some might think it poor form to pad out blogs by placing their entire assignment in to a blog but i have no shame and an assignment.
This report will be covering the academic paper
Björk, S., & Holopainen, J. (2006). Games and design patterns. The game design reader, 410-437.
Which can be found here.
this paper is actually 12 pages which is two pages over what you set but the last two pages are citations and the paper lacks the information density that other papers I looked at had, so it’s slightly easier reading. I once again found a paper that is interesting but does not answer a concrete question or draw concrete conlusions but rather puts forward a terminology or model so this may be a little lacking.
Games and design patterns – a summary
Games and design patters is a paper concerned with the design, discussion, understanding, comparison and analysis of games. More specifically the language we use when we engage in those activities the paper argues that currently the language we use for ludology and discussing games is variable and more often than not borrowed using terms from their component fields. An example raised in the paper multiple times is that games are discussed using narrative terminology which is useful and applicable for discussing the narrative of a game but not games holistically. They argue that as the popularity of games grows there needs to be a more defined terminology relating to games that is native to games instead of borrowed. The paper discusses the ways we currently talk about games, other systems that have been tried or adopted , the way other media talks about games and what some jargon and terminology means.
Their solution to this is to discusses games using their most unique aspect which is Interactivity. The paper suggests using game design patterns for interactivity as the way to do this. The paper then discusses that for this to be achieved there would need to be some standardisation amoung patterns which then leads in to the meat of the paper and what the abstract of the paper refers to. The authors are positing a model for game design patterns to create a more uniform and descriptive language for game interactivity.
The paper has two parts to the pattern model. The first part is a frame work for what constitutes a game and gives terms for the different pieces. From the highest levels of abstraction containing things like Game instance and game sessions, down to the most concrete game element which refers to game assets and physical components. The frame work is relatively large and actually isn’t fully defined in this paper as it is discusses in the companion paper.( Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2003). Describing Games – An Interaction-Centric Structural Framework. Proceedings of Level Up – 1st international Digital Games Research Conference 2003, 4-6 November 2003 University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.).
The second Part which is discussed in this paper is the Game interaction patterns. The paper presents a model for the pattern (or a pattern pattern) and discusses how the authors came to that model what research they did why they believe it to be a good model. They also talk on the patterns that they have identified currently, the methods they used to identify those patters and even an example of one of those patterns to show how the pattern might be formatted in a collection of some sort. Finally the paper talks of the potential and intended uses of these patterns and offers a summary of the paper.
I think that the validity of the paper is good given the authors assumptions and I believe the model they produced is useful but probably lacked adoption. I believe they were at least somewhat successful as even I have encountered the use of these patterns in discussion about games although it may be up for debate whether these are abstractions of mechanics or something more similar to what is put forward in this paper.
Games and Design Patterns – a review
Björk, S., & Holopainen, J. (2006). Games and design patterns. The game design reader, 410-437.
What is the title and what does the title tell you about the paper?
The title of this paper is Games and Design Patterns. This is a perfectly serviceable title the issue with the title is that while it tells you that the paper is about games and design patterns it doesn’t say what about design patterns. Whether it is analysing if a given pattern works, how patterns function in relation to games or even if games should have design patterns. The title is altogether rather vague and could really do with a subtitle or extension even “Games and Design Patterns: A model.” Would work better in the case of this paper. As it stands it seems the paper is either hiding what exactly about design patterns it is about or is giving an extremely general look as game design patterns at large. The title is functional yet not ideal as it tells us the area of research but not what is being investigated.
Who is the paper written by and do they seem credible to you?
This paper is written by Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren of the PLAY, Interactive Institute and Jussi Holopainen from the Nokia Research Centre at the time of writing. Currently Staffan is a researcher at the university of Gothenburg and Jussi is at the Spain campus of RMIT university as a research associate. This is relevant as Staffan is still continuing this line of research.
Personally I believe the two authors to be reasonably credible and that the work they did on the paper was somewhat valid given their assumptions. Firstly, they at the time of writing they were both from respectable institutes and I believe that Staffan being taken on at another university to continue his research shows they are thought well of. The paper itself made sense for the most parts and was well put together save for a not insignificant number of grammatical mistakes and typo’s which can probably be attributed to the language barrier. One of the key points at the start of the paper is there is a very large assumption made “Assuming that a unified approach to studying games is optimal, …?” this is a rather large assumption and there is no discussion on it which seems strange as the whole paper is based on it. I don’t think it ruins the credibility of the conclusions they arrived at under that assumption but it is frustrating that it is never really addressed. There are some alarming areas to do with the research that I find worrying. This will be discussed later in this document but this piece stands out “All though the data has not be fully analysed, the interviews provided feedback that our proposed solution was compatible with the way developers worked as well as providing many concepts that could be developed to become patterns.” This not only has a spelling error but admits that they haven’t processed the data gained, they then show that as a silver lining the developers essentially think that what they are doing is cool, they then follow that up by iterating that they also got expected data from the interviewee’s.
overall the paper and the sources seem credible but there are some aspects that seem to lack professionalism.
Does it have a helpful abstract? Give reasons for your answer.
The Abstract is very concise and very descriptive to the point that it could almost have been the title. the abstract starts by clearly stating their intention to build a model and what that model will support.” We present a model to support the design, analysis, and comparison of games through the use of game design patterns,” this section if abridged could have served as a subtitle to the paper itself. Their goals are clearly stated and the means by which they intend to achieve is delivered immediately. This is great in a paper with such an alarmingly undescriptive title. the abstract continues with a further definition of what the authors meant by game design patterns “descriptions of reoccurring interaction relevant to game play” this is stressed later in the paper with almost a whole section covering the use of the word pattern in this context, making sure that the reader understands patterns don’t function like a blue print or like a pattern in the usual definition of the word. “The model consists of a structural framework to describe the components of game” this is interesting as this section is not really covered except shallowly in this paper but still represents half of the model. It is uncertain whether it should be mentioned that this is covered in the companion paper. The “and patterns of interaction that describes how components are used by players (or a computer) to affect various aspects of the game play” this is the half that is discussed in this paper and offers another short description for what the author means when they talk about design patterns. “Focusing on the patterns and identified methods for using them, we describe the development of the model” this is more or less a micro introduction to how they mean to discuss the model and is pretty expected the next part is more interesting “ …and how we are currently working to enlarge and validate the collection of patterns.” This part details their plans to extend the number of valid patterns the have identified which a process they discuss later in the paper.
Is this abstract helpful? Yes, it is saying everything that is essential and very little else. Could it have more information? Yes, it could probably have been a little longer but this is definitely sufficient and useful.
What did the author(s) do in their research, what research approach and what method(s) did they use?
The authors used both primary and secondary research when getting information for the design of the model. In terms of secondary research they looked at systems in place that could potentially achieve what they were aiming for and discussed the upsides and downsides. Looking at things like the use of genre and mechanics and other related models such as churches Formal abstract design tools (FADT’s)( Church, D. (1999). Formal Abstract Design Tools. Online article available at http://www.gamasutra.com.) and Barwood & Falsteins’ 400 design rules.(. Falstein, N (2002). Better By Design: The 400 Project. Game Developer magazine, Vol. 9, Issue 3, March 2002, p. 26 & http://www.theinspiracy.com/400_project.htm) CHECK). It should be noted that there is no primary research in the development of the model itself and that the model is mostly an adaption and formalisation of interactive game mechanics that was constructed from the secondary research mentioned above. The primary research was undertaken in identifying valid patterns for the model as mentioned in the end of the abstract. This section contained what they referred to as brute force identifying of patterns from games by analysing a large number of games with a structured approach. It is worth mentioning that they admit that the structured approach lost all structure reasonably fast. Then they also had interviews with 9 game designers from a variety of mediums and genres. The authors admit that they haven’t analysed the data which means while interviews are one of the best ways to get information on a system for human interaction they didn’t use that opportunity
Do you think the method(s) they used was appropriate to the question they were asking? Explain why or why not.
I think that the secondary research they did for designing the model made sense and with something as human as what language we use to discuss a topic it can be hard to find things that are empirical. The primary research to identify the different patterns was less reasonable with there being clear takeaways from the game analysis and interviews the processes themselves seemed flawed in some ways. The brute force method started with a clear structure to the analysis that was eventually abandoned for a looser and less structured approach which comes across as the authors no longer having patience they started out with. The interviews on the other hand are openly admitted to not having analysed. Are these research methods appropriate? Yes, they seem to be sensible and make sense for something like language. A more ideal approach would probably include a survey as well to get a get a better idea for current terminology or uses and whether the model they put forward has any appeal to those who are intended to use it.
What results does the paper report?
The paper has a formalised format that a game design pattern would fit in to that is to be used with the companion paper it also claims a repository of around 200 already recognised patterns in that format. There was a linked site that is no longer operating. There was a book containing the patterns published by the authors as well. The model seems sound and functional shown by an example pattern provided in the paper.
Was the paper worth reading? Give reasons for your answer.
Yes I believe the paper was worth reading even though there is a lot of relevant information in other papers / documents there is still useful information here concerning the use of patterns and ways to identify them and I believe that my language when talking about games will be affected even without reading the pattern list.
Is this paper essential reading for a game designer or ludologist? Probably not but it still brings some key ideas in to discussion and is thought provoking. It also changes the way I view game mechanics and interactions as I start to see them in this light. As the paper was released in 2006 and these concepts don’t seem to have proliferated much making it a less valuable read but the concept detailed within is worth pursuing even if this attempt seems unsuccessful
Do you believe the results/findings or the paper? Give reasons for your answer.
Yes I agree with the model set forward it is well structured and provides a concrete list of terms and defines what they mean in the context of the model. This is important because of many words playing so many different roles or having different meanings can cloud discussion. Overall the model and some of the examples I have seen make the patterns sound like very natural and normal parts of speech with more concrete definitions. Examples include paper scissors rock, mutual goal, shared reward, privileged move. With these various patterns relating to one another in a multitude of ways that seem natural.
the result is a Decent if somewhat rare addition to the language of games that is natural to the point of already being in use.
What did you learn while Reading this PAPER?
I feel there is very little in terms of a concrete takeaway for this paper unless the reader goes digging for the pattern list. I did however learn different ways about discussing games and I now see effects of reading this paper in how I view games now and how I discuss them with others. If I find myself using borrowed or discipline specific language I am now aware of that and consider if what I want to convey could best be understood another way.
if you are interested find the somewhat empty http://www.gameplaydesignpatterns.org/ collection of patterns here. I’m not sure if it counts but I have definitely learnt something by viewing a number of these.
I feel that the paper has good intentions in an area that needs attention and I believe that this was a good attempt at providing a solution however there are some issues with the research and distribution of the model itself.