to your play of us . Thanks for watching, and I'll see you next video. 2. Entering the Mind of the Player: entering the mind of the player abusing the power off modeling focus, empathy and imagination. The experience, essentially, the brain's interpretation off a certain situation. The workings of the human brain are largely unknown because it is extremely complex. But psychologists have managed to identify humans four principal mental abilities off the brain that can determine an experience. These are modeling focus, empathy and imagination. These abilities will determine the brain's interpretation off any given situation. One ability off the brain is known as modeling. You see, reality is so complex that in order for the brain to cope with this influx of detail and input, it needs to boil down the complexity into a simple mental model so it can be easily stored , analyzed and manipulated. Do you remember the last time you were watching the sunrise? Do you remember every single date I'll Do you remember what you were wearing? The exact tint off the graphs you was sitting on that bird that flew past your field of vision. Do you remember the sounds of the crickets chirping in the background? Where was that sounds come from? You see your mind has filtered out all these irrelevant details in order to create a simplified model of what actually happened. When you try and recollect the events off the sunrise, all you can remember up basic, crucial details. The mind looks at a complex situation and attempts to simplify it into a simple set of rules and relationships. These ability off the brain is extremely relevant to video game designers, because games are essentially simplified morals off the real world. They're easy to absorb and manipulate bother brain. This is why they are relaxing to play because just the complexity of the real world has been stripped away in the real world. You must figure out the rules and how to play, never knowing if what you're doing is correct in video game that the rules are consistent and learn herbal because of how the complexity has been stripped away. Take the example of chess. Some people believe it is simplified model of warfare. They still play this game at military academies around the world. But for most it is just relaxing. Apply. Why is this? You see, the game is already simplified model without the brain having to make it one. There are set rules concerning movement. Check and stalement that have already been created, which eliminates the need for the brain toe. Work out these details on its own. The brain does not need to consider details, such as where you are playing the color or you're off your opposition shirt or any background noise in order for success in this game, this lower workload induces. Relax, ation. Another mental ability is the power of focus. This is a crucial technique that brains used to make sense of all these input we are receiving from the world, it is the ability to selectively ignore some things in order to devote more mental power, toe others. When we designed games, we actively try to create an experience that's interesting enough to capture the majority off the players focus. We try to enter the player into this interesting mental state that is often called the floor. The flow is described as a feeling of complete and energized focus in an activity with high levels of enjoyment and fulfillment. When a player is kept in the floor state by the game designer exponentially increases their enjoyment off the game. There are several things we, as a game designer, can do to put the player into a flow state and also keep them there. The first thing is standing out some clear goals when gold to clear the play is more easily able to stay focused on the task at hand. When gold a vague it breeds uncertainty within the player, and they no longer become sure whether their current actions are useful or not. We must eliminate distractions, distraction, divide, focus, which means North Floor. Menial tasks and boredom often lead to this distraction. So we must, as game designers try to increase the engagement so that this would never happen. Another crucial component to keeping the player in the Florida state is direct feedback. If every time the player like took in action and they had to wait to see what the reaction would be, they would quickly become distracted and they would lose all focus on the task. When feedback is immediate, we can easily stay focused as humans. We love a challenge, but we need to know that that it is a challenge we can actually achieve because the moment we start to think we cannot achieve our minds, begin to want Wanda and try to seek out a more rewarding activity. And if the challenges white who easier we start feel bored in our minds, start wandering to try and find more challenging activities that yield greater reward. He is a visual representation Off the Flows Day. The flow state exists with the in the confines of challenge and skill challenges. The Y axis essentially and level of skill is the X on the floor is only exists between these two extremes. Off anxiety and border anxiety occurs when the challenge is high and the applies level of skill is very low. Border macarons when the player has high levels of skill but isn't actively confronted with any challenge. To keep the playoff in the flow zone is a really difficult, delicate balance. As the place still increases, the designer needs to present them with increasing difficulty in order to keep them engaged . Staying in the floor channel is important, but how you move through it definitely can affect the player engagement. Look at this diagram of how the plan moves through the flows on this repeating cycle of increasing challenge, followed by a reward or an easy period of less challenge increases the equality off the experience and the player engagement. The cycle of tense and release seems to be inherent to human enjoyment and can be found within a majority. Off. Games on the market today have too much relax ation. We will quickly go board too much challenge and the players will wear out. Let's examine the use off the mental ability off focus within the game. Where's my water? The game has a clear goal, which is to get the water up to the shell. The player has access to direct feedback. They are actively guiding the water into the earth, avoiding the obstacles in telling new passages. If you fail the level for whatever reason, you immediately receive a level failure screen with a prompt to restart. Like most puzzle games, where's my Worrell? Water has a definite tense release cycle. Generally, the structure forearm puzzle games is the player learns a new mechanic. The plan is then challenged with levels that utilize this new mechanic the place, increase their skills with the new mechanic and complaints new levels. The challenge is off. The levels decrease as the player masters. This new mechanic, this is the release sage. Then suddenly, a new mechanic is then introduced, which starts the tent cycle again. Another mental ability is the power off empathy. As a human, we have the amazing ability to project ourselves into the situations off another. This is a crucial ability in understanding one another, and it is an integral part off gameplay. As game designers, we use empathy in the same way that graphic artists all filmmakers stir Z Empathy is a powerful tool for game science because it causes the players to become immersed within the experience as they empath ours with the game's characters and situation off the characters . Uncharted four is a narrative driven game that really makes use of our ability to empathize . The game itself feels like a cinematic experience. It draws the player into the world, immerses the play within the story and causes the player toe really connect with the characters. The empathy creates between the player and the characters, really feels genuine and has them hooked onto the experience. Another mental ability is the power of imagination. When I talk about the parent imagination, I imagine it brings up thoughts off the player, having to use their creative imagination and the power to dream up fantasy worlds. However, the imagination we will be discussing is a bit more mundane. It's the ability off a person to communicate. This can best be described by presenting an example. Take the following example. My head dresses stole my bed yesterday. Say the story actually gives you very little data house to what actually happened. But your mind has created an entire picture off all the little details that were not included in the story. Some questions that might pop to Mont What does the hairdresser look like? Where did they steal it from what you do they possibly have with your bed? You see, the story triggered your imagination to make up a bunch of details that helped your mind process the story. If I added the data file that your that the hairdresser was actually your wife, the whole imaginary image that you created sheath to accommodate this new piece of information, this ability to the mind toe automatically feel in details is very relevant for game design . Our games do not necessarily have to give you every single detail because players should be out of feel in the gaps using their imagination. The key to creating a memorable experience lies in knowing what to show the player and what to leave to their imagination. Leaving things to the imagination has a profound effect on the community. Take the following example off the notorious Five Nights at Freddy's, the design of presented necessary details, such as the fact that it's your job to look over the error animatronics that they move at night. But they also provide subtle details about the back story off the institution that caused fans to use their imagination to fill in the details, despoiled a large community off theorists and created an intriguing experience as majority off the back story is to be derived using your own imagination. So in summary, there are four main mental abilities that affected experience. Modeling, focus, empathy and imagination. The brain breaks down complex situations into simpler models for easier interpretation. Video games utilize this form to appeal to players the floors, state effects planner, engagement with the game, with the coasted balance between challenge and skill. Imagination is used to stimulate players with limited communication from the game designer . Thanks for watching and I'll see you next video 3. The Pleasures Of Video Games: in this lesson, we are going to be discussing how to create positive experiences through the pleasure of video. Again, every human action is rooted to some sort of motivation to seek pleasure. If there was no initiative to go out and seek pleasure, there would be no purpose to any action. As game designers, we are interested in the eight primary game pleasures because the quality of an experience is directly linked to the amount of pleasure that we get out of it. Knowing what these pleasures are helps game designers to put more of it into the game and increase the quality of the experience for the player. The eight video game pleasure that we're interested in are sensation, fantasy, narrative Challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression and submission. The pleasure off Sensation is linked with the senses saw that hearing touch, smell and taste. But in video games, we really only care about two of them. Sought in hearing to trigger the pleasure, we primarily reliant on aesthetics where the beautiful level design or an emotional musical score. This definitely improve the experience off the player that aesthetics alone aren't powerful enough to bait the primary pleasure that attracts a player to again, Again might. Monument Valley, with its beautiful visuals, induces sensational pleasure on the top off solid puzzle mechanics. It has become a top IOS game. The pleasure of fantasy is the pleasure of imagination immersing ourselves within the imaginary world, and it's something we're not. This is indeed, through the creation of an authentic world, which plays have a powerful desire to enter the game. Designer creates is by immersing the players among an amazing story line and interesting characters, faltering exploration and discovery off this world and for feeling the fantastical wishes off the player. Bethesda's legendary scarring is an amazing example of just how effective the pleasure of fantasy is on the player experience. Everything in the game, from the architecture of towns to the role playing aspect of the game, it constantly immerses the player within the imaginary world and blesses them with the pleasure of fantasy. The pleasure of narrative is derived from the dramatic unfolding of events. It doesn't necessarily have to be the telling of a prescribed, lenient storyline, but this is the most effective way Designers can foster the pleasure of narrative, excellent character development and an immersive telling of a great story are crucial for creating this narrative pleasure. This is one off the center pleasure in pleasures in which games of built around take, for example, the last bus by naughty Dog. The game was praised for its excellent story line and the powerful character development off the main protagonists, L and Joel. When the game does this successfully, the play becomes obsessed with the character in their story, playing on for the pleasure of narrative. The pleasure of challenge is considered to be one off the coal pleasures of gangs. This pleasure has been an integral part of video games since Paul first came out at the heart of every game. There is a problem that needs to be solved. The some the pleasure of video games is in the satisfaction of solving such problems and completing challenging levels. All those need all the forms of pleasure combined with this one to truly make it a memorable experience. Darks. All three is notoriously difficult. Players find themselves dying over and over, but what actually keeps them going instead of quitting? It's the pleasure of finally completing the first level off the hours of attempts. Although dark solved makes good use of challenge. Not every gang should have this level of challenge. It's a delicate balance. But if Don brought, it causes immense feelings of achievement. For the players, the pleasure off fellowship is essentially the pleasure of friendship, cooperation and community. The social players. This is the main attraction to again. The pleasure lies in fostering new relationships and cooperating with other players. This shows up in many memos as the core pleasure for majority off the player best. There are five main wise that designers can go about introducing. Introducing this into games. The 1st 1 is competition. This is an integral part of multiplayer games. It allows for balance games on a level playing field and provides players with challenges against others. Collaboration applies will enjoy date pleasures that come from group problem solving and being part of a successful, tame meeting up. See games give a convenient reason to be together. They give us some to share and then opportunity to collectively focus on something. The other reason is exploring our friends. Working through a game with friends gives us a glimpse of their on varnished identity. We get to see them make decisions, such as whether they stabbed an innocent player in the back or help them out with a gift. When they're struggling, we learn who we can trust in certain situations and who we cannot exploring ourselves. Games test the limits of our abilities and we truly find out what we enjoy. And we learned what we want to improve about ourselves. We get to see ourselves behaving complex, social situations under stress, and these can change how we see ourselves. Pleasure off discovery is very broad. Any time that the player discovered something new, it triggers this pleasure. The feeling can be experienced when the player discovers new features, secret areas, clever strategies that helped with the game. Um, this pleasure is a key component to open world titles. Game designer Feel their worlds with many Eastern references. Pop culture, hidden audio files that reveal part of the character's backstory, cryptic puzzles, secret weapons, hidden cut scenes, this list of things that game designers used to fill their worlds with or and mystery is endless. The pleasure is entwined with human's desire to experience and discover new things, which makes it one of the most powerful pleasures. Take the example of ubi soft assessments create Odyssey. The developers make this world immersive by implementing a plethora of hidden mysteries for the player to discover. For example, the designers decided to put in a reference to the movie Black Panther Up as the place Explore the world. They may cross come across a fight between two villages at the top of the waterfall, with an audience watching in glee. This is a scene straight out of the movie Black Panther. With a world full of discovery, the designer can induce these powerful pleasure and make the plays experience just so much more rewarding expression. This is the pleasure of expressing yourself and the pleasure of creating things. This has definitely made much more often appearance in modern video games than all the games See. A key component of games today is the ability to design your own character and build and modify the worlds in which the players play in majority of cases, that this expression does little to progress the game, but it just adds freedom to the player for some plays. This is the definite reason why they play games, for example, to get a game like my craft. They're built around. The pleasure of expression it allows applies to use their imagination to express themselves in the most weed and wonderful of wise. The core pleasure of expression added Reap Rape. Eight pliability to the game. Planners would play for hours and hours, continuing to play for years to come, the pleasure of expression that made the game so irresistible to pliers. And it was the core reason why players kept coming back to this game. The pleasure of submission. This is the feeling of entering a magic circle, leaving the dreariness of reality behind, opting for a new, more enjoyable set of rules and meaning. All games involved the pleasure of submission, but some arm or immersive and interesting than others. Game designers aimed to maximize the pleasure often experienced by suspending the players Disbelief, making them are easily into the game world and stay there. Take the game World of Warcraft, its notorious for his grip on people's lives, causing to them to play for extreme amounts of ours. But why is this the case? Well, it is because off the escape it offers from the real world into these game, well, that is just so much more appealing to play as the pleasure of submission, Tawes him with the pleasure of fancy. The plus the pleasure off submission gives the reason for the players to cake jumping into these game worlds. But the pleasure of fancy is what keeps in there. So in summary, when you are designed your games, you need to keep the eight primary pleasures in mind as a reminder. They are sensation, fantasy, narrative challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression and submission. Thanks for watching. 4. Congratulations: Congratulations. You made it. Thank you for completing this course, and I really hope you have learned something. And I have made you think about the player experience as you go about design you again. Make sure you check out the class project. It only takes a couple of minutes and it really will consolidate on what you have learned. Be sure to hit that boy bomb if you enjoy it, and I'll see you next time.