Introduction from “Game Research Methods: An Overview”

Introduction from Lankoski & Björk, 2015. Game Research Methods: An Overview. ETC Press.
The book is available as free PDF

Printed copies can be bought at least from:

Petri Lankoski & Staffan Björk

This volume is about methods in game research. In game research, wide variety of methods and research approaches are used. In many cases, researchers apply the method set from another discipline to study games or play because game research as discipline is not yet established as its own discipline and the researchers have been schooled in that other discipline. Although this may, in many cases, produce valuable research, we believe that game research qualifies as a research field in its own right. As such, it would benefit game researchers to have collections of relevant research methods described and developed specifically for this type of research. Two direct benefits of this would be to illustrate the variety of methods that are possible to apply in game research and to mitigate some of the problems; each new researchers has to reinvent how methods from other fields can or need to be adjusted to work for game research.

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Game Research Methods: An Overview edited by Lankoski & Björk

Our edited collection just came out from ETC Press.

Print and free pdf available:

An overview presentation at slideshare:

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JGVW Special Issue: Experiencing Games

I just got a copy of the special issue Experiencing games: Games, play and players of the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds edited by Waern, Thorhauge, Verhagen, and me (the online version should come out by the end of December).

Special issue TOC:

  • Lankoski, Waern, Thorhauge, Verhagen: Introduction to special issue: Experiencing Games: Games, play and players, pp. 175-180. DOI=10.1386/jgvw.3.3.175_7.
  • Kivikangas et al.: A review of the us of psychophysiological methods in game research, pp. 181-199. DOI=10.1386/jgvw.3.3.181_1.
  • Norgard: The corporeal-locomotive craftsman: Gaming in World of Warcraft, pp. 201-218. DOI=10.1386/jgvw.3.3.201_1.
  • Montola: The painful art of extreme role-playing, pp. 219-237. DOI=10.1386/jgvw.3.3.175_7. DOI=10.1386/jgvw.3.3.219_1.
  • Waern: ‘I’m in love with someone that doesn’t exist!’ Bleed in the context of a computer game, pp- 239-257. DOI=10.1386/jgvw.3.3.239_1.
  • Hagen: Designing for player experience: How professional game developers communicate design visions, pp. 259-275. DOI=10.1386/jgvw.3.3.259_1.

(I add direct links to dois when the online versions are available.)

Player Character Engagement in Computer Games

My article  Player Character Engagement in Computer Games came out. Here is the abstract:

This article argues how players can control a player character influence interpretation and facilitate engagement within a game. Engagement with player characters can be goal-related or empathic, where goal-related engagement depends on affects elicited by goal-status evaluations whereas characters facilitate empathic engagement. The concepts of recognition, alignment, and allegiance are used to describe how engagement is structured in games. Recognition describes aspects of character interpretation. Alignment describes what kind of access players have to a character’s actions, knowledge, and affects. Allegiance describes how characters elicit sympathy or antipathy through positive or negative evaluation of the character.

Keywords: game characters, player character, engagement, empathy, goals

Games and Culture July 2011 vol. 6 no. 4 291-311, doi: 10.1177/1555412010391088

AI Design for Believable Characters via Gameplay Design Patterns

Lankoski, Johansson, Karlsson, Björk & Dell’Acqua, AI Design for Believable Characters via Gameplay Design Patterns just game out. Here is the abstract:

We address the problem of creating human-like, believable behavior for game characters. To achieve character believability in games, the game designer needs to develop that character so that it fulfills as many aspects of believability as possible. With believable behavior we mean that the game is consistently structured in terms of narration or gameplay so that it is possible to build and maintain coherent relations between the actions of the characters. In this paper, we first analyze the general patterns for game characters design in detail concentrating on the aspects that are relevant to the AI design. Then, we present an agent architecture that we are developing, and discuss how this architecture can address the identified design patterns.

Keywords: non-player character, artificial intelligence, design pattern, believability, gameplay, agent architecture, decision making, knowledge base, perception, emotion, appraisal.

The piece is the book Business, Technological and Social Dimensions of Computer Games: Multidisciplinary Developments edited by Cruz-Cunha, Carvalho & Tavares and published by IGI Global.

I am pleased with out chapter. However, the book is rather expensive; I hope that it is not a write only publication.

Research on Game Characters, part 2

I continue my literature search on game character. Some things I have missed, popped up:

  • Hefner, D., Klimmt, C. and Vorderer, P., 2007. Identification with the Player Character as Determinant of Video Game Enjoyment. Entertainment Computing. Springer. DOI=10.1007/978-3-540-74873-1_6.
  • Christoph, K., Dorothée, H. and Peter, V., 2009. The Video Game Experience as “True” Identification: A Theory of Enjoyable Alterations of Players’ Self-Perception. Communication Theory, 19: 351–373. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2009.01347.x

It seems my reading list grows.

Research on Game Character

Some new things to reading list and old ones to reread:

Character-Driven Game Design & Lies and Seductions

Lies and Seductions

The game can be downloaded for free at or get with the Character-Driven Game Design. OSX and Windows versions available. Works also in Linux via Wine.

Lies and Seductions is a single player game about seduction, lies, and betrayal.

Are you able to guide Abby to seduce a rock star, Chris, promised to stay virgin untill marriage? In order to success you need to gather dirty little secrets, use those secrets in your advantage, and make an impression on Chris.


  • four seduceable characters
  • flirt, mislied, eavesdrop, and pump information
  • persuade characters to help you to reach the goal
  • play Texas hold’em poker
  • dance to impress
  • non-player characters forms opionnions based on your choices they perceive
  • three different endings

Character-Driven Game Design: A Design Approach and Its Bases In Character Engagement

| Buy the book | Free PDF |

Back cover says:

In the Character-Driven Game Design, Petri Lankoski presents a theory that illuminates how game characters contribute to shaping the playing experience. Based on this theory he provides design tools for character-based games which utilize methods and theories derived from dramatic writing and game research.

“The use of Lajos Egri’s bone structure for a three dimensional-character and of Murray Smith’s three levels of imaginative engagement with characters allows the candidate to expose the full complexity of the imaginary persons represented and controlled in a single-player game. What makes his design-center approach even more interesting is that gameplay is an integral part of it.”
Bernard Perron, Associate Professor, Université de Montréal

“Lankoski does a great job laying out the theory of primary interest to him, and making the case for the need to tether character design to game design more tightly than has been the case in the past. Certainly, too, putting attention to social networks of characters and finding useful design patterns to guide this level of game design is also of great value, and underexplored in the field.”
Katherine Isbister, Associate Professor, Polytechnic Institute of New York University


List of Publications 9
Acknowledgements 10
Introduction 11
– Characters as Facilitators of the Playing Experience? 12
– The Context of This Study 13
– Game Design 14
– Game Research 15
– Cognitive Sciences and Film Studies drawing on Cognitive Sciences 16
– Dramatic Writing for Theatre and Film 17
– Goals 18
– Methods 18
– Qualitative Analysis 19
– Gameplay Design Patterns 19
– Structure of This Thesis 20
Game Characters 21
– Understanding Other People 21
– Mimicry and Empathy 22
– Person Schema 22
– Player Characters 23
Game and Gameplay Design 29
– Game Design Approaches 29
– Game Design and Character Design 30
– Missing Link: From Character Design to Gameplay Design 33
Character Engagement and Game Design 35
– Characters in Computer Games: Toward Understanding Interpretation and Design 35
– Player Character Engagement in Computer Games 35
– Gameplay Design Patterns for Believable Non-Player Characters 36
– Gameplay Design Patterns for Social Networks and Conflicts 37
– Lies and Seductions 38
– Character-Driven Game Design: Characters, Conflict, and Gameplay 38
Conclusions 41
– Characters and the Playing Experience 41
– Game and Character Design 44
– Concluding Remarks 46
References 47
Appendix 1: Research Material 57
Appendix 2: Gameplay Design Patterns 61
– Actions Have Social Consequences 61
– Character Defining Actions 62
– Detective Structure 63
– Enforced Character Behavior 64
– Faction 64
– Information Passing 65
– Internal Conflict 66
– Internal Rivalry 67
– Loyalty 67
– Melodramatic Structure 68
– Outcast 69
– Player-Designed Character 70
– Social Gatekeeper 70
– Social Maintenance 71
– Social Norms 71
– Traitor 72
– Trait Regulated Behavior 73
– References 74
Appendix 3: Lies and Seductions Credits 75
– Article 1 76
– Article 2 92
– Article 3 116
– Article 4 132
– Article 5 156
– Article 6 162
Abstract 182