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Video: Making psychology work for you in game design
June 7, 2013 | By GDC Vault Staff

Ubisoft creative director Jason VandenBerghe presents his research in translating human motivation models into game design decisions in this free GDC 2012 video lecture.

Courtesy of GDC Vault, VandenBerghe's hour-long lecture first introduces the pillars of the widely contributed to "Big 5" human motivation model: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. He then correlates these to his own "5 Domains of Play," discussing how designing for novelty, challenge, external stimulation, harmony between players, and threat to trigger negative emotions can motivate and appeal to players.

Session Name: The 5 Domains of Play: Applying Psychology's Big 5 Motivation Domains to Games

Speaker(s): Jason VandenBerghe

Company Name(s): Ubisoft

Track / Format: Design

Description:Over the last 20 years an often unobserved modern motivational psychology has coalesced around a system called "The Big 5" or OCEAN. Why should we care? Because unlike its predecessors, this one has a titanic landslide of repeatable, scientific evidence behind it. But how does it apply to games?

The speaker has been collaborating with academics and industry colleagues to try and answer that problem - and we have found that we can, without difficulty, connect specific game elements directly to measurable Big 5 personality "facets". By doing this, we have uncovered a completely new way of looking at the motivations of play.

The potential of this connection is broad: it guides the speaker's game design decision-making, it helps explain why particular games satisfy (or otherwise), it offers a statistical framework for playtest evaluation and shows us which audiences we have been missing out on.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent GDC events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers. Those who purchased All Access passes to events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC China already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscriptions via a GDC Vault inquiry form.

Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can find out more here. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins.

Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more new content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from other events like GDC China and GDC 2013. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Tech.

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Ramin Shokrizade
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I remember last year some friends who attended this lecture finding it really interesting. I am a huge proponent of using allied sciences to unlock what is happening in virtual space, and even using virtual space to figure out what makes people tick. Here the focus seems to be on the unique characteristics of individuals, and armed with this information you may be able to predict which games would most appeal to each individual. This may help you make a game that would effectively appeal to one or more groups of individuals.

With my background in neuroscience, team sports, and virtual economics, my interest is on understanding how *groups* react to various game design *systems*. So instead of the focus being on individuals and content, it is groups and systems. I think what Mr. VandenBerghe is doing could be really valuable in building single player experiences that will appeal to a wide range of personalities by having the game provide a range of options, or even have it dynamically adapt to the actions of players. Given the success of Ubisoft's single player games, this creative and scientific influence seems to be really paying off.

As you can imagine, my emphasis is on multiplayer games, and the bigger the better. As Ubisoft attempts to move into the multiplayer browser strategy genre fairly seriously, an area I study intensely, I've noticed that a variety of activities are provided that allow the game to appeal to a variety of individuals. Then I look at the group systems and player interactions and find that all of Ubisoft's games fall flat. Really flat. These systems are almost non-existent. While I have no metrics on how these games are performing, I would imagine they are not experiencing the level of commercial success that Ubisoft's single player games are having.