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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CFP: Game Research Methods


During the last few years, several textbooks for game students have become available. While these cover many areas well, the objective of this book is to provide a collection of research methods for undergraduate and graduate level students. The aim of the book is to provide a comprehensive overview of that ways games and phenomena surrounding them can be researched. The book is planned to consist of several individual chapters which are organized into sections showing three main approaches for game research:

  • studying games as artifacts
  • studying playing and gaming as activities
  • studying players and gamers

Each section is planned to include chapters that focus on basic research methods as well as methods for on design-oriented research.

Examples of topic for the sections include (but are not limited to):

  • methods for formal gameplay analysis
  • visual analysis of games
  • video analysis of gaming
  • methods of interviewing gamers
  • using statistical analysis
  • experimental or critical game design research
  • action research through game design
  • close readings of games
  • data mining of gameplay statistics
  • participatory observations of games

As a textbook, the chapters are intended to provide rationales for using methods, descriptions of best practices, as well as critically discussing the pros and cons of the method in focus.

1000-1500 word (+ references) abstract giving clear outline of chapter as well as the short author bio. Email your submission to as a plain text (no attachments).

Deadline for the abstract submission: October 20, 2013.

Petri Lankoski & Staffan Björk

Theory Lenses: Deriving Gameplay Design Patterns from Theories

Petri Lankoski, Staffan Björk

ACM, (2011). This is authors version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in MindTrek’11 (Tampere )


Gameplay design patterns are semiformal interconnected descriptions features of gameplay. While most previous patterns have been identified through analyzing existing games, this paper proposed how patterns can be identified using theories as starting points. More specifically, we propose three different approaches to harvesting gameplay design patterns: 1) using theories as analysis foci, 2) distilling patterns from theories, and 3) using theories to understand the consequences of having or not having patterns present in a game design. The three approaches are presented together with examples of their use, and based upon this the concept of Theory Lenses as an analytical tool is introduced as a way of allowing theories independent of their research field to be applied to research on gameplay design.

Categories and Subject Descriptors

K.8.0 [General]: Games

General Terms

Design, Theory.


Gameplay design patterns, gameplay design, design patterns, theory lenses, game research

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Character-Driven Game Design: Characters, Conflict, and Gameplay

Petri Lankoski
Staffan Björk

In GDTW2008 Proceedings, Liverpool John Moores University, UK (12th – 13th Nov).


Contemporary computer and video games utilize characters in large extent. However, game research literature says only little about how to design gameplay so that it reflects characters’ personality; mainly focusing on the narration and graphical presentation of the characters.  This paper presents a character-driven game design method, which uses ideas from dramatic character design to include gameplay into the design process. Based upon previous work on NPC design and a new analysis, several design choices regarding gameplay are identified. These choices are described as gameplay design patterns and related to how specific features in a character design can support gameplay. In conjunction with the patterns, the concepts of recognition, alliance, and alignment are used to introduce the method and provide examples. The paper concludes with a discussion on how the method can affect the overall gameplay in games.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.8.0 [Personal Computing]: General – Games.

General Terms: Design, Human Factors.

Keywords:Gameplay design, game design, player character, non-player character.

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Gameplay Design Patterns for Social Networks and Conflicts

Petri Lankoski
Media Lab
University of Art and Design Helsinki

Staffan Björk
Interaction Design Collegium
Chalmers University of Technology & Göteborg University

In GDTW2007 Proceedings
Fifth International Game Design and Technology Workshop and Conference
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
14–15 November 2007

This paper explores how games can be designed to make the social networks of characters as part of the gameplay. We start with a premise that game characters and social relations between them are import in games. We examine several games and derive gameplay design patterns from those games. Models from social network analysis, actor-network theory and Egri’s model for dramatic conflict is used to focus the analysis. In addition to isolating design patterns from existing features of the games, we look situations where game structures do not support social networks or conflicts as proposed in above-mentioned theories. Patterns identified include Competing for Attention, Gain Allies, Social Dilemma, Internal Conflict, and Social Maintenance.

Gameplay Design Patterns, Gameplay, Narration, Non-player Character, Computer Games, Gameplay Design

As social creatures, humans easier to engage in a game and narration when characters portrayed in these have social relations to each other, or in other words that the relations between characters form a social network. This is common knowledge within scriptwriting theories for theatre and film (see, e.g., [6, 7, 17, 19]), and these theories are also applied to creating games. However, social relations in games are typically part of the storyline (see, e.g., Thief II: The Metal Age [34], Dead or Alive 3 [44], Silent Hill 3 [45], and Half-Life [48]) and games typically do not let players directly act to influences those relations, instead letting them be consequences of other (most commonly physical) actions that are shown through cut-scenes. One example of this can be found in Quake 4 [22] where the relation between the player character, Matthew Kane, and the other characters in the Rhino squad are only changed in the cut scenes. No possibilities to do so are available during gameplay, including making it impossible for the player to terminating the relationship by killing the other team members. When players are given direct choices to influence the relationship this is typically done as explicit choices between a limited set of alternatives, and the effects of these are localized and seldom have the complexity of nuances of real social relationships, including how one change in a relationship can propagate through a whole network. Although these limitations typically make sense from gameplay or storytelling point of views, we think that the above-mentioned ways limits the design space of games, and having further alternatives would expand the expressive design space of games.

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Gameplay Design Patterns for Believable Non-Player Characters

Petri Lankoski
Media Lab
University of Art and Design Helsinki

Staffan Björk
Interaction Design Collegium
Computer Science and Engineering
Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University

Situated Play, Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference
(c) 2007 Authors & Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA). Personal and educational classroom use of this paper is allowed, commercial use requires specific permission from the author.
Definitive version is be available in conference proceedings and

Descriptions of humans require several qualities for people to experience them as believable: human body; self-awareness, intentional states, and self impelled actions; expression of emotions; ability to use natural language; and persistent traits. Based on these we analyze non-player character Claudette Perrick in The Elders Scroll IV: Oblivion to detect how these qualities can be created in the interactive environment of a game. We derive the gameplay design patterns Awareness of Surrounding, Visual Body Damage, Dissectible Bodies, Initiative, Own Agenda, Sense of Self, Emotional Attachment, Contextual Conversational Responses, and Goal-Driven Personal Development, which point to design choices that can be made when designing believable non-player characters in games.
Author Keywords
Gameplay design patterns, non-player character, game design, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

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