MAGAW 2018 Approaches

Alessandra Antonaci, Bibeg Limbu, Roland Klemke: Game Analysis: game learnability by retrospective deconstruction of visual patterns and attractors using eye-tracking

Learnability in software testing, according to ISO/IEC 9126, is the capability of a software product to enable the user to learn how to use it. Learnability can be tested also in games. A game, that is too hard to learn, will not be played. Therefore it is among the key factors to joyful gaming experience. Partly, learnability depends on the thoughtful composition of visual elements for the game UI. Different (permanently or temporarily visible) elements compete
for player attention (e.g. core focus elements, contextual elements, feedback elements, event signals), requiring players to constantly balance their attention among these. Game design patterns (Björk & Holopainen, 2005) are used to construct games to achieve effects on e.g. player behaviour, engagement and motivation. The relation of specific patterns to specific effects has been analysed in the fields of gamification or game-based learning (Antonaci et al., 2017; Schmitz et al., 2012; Kelle et al., 2011). However, for entertainment games such analysis is still scarce . Eye-tracking can be used to assess usability and in particular learnability of systems by analyzing user’s eye attention and focus. We aim to identify visual patterns and apply eye-tracking to game analysis based on the following steps:

1. Visually analyse the game elements used in the game

2. Use eye-tracking to identify player’s visual behaviour and derive the level of
learnability of the game

3. Deduct from the data if there are visual distractors in the game and produce recommendations on how to improve the learnability


Antonaci, A., Klemke, R., Stracke, C.M., Specht, M.: Gamification in MOOCs to enhance users’ goal achievement. In: IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference, EDUCON (2017).

Björk, S., Holopainen, J.: Patterns in Game Design. (2005).

Kelle, S., Klemke, R., Specht, M.: Design patterns for learning games. Int. J. Technol. Enhanc. Learn. 3, 555–569 (2011).

Schmitz, B., Klemke, R., Specht, M.: Effects of mobile gaming patterns on learning outcomes: A literature review. Int. J. Technol. Enhanc. Learn. 4, (2012).

Philip Carlisle: A Computer Vision Enabled Approach to Game Analysis

I propose that Herbert Simon’s “Sciences of the Artificial” offers a method of approaching games analysis by concentrating on determining the heuristics involved rather than trying to tackle what Ulrike Spierling calls a “wicked problem”. It is an attempt to contribute to the identification of the heuristics of play and interaction, particularly involving game characters, that I offer with this analysis method.

In my analysis, I will use contemporary computer vision algorithms (notably Google Cloud Video Intelligence and OpenPose and DeepPose pose estimation algorithms) to analyse passages of video content produced during gameplay. This will produce data with which we can begin building a system of heuristic qualitative analysis. The analysis method will potentially allow for various attributes, such as labelled object timelines, camera and character positions, facial capture and emotion recognition, shot length and frequency of viewpoint shifting, scene depth analysis and image segmentation.

The intention of this approach, is to begin to identify contributing heuristic factors common in similar gameplay systems. By using a computer vision based approach, we can analyse vast amounts of gameplay data (for instance YouTube videos or live gameplay via and begin to identify with quantitative data, the more qualitative aspects of games. This may lead to the potential of running ablation studies using game generation techniques, to determine which heuristics contribute significantly and which are less important for different game genres.

Nicolay Mohammad-Hadi: Representational Elements as Rhetoric

My approach to game analysis considers representational elements to be influential rhetoric, and therefore an essential part of game design, as opposed to separate from it. Video games take place partly within the computing system and partly within the players’ minds. As both process each other’s output, gameplay emerges. All representational elements are processed by the player in tandem with the mechanics, therefore I propose to include them into the domain of game design.

Game design is a “second order problem” (Kuittinen & Holopainen, 5), meaning specific player actions cannot be predetermined. Hence, they must implement suggestions in order to confidently expect players to act a certain way. This is largely done through mechanics, but also through representational elements.

Viewed as part of game design, representational elements are a form of rhetoric, designed to nudge players into taking a certain action (a bright light in a dark environment, suggesting a location to explore) or into reflecting on gameplay (a whimper from a defenceless NPC). This is based on the idea of “audio-visual rhetoric” by Joost, Buchmüller & Englert, who state “Aim of all rhetorical actions is persuading an audience and addressing it on an emotional level. This plays a major role in all design activities.” (022/2)

Some questions I seek to answer are: how is sound used to influence player behaviour? How can different contexts for the same situation be provided to provoke certain decisions? Can character designs suggest certain playstyles?


Joost, Gesche, Sandra Buchmüller and Roman Englert. “Audio-visual Rhetoric: Visualizing the Pattern Language of Film.” Undisciplined! Proceedings of the Design Research Society Conference 2008. Retrieved from URL.

Kuittinen, Jussi and Jussi Holopainen. “Some Notes on the Nature of Game Design.” Proceedings of DiGRA 2009: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory (n.p.). Retrieved from URL.

Carl Therrien: Introducing HACS (Historical-Analytical Comparative System):  A Data-Assisted Historical Analysis of Videogame Genres

Few analytical systems can account for historical evolution of gameplay configurations in a consistent manner. The most engaging analytical tools / guidelines are too expensive in scope to be applied systematically on a large corpus of games (Björk & Holopainen, 2004; Björk & Lankoski, 2015). On the opposite end, some scholars have suggested using the language of game genres commonly used by the gaming community (Lee et al., 2014), or have proposed restrictive ontologies of core concepts (Alvarez et al., 2007). These approaches are not suited for historical analysis; the signification of generic tags such as “adventure” can change within the scope of a few years, and game ontologies end up proposing a few fundamental gameplay bricks that would be encoded for every game in a historical database (making any further historical observations impossible).

HACS is a middle ground analytical system based on 27 core concepts within 5 categories which interlock in a way to transcode all the typical gameplay configurations that have emerged throughout video game history. Instead of identifying minute mechanical details, the system relies on the identification of broad categories of human agency modelled in the game system (such as “navigation”, “neutralisation”, “agent management”) and then specifies for each of these figures the type of interface used (within three categories: manipulation interface, action mapping, and feedback), along with the mode of performance associated with these actions (such as execution, resolution, strategy). All these categories have been presented at various conferences and in a peer-reviewed paper (Therrien 2017). A database is currently being populated with dozens of games from various genres encoded through HACS; this infrastructure will help scholars visualize common gameplay configurations emerging at various moments in time, and compare specific games to these common configurations.


Alvarez, J., Djaouti, D., Rampnoux, O. (2007) “The online classification of game”. Online :

Barwick J., J. Dearnley, & A. Muir (2011). “Playing Games with Cultural Heritage: A Comparative Case Study Analysis of Current Status of Digital Game Preservation”, Games and Culture 6(4): p. 373–390.

Björk, S. & J. Holopainen (2004) Patterns in Game Design, Charles River Media.

Björk, S. & P. Lankoski (2015) “Formal analysis of gameplay”, in Lankoski, P. and Staffan Björk (eds.), Games Research Methods, ETC Press, pp. 23-36.

Elverdam, C. & Aarseth, E. (2007) “Game Classification and Game Design: Construction Through Critical Analysis”, in Games & Culture, vol. 2 no 1, p. 3-22.

Grodal, T. & A. Gregersen (2009) “Embodiment and Interface”, in Wolf, M. J. P. & Bernard Perron (eds.), Video Game Theory Reader 2, New York: Routledge, p. 65-84.

Jørgensen, K. (2013) Gameworld Interfaces, Cambridge : The MIT Press.

Juul, J. (2016) “Sailing the Endless River of Games: The Case for Historical Design Patterns”, in the Proceedings of the 1st International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG 2016. Online:

Karhulahti, V.-M. (2013) “Puzzle Is Not a Game! Basic Structures of Challenge”, in Proceedings of DiGRA 2013: DeFragging Game Studies.

Lee, J. H., Perti, A., Weaver, A., & Windleharth, T. (2014) “UW/SIMM Video Game Metadata Schema: Controlled Vocabulary for Genre. Version 1.0”. Online:

Therrien, C. (2017) “From Video Games to Virtual Reality (and Back). Introducing HACS (Historical-Analytical Comparative System) for the Documentation of Experiential Configurations in Gaming History”, DiGRA conference 2017. Online:

Zagal, J. P., M. Mateas, C. Fernández-Vara, B. Hochhalter & N. Lichti (2005) “Towards an Ontological Language for Game Analysis”, in the Proceedings of the DiGRA 2005 international conference. Available online.

Andrew Westerside:

For this two-day workshop I propose a method of analysis that draws on the principles of performance studies to reflect on: the ways in which the affective qualities of games are determined by the dialogic relationship between player and game, and how that relationship might be considered (or understood) as performance.

Dependent on the game/genre, performance in this context might manifest as the production [viz., performance] of place and space (choreography), intimacy and affect (character, rhythm), and text (authorship/collaboration). While the object of analysis is still unknown (at least in terms of the game), the core question at the heart of this model is: in what ways do players and games perform, and how might the theatricality of games and playing help us understand games and game design?

Lynda Clark: Elements of Serialisation

Even when they are not part of a series or franchise, games are inextricably linked to seriality. Longer games may undergo a process of intrinsic player-led serialisation, with players using save points to fragment the game into convenient play sessions. Even short games are often produced iteratively, with updates and downloadable content expanding the initial artefact, and such updates may incorporate feedback from the audience via platforms such as Steam Greenlight. This approach attempts to allow for cross-media and cross-genre comparison with a view to developing new strategies for creative practice.

In my analysis, I will begin by identifying which type(s) of seriality is(/are) most relevant to the game in question. I will then focus on the elements which contribute to the identified serial form. This approach is intended to be flexible, and therefore questions asked of the game may differ somewhat according to the mode(s) of seriality initially identified: e.g. Does the game account for the player returning to a saved game after a protracted break, and if so, how is this communicated? Are there natural breaks in gameplay, or is the player encouraged to play continuously, and what features (aural, visual, mechanical etc) are used to indicate this? Is this game part of an iterative development cycle, and if so, what effect has this had on the game as it currently stands? Was player feedback encouraged, and what effect has this had on subsequent game updates?

Diego Saldivar: Animation discourse as a layer of narration

Animation, the art of infusing life where there is none. Not to be confused with the far easier art of necromancy, for animators, at least out of principle, try to avoid the uncanny by managing their hand to go unnoticed. In so doing, animation allows the artist to speak in a voice that will seldom be contested, as their message is felt before it’s reasoned. Most animations have their origin in society’s collective subconscious, whether they are based on the reality of how people have always moved or in theatrical memes codified mere centuries ago, to cite a couple of examples. As an animator, I intend to analyze the game discourse through its animations by making a qualitative comparison between the animation present in the game, and their probable historical predecessors. With this comparative analysis, I will make use of these signifiers to unravel deeper discourses that could either reinforce or change the tone of the narrative.
I hope to answer the following questions: Which archetypes correspond to which characters and how do they communicate their role in the narrative? What non-explicit messages can be gleaned from the animations in contraposition to other media in the game (e.g. graphic, auditory, verbal)? Does the game successfully use animation to dispel ambiguity through anticipation?

Casilda de Zulueta: Of Paintings in Video Games

My proposal consists on primarily formal analyses on the use of paintings in games, an approach that I have started already for my master’s thesis. Let it be oil on canvas, frescos, watercolours, brush paintings… what of those is translated into the virtual worlds that are contained in video games? The newly created spaces may look like paintings, or they could include paintings as virtual objects, or let players use a digital brush to paint in there. I grouped these applications into a list of categories that, so far, are not mutually exclusive. Paintings can be:

· ludonarrative devices (e.g.: the level portals in Super Mario 64, collectible goals in Dishonoured);
· environmental assets (e.g.: painting as background in Nubla, character building in Quantum Break);
· historical context (e.g.: level aesthetics in Rock of Ages II);
· indicators of subjectivity (e.g.: what you see is what your character perceives in Beyond Eyes);
· bounds between the regular world and the dream or the memory (e.g.: going through a painting in The Witcher 3 DLC);
· a players’ tool (e.g.: painting masterpieces in Passpartout: The Starving Artist);
· holistic implementations (paintings are the art style, the game tool, the context, motif, e.g.: Okami).
My motivation for this topic? If we admit that games are art, and thus, define and are defined by other artistic disciplines, I am curious to see as well what art is for games.

Ahmed Hisham Emam Ahmed Hendy: Intrinsic motivators according to theoretical personality profiles

Game design can be defined as a series of constraints, choices, and systems presented to a player which induce a behavior or response. Furthermore, within said game structures, the game designer should develop an accurate empathetic understanding of the player’s behavior or response. Hence, in my analysis, I intend to predict the players’ psychological motivation to play the game by; firstly pairing the target player’s personality to a model or type induced from “the Big Five Personality Test” method. Secondly, I will show the primary motivational feature in the game by using the self-determination theory. Lastly, I will link the theoretical player’s personality type tothe primary motivational features present within the game.
In order to lay these concepts in a clear graphical representation, I propose the use of a newly introduced methodological approach called “the Five Domains of Play”, along with two more analysis tools known as “the Four Fun Keys” and “Eight Kinds of Fun”. The Five Domains of Play method aims to determine the theoretical personality profiles that would most likely enjoy the game. I would thus judge potential players’ satisfaction by how close the theoretical profiles
I intend to use the output of my analysis to answer the following questions: What is the intrinsic motivator of a game according to the Five Domains of Play? Is the intrinsic motivation consistent throughout the gameplay? Which personality profiles should be targeted to maximize entertainment?

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