Increasing Player Engagement Without Breaking Your Budget: Simple Choices That Make a Big Difference (GLS 2008)

GLS 2008 presentation: Increasing Player Engagement Without Breaking Your Budget: Simple Choices That Make a Big Difference.

Questions the authors, who are game designers, asked:

  • What makes a game engaging?
  • Why do people spend time playing games?
  • As a designer, what choices will make my game more attractive?
  • As instructor, how can I make my instructional games more effective?

To answer the question the authors created a very simply “game” — as quickly as you can click on a circle when it appears. They demo’d various versions of the game — each with additional features to increase engagement.

Within gameplay:

  • Provide simple, ongoing feedback, e.g. half bonus, full bonus if click quickly enough
  • Add a narrative
  • Allow for some strategy

Within media:

  • Add sounds
  • Add colours

With pre- and post-tests on the four different versions of the game, the authors concluded:

  • Different enhancements did not change level of motivation.
  • Women liked the media version the most (they played longer, had higher perceived quality and time compression on this version), men liked the feedback version most. Thus, gender matters.
  • Pre-game interest and expectation play a key role: If people were interested in playing the game, they appreciated the extra features. For those who were not interested, extra features did not impress.

This is an interesting pilot project, still a work-in-progress. The way they’re measuring engagement is interesting.

They’re going to be adding another two features in the area of Narrative: a bit of a storyline and characters. They’re also challenging anyone to take the core version’s source code and add features to make it more engaging, which will be tested. Rules: no porn, but violence is allowed.

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