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The Number One Educational Resource for the Game Industry

Session Name:

The Psychology of Game Design (Everything You Know Is Wrong)

Overview:

When designing a game, particularly one based on real-world or historical topics, it might seem that hard facts, physical principles, painstaking research, and mathematical formulas would provide the foundation for a successful game. Wrong. These and many other seemingly useful tools will have to take a back seat to the real driving force in game design: the psychology of the player.

Gameplay is a psychological experience: it's all in your head. The vagaries of human psychology define your game more than the laws of physics or algebra. Egomania, Paranoia, Delusion - these are tools to be wielded with precision and care. For the player, perception is reality and the center of the universe is right here. As we follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion we discover a number of amazing things, among them: everyone is above average, 2/1 is not equal to 20/10, and the player is his/her own worst enemy.

Using actual examples from Civilization Revolution, Pirates!, and other games we'll look at how including player psychology as a fundamental part of game design can lead us to some strangely counterintuitive places and save us millions of dollars in time and resources. Along the way we'll learn why AI's should not be too smart, how nuclear weapons are like knocking over a chess board, and why gamers can't be trusted.

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  • GDC 2010
  • Sid Meier
  • Firaxis Games
  • free content
  • Game Design
  • Design