Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
January 22, 2018
arrowPress Releases

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


Designing Computer-Games Preemptively for Emotions and Player Types

by Arelius Areliusarson on 06/19/13 07:08:00 pm

2 comments Share on Twitter    RSS

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.



In this paper I mapped the top ten emotions computer-game players experience, as categorized by Chris Bateman, to player types. I compared three models of player types (Bartle, Lazzaro and Yee) to produce as an encompasing model of player types as possible. Furthermore I have made use of Bateman's speculations upon which biomechanisms each emotion stems from and assigned them to player types. The result is what I call the Augmented Yee Model which could help computer-game designer to have a clear picture of what gamers desire from their preferred activity and perhaps to identify if a design is missing aspects that are applicable. I also defined the non-aesthetic design constructs of computer-games to better convey understanding of what designers are doing to elicit emotions from players without the use of a narrative, graphics or music. To that effect I am introducing a new concept I call game wiles.


Will Wright, the designer of The Sims, once said: "In the game industry it's kind of important to realize --and it's not immediately obvious-- that you're really programming two different processors. There's the computer in front of you with it's processor that you're programming in some symbolic computer-language, that's kind of the technology side. But the other processor, that is even more difficult to program and the game really is happening in, is the player's mind, the player's imagination."[1] Wright is pointing out that when designing computer-games it is very important to realize that computer-games are directly eliciting emotional responses in players. In this paper I endeavor to do three things. To define the non-aesthetic design constructs of computer-games. To find an encompasing model of computer-game player types and to map the top ten positive emotions of computer-game play and their underlying biomechanisms to player types. For this purpose I offer an easily referenced model to structure the design approach.

I will define computer-game design constructs and introduce the concept of game wiles. I will discuss each player type and provide ideas to what they expect from their gaming experience and how to give it to them. I will describe each of the top ten positive emotions and offer the Augmented Yee Model of player types where emotions (and their biomechanisms) are grouped and present ideas and examples of how to design for each emotion specifically.

Providing player types mapped to their relevant emotions and clearly defining computer-game design constructs that can be used to connect with them is hopefully a helpful contribution to computer-game design and the Augmented Yee Model hopefully serves this purpose.

Game Mechanisms

Several attempts have been made to define what the term 'game mechanics' represents. It is a common phrase in the computer-game industry and gets thrown around a lot. Not everyone agrees on what it means exactly but everyone understandsit. Raph Koster, a veteran game designer, says "Game mechanics are rule based systems / simulations that facilitate and encourage a user to explore and learn the properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback mechanisms."[2] Miguel Sicart defines them "as methods invoked by agents for interacting with the game world"[3] and Heather Desurvire said, "game mechanics involve the programming that provides the structure by which units interact with the environment."[4] I think they are all correct. They all seem to agree that game mechanics are rules and therefore programmable and their purpose is to afford interaction. But I reckon they are missing an important perspective and I would offer additional distinctions. First I would segregate game rules from game mechanics and secondly I would like to introduce my idea of game wiles.

Game Rules and Game Mechanics

Consider a simple ball game where rules and mechanics have been separated distinctively.

Simple ball game

The rules:

There are two teams, 3 players on each team on a field with two goals opposite each other. To win you have to get a ball into the opponents goal more often than the opponent gets it in your goal, using any part of your body except for your hands.

The mechanics:

When you have the ball, you can pass it, dribble it or shoot it. When the opponent has the ball you can chase, block or tackle.

The rules of engagement are defined and then the mechanics to operate within those rules. The interaction between game mechanics then determins the win state of the game.

The significance of this distinction is apparent when you think about how to teach someone to play a new game. With no research other than my 30 years of gaming, I find that when teaching someone to play a new game, it's best done in two parts.

  • Lay out the rules of the game concisely and explain how a winner is determined.

  • Teach how game mechanics help them achieve a win status.

Think about this: in a boardgame rulesbook, do you generally care if the section titled'How to determine a winner' is before or after you learn the mechanics? It does not matter in which order you learn about rules and mechanics because learning the facts of either begets curiosity of the other and seperate they are incomplete. Yet creating that distinction significantly helps in creating an understanding of the game because you can keep adding new mechanics to the curriculum, increasing complexity and options, but the rules of the game remain unchanged. Any game can be boiled down to rules and mechanics because all games are inherently comprised of those constructs. It is, at least to me, an obvious distinction and it's benefits become apparent at later stages in this paper.

Game Wiles

Game wiles are representations, or psychological tricks game designers employ to communicate suggestions, emotions and game states to their players. Wiles are easily distinguashable from game mechanics as they do not directly influence game states. A progress bar is a wile, communicating a game state to the player. Enlarging the numbers displayed when a player performs a critical strikes is a wile, where the big bold letters emphasize the importance of the strike. Wiles are subtle and suggestive in nature. Progress bars representing health turn from passive green to dangerous red predicting death. Your crops wilt in Farmville as you neglect to harvest. Wiles induce emotion.

Take the game Peggle by PopCap. Peggle is a pinball variant. In Peggle you shoot a ball into the air trying to hit as many pegs as possible as the ball falls back down.

 You loose when the ball exits the bottom of the screen unless it lands in a barrel (in which case the ball is returned to you for another shot). The barrel continuously moves between the left and right edges of the screen so it is up to lady luck iyou reclaim the ball or not. When it is a close call whether the ball will make it into the barrel, bounce of it's edge back into the level or be lost to the player, the game shifts into slow motion and the camera zooms in on the ball as it approaches the barrel. This is a game wile promoting excitement and uncertainty. Wiles are used to convey the intended emotion designers want for their players. They suggest and teach (often in the form of a sidekick character) and they set the mood.

    Illustration 1: PopCap's Peggle

Wiles are used in all mediums, advertising, movies, stories and indeed many migrated from those mediums to computer-games. But game wiles can be unique because the medium to which they belong is unique. This is due to the hidden dialog between designer and player, the endless interaction that is a computer-game. An important distinction of game wiles is that they do not affect game states. As a final point on the taxonomy of computer-game constructs, I would suggest 'Game Mechanisms' as an umbrella term for game rules, game mechanics and game wiles. 

Illustration 2: Game Mechanisms
Game Rules define the structure and win states of a game.
Game Mechanics are tools that directly affect game states.
Game Wiles communicate emotions, suggestions and game states.

A note on aesthetics. Graphics and music could be classified as game wiles and certainly they are used as such with abandon. The line between aesthetics and wiles is hazy. Is a death animation of a foe a game wile or just graphics? I offer that unless a particular piece of graphics or sound is emoting or specifically communicating a game state (edges of screen turn red to indicate danger or a 
ding sound when collecting tokens) it is not a game wile.

 Player Types

In this section I will discuss three researches that delved into player types, compare them and reason why which model I use to map emotions to player types.

Bartle's Player Types

Illustration 3: Bartle's player type model, Designing Virtual Worlds

In 1996 Richard Bartle wrote about player types and presented archetypes of players. Bartle's model of player types became widely accepted and is cited frequently. For it's intentions the model is spot on, but it's intent was not to be an encompasing categorization of computer-game players and so it has been mistakenly applied out of context. In a talk Bartle gave at Casual Connect Europe in February 2012, Bartle stated "My aim when I wrote about player types was to stop designers from making games that they wanted to play and start making games that peopole wanted to play."[5]Bartle was attempting to provide a system to balance the design of multiplayer games to accomodate all player types within MMOs. Bartle provides four classifications of MMO players. Explorers, Socializers, Killers and Achievers. "Explorers like interacting with the world. They delight in discovery. Socializers like interacting with other players. They spend a lot of their time chatting. Killers like acting on other players. They wish to dominate them, either through bullying or through politicking. Achievers like acting on the world. They are typically gamers, playing to "win"."[16] I agree with Dan Dixon's critique when he points out that Bartle's types can overlap[6] . My concern is with the 'killers' category whose activites can be easily disassembled and placed in the achievers and socializers types. To me killers are competitive PvP-ers, an inherently social group.  It's not a completely fair comparison, as Bartle's types are custom made for other purposes than classifying player types in general, but such is life.

 Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story

XEODesign, under Nicole Lazzaro, conducted the study Why We Play Games in 2004. The study's aim was to clarify how to design games to elicit emotions from players without the use of a story. Ignoring the facets of graphics and advanced features, they wanted to "... learn what adult players thought made good game experiences".[7] What emerged is what they call Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.

Lazzaro's Four Keys[7]


Players like the opportunities for challenge, strategy, and problem solving. Their comments focus on the game’s challenge and strategic thinking and problem solving. This "Hard Fun" frequently generates emotions and experiences of Frustration, and Fiero.


Players enjoy intrigue and curiosity. Players become immersed in games when it absorbs their complete attention, or when it takes them on an exciting adventure. These Immersive game aspects are "Easy Fun" and generate emotions and experiences of Wonder, Awe, and Mystery.


Players treasure the enjoyment from their internal experiences in reaction to the visceral, behavior, cognitive, and social properties. These players play for internal sensations such as Excitement or Relief from their thoughts and feelings.


Many player comments center on the enjoyment from playing with others inside or outside the game. In addition to buying multiplayer games players structure game experiences to enhance player to player interaction. Participants play games they don’t like so they can spend time with their friends. Wisecracks and rivalries run hot as players compete. Teamwork and camaraderie flourish when they pursue shared goals. Dominant emotions include Amusement, Schadenfreude, and Naches. Players using this Key see games as mechanisms for social interaction.

Using these Four Keys to define player types as an encompasing model of computer-game players is questionable to me. The Altered States category isn't really a player type but an aspect almost every player type can identify with. The emotion of excitement is so widely felt in multiple, varied computer-game activities, that I don't think it's possible to assign it exclusively to a single playstyle. Experienceing relief from thoughts and feelings is also produced by numerous activities. To me this key is underlining an important reason for playing in general rather than defining an archetype and I can't help but to wonder if Lazzaro was in fact looking at people reporting the experience of flow as proposed by the Hungarian psychology professor Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.[8] Other than that I think the other three keys are a good abstract view of computer-game players.

 Yee's Player Types

In a study by Nick Yee done in 2006 and titled Motivation for Play in Online Games. Yee categorized reasons for play within the context of MMORPG players. MMORPGs by nature offer such a broad scope of playing experiences that I feel Yee's results could be used to pigieonhole players of almost any computer-game (perhaps aside from lotteries). It is a detailed model of player types with subcategories of each of the three main types offering examples of play each type preferrs.

Yee's player type model.[9]







Progress, Power,

Accumulation, Status

Casual Chat, Helping Others,

Making Friends

Exploration, Lore,

Finding Hidden Things




Numbers, Optimization,

Templating, Analysis

Personal, Self-Disclosure,

Find and Give Support

Story Line, Character History,

Roles, Fantasy




Challenging Others, Provocation, Domination

Collaboration, Groups, Group Achievements

Appearances, Accessories, Style, Color Schemes






Relax, Escape from Real Life, Avoid Real-Life Problems

Comparing Models

Comparing the three models I find that Bartle's model as well as Lazzaro's model, both fit Yee's model (and indeed Yee employed the Bartle model as starting point).[9] We can fit Bartle's Killers into Yee's model by placing them under Achievement\Competition and as explained before, Lazzaro's Altered States is applicable to any of the three major categories provided by Yee and Bartle. This is very interesting in and by itself. Three researches over ten years that reach similar conclusions. It is therefore that I will use Yee's definitions as they are the most encompasing in my opinion.

The Top Ten Positive Computer-game Emotions

Chris Bateman's List

In 2008 Chris Bateman gathered data from a DGD2 survey with 1,040 repsonses and ranked the top 10 emotions as reported by computer-game players. It is a list of estimation and to quote Bateman, "This isn’t a strict scientific measure, as such, but the highest scoring emotions are those for which the majority of people not only recognised having that emotion while playing games, but recognised it enhanced their enjoyment."[10] Bateman goes on to theorize about possible biological mechanisms that were responsible for each emotion, attributing the feeling of bliss to seratonin for example. For the emotions of relief and naches Bateman is not certain enough to sepculate on the chemicals responsible, guessing relief "may be the experiential analogue of the hormone cortisol"[10] and offering no insights for naches. According to Ortonay and Turner's list of basic emotions[11] relief is related to joy and I would therefore rather link it to seratonin. Naches is interesting. It is the feeling of pride and joy in the accomplishments of a child or a student and I would make a case that it is a mix of seratonin (pride is related to joy) and norepinephrine (naches are felt when the child or student itself experiences fiero). Aside from those two speculations, I am going by Bateman's assessments. Here is the list of the top ten emotions during computer-game play and the chemicals associated with them with the highest rated emotion first.


  1. Amusement

  2. Contentment

  3. Wonderment

  4. Excitement

  5. Curiosity

  6. Fiero

  7. Surprise

  8. Naches

  9. Relief

  10. Bliss

    Illustration 5: Emotions grouped by biomechanisms responsible

Lazzaro's Emotions

In XEODesign's study, Lazzaro identified seven major emotions by observing facial experssions, body language and verbality. Although this is not the most scientific method of interpreting emotion the list is interesting.

Lazzaro's emotions[7]


Common Themes and Triggers


Threat of harm, object moving quickly to hit player, sudden fall or loss of support, possibility of pain.


Sudden change. Briefest of all emotions, does not feel good or bad, after interpreting event this emotion merges into fear, relief, etc..


Rejection as food or outside norms The strongest triggers are body products such as feces, vomit, urine, mucus, saliva, and blood.


Pleasure or pride at the accomplishment of a child or mentee. (Kvell is how it feels to express this pride in one’s child or mentee to others).


Personal triumph over adversity. The ultimate Game Emotion. Overcoming difficult obstacles players raise their arms over their heads. They do not need to experience anger prior to success, but it does require effort.


Gloat over misfortune of a rival. Competitive players enjoy beating each other especially a long-term rival. Boasts are made about player prowess and ranking.


Overwhelming improbability. Curious items amaze players at their unusualness, unlikelyhood, and improbability without breaking out of realm of possibilities.

Because of the methodology used to compile this list I mention it only as a reinforcement for Bateman's list (many feelings observed by Lazzaro are on Bateman's list) and as a reminder that Bateman's list of popular positive emotions isn't a conclusive list of emotions felt by players. Also, Bateman's list doesn't apply to all the subcategories of Yee's model, so Lazzaro's findings provided additional clues to mapping player types and emotions.

Mapping the Top Ten Emotions to Player Types

Another one of Lazzaro's work, The Four Keys 2 Fun does a wonderful job of tying emotions onto game mechanisms. Scrutinizing over Yee's descriptions also provides clues to the underlying emotions. With these resources at hand I've attempted to map Bateman's list to Yee's model.



Players in this category find their rewards in completing tasks, achieveing win states and amassing items or currency. Fiero, contentment and relief are emotions that manifest when ojbectives are completed. Until then, excitement reigns as the player prepares and trudges on towards task completion.


These players are motivated by curiosity of the game's inner workings and the desire to beat the system. They want to test the game and find the best path through it. In here you will find strategy gamers and players obssessed with talent-trees. They are hoping that their tinkering will lead to discovering a powerful configuration and until the theory is tried and tested they feel excitement compounded by curiosity. The big payoff is a mixture of contentment, fiero and relief but the process is often puncutated with disappointment.


These are the warriors of computer-games. Bartle's Killers. They revel in player on player battles and want to be the best. Excitement prevails here, as fast decisions need to be made to triumph. Amusement is found in the demise and mistakes of opponents (schadenfreude) and conquest is rewarded with relief, contentment and fiero.


Predominantly players in the Achievement column are adrenaline junkies. Running high on epinephrine until some seratonin state is achieved.



People in this category yearn for the contentment of acceptance, the bliss of companionship and the pride of other's graditude towards them. They are people persons, finding joy in the casual interaction with others.


Very similar to socializers but with a deep desire to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. They are looking for the bliss of intimate relationships. These are the immersive socializers.


This group of people take pride in group accomplishments and thrive in the structure of an organization. Unlike the socializing and relationship categories, fiero is their payoff. To enjoy the group the group needs to be working towards a definite goal that while uncompleted staves off contentment. This is the social club for players under the Achievement category.


Players in the social category enjoy varied emotions. Social types tend towards endorphins mixed with the other three chemicals.



These players find their rewards in obscure knowledge and exploration. Driven by curiosity, they will spend a lot of time seeking something that will cause wonderment or surprise and then feel content. For these people it is more about the journey than the destination and they will explore blissfully until the game world and lore is fully known to them.


Roleplayers create and act out personas during play. It is done for amusement, bliss and contentment. Taking joy in collaboratively creating a story in real time, feeling contentment in the acceptance of their alternate persona and experiencing the bliss of an alternate fantasy life. Wonderment is here not only because roleplayers seek it, but because they also desire to induce it.


Customization is the joy of self expression and the contentment found when one own's representations are pleaseing. Players belonging to this group long to shape their in-game appearance, often to express individuality or status.


Computer-games inherently provide escapism by providing an avenue to reach a state of flow. Players in this category use immersion into computer-games to escape real life problems. Relief, bliss, wonderment, contentment and amusement all play a role in facilitating this.


Immersion players seek out emotions related to endorphins primarily but are also enjoying seratonin kicks

Augmented Yee Model

The Augmented Yee Model contains the chief positive emotions solicited by each player type as well as the biomechanisms responsible for those feelings. By cross-referencing the model game designers could see if they are missing easily included elements that would broaden their player base.







Progress, Power,

Accumulation, Status.

Fiero, Contentment, Relief, Excitement.

Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Seratonin.

Casual Chat, Helping Others,

Making Friends.

Amusement, Bliss, Contentment, Naches.

Endorphins, Norepinephrine, Seratonin.

Exploration, Lore,

Finding Hidden Things.

Bliss, Curiosity, Contentment, Wonderment, Surprise.

Endorphins, Epinephrine, Seratonin.




Numbers, Optimization,

Templating, Analysis.

Curiosity, Surprise, Contentment, Fiero, Excitement, Relief.

Endorphins, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Seratonin.

Personal, Self-Disclosure,

Find and Give Support.

Amusement, Bliss, Contentment, Naches.

Endorphins, Seratonin, Norepinephrine.

Story Line, Character History,

Roles, Fantasy.

Amusement, Curiosity, Wonderment.





Challenging Others, Provocation, Domination.

Excitement, Contentment, Amusement, Fiero, Relief.

Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Seratonin.

Collaboration, Groups, Group Achievements.

Amusement, Contentment, Fiero, Naches.

Endorphins, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Seratonin.

Appearances, Accessories, Style, Color Schemes.

Amusement, Contentment.

Endorphins, Seratonin.






Relax, Escape from Real Life, Avoid Real-Life Problems.

Amusement, Bliss, Contentment, Relief, Wonderment.

Endorphins, Seratonin.

 Augmented Yee Model

Preemptive Emotional Design

I will now discuss each of the top ten emotions separately and offer insight on how one could produce each emotion with which game mechanism.


Simply: your game should be funny. It doesn't have to be a complete joke, but it should have a joke. Describing how to be funny is something I won't attempt. If a design does include humor I will offer this advice: user test it. Check if your audience agrees with what you think is funny. Amusement is found in every column of Yee's model and all subcategories save for Advancement, Mechanics, and Discovery.


I like how Wikipedia defines contentment, "Contentment is the acnowledgement and satisfaction of reaching capacity. The level of capacity reached may be sought after, expected, desired, or simply predetermined as the level in which provides contentment."[12] This basically means that contentment is performance driven and that players' goals are not only provided by the game but by player expectations as well. Fulfilling those expectations then leads to contentment. As the second most popular emotion there are good grounds for taking it seriously. Because players form their own expectations there is strong chance a good deal of them will never be adressed by the game. Making a game that is guaranteed to induce contentment 100% of the time in every single player that tries is impossible.

You can't design contentment, you can only design to facilitate it. This is done adhering to the three Ps. First, one must promise contentment by clearly announcing provided goals. Secondly, while the pursuit of contentment is ongoing, one must provide feedback on progress in a clear, immediate manner. And thirdly one must promote confidence in the player. Let me explain: I would argue that contentment is the offspring of the flow experience. Csíkszentmihályi has suggested that enhancing the time spent in flow makes us happy and successful and that the experience is an inately positive one, promoting intense feelings of enjoyment.[8] People experiencing flow report:

  1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment.

  2. Merging of action and awareness.

  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness.

  4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity.

  5. A distortion of temporal experience, one's subjective experience of time is altered.

  6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, referred to as an autotelic experience.[8]

Sound familiar? That is the exact experience of any player engrossed in a game. The focus achieved when decisions are a-plenty, the ease of play when every move comes naturally and effortlessly, the abstraction from one's real life worries, the feeling of competence, the loss of time and autotelic joy. It is the underlying reason anyone plays games. It is the internal human mechanism that drives personal growth, learning and success by promoting happyness and joy in personal achievements. It is why we are successful as a species. Neglecting to fascilitate flow can be detrimental to player retention. Flow can not be forced, it is involuntary. There are three factors that make flow possible.[8]

  1. One must be participating in a task with clear goals.

(Promise contentment).

  1. The activity has to have clear and immediate feedback so the participant can adjust to circumstances.

(Provide feedback).

  1. The perception of the challenge's difficulty must not outweigh the perception ones own proficiency.

(Promote confidence).

Promising contentment

Games inherently have both long and short term goals and they need different attentions and promotions.

Long term goals have to be concise and they need to be introduced as early as possible as is appropriate. While declaring the final win state of a game is perfectly acceptible for promotional purposes, the long term goal of level 3 doesn't need to be on the back of the box. This is the dominant way to advertise games, and classically seen on promotional material. "Kill the final boss!" "Explore the world!" "Addictive gameplay!". These are then sometimes followed by a list describing features, styles fo play and content (like the bulleted lists on packaging). All of these points are promises of contentment and powerful computer-game advertisments as they directly provoke longing among the target audience. Not understanding which emotions one is targeting with these promises might cause relevant customers to dismiss the game.

Short term goals can and often need to be detailed. They are best introduced just before a player undertakes them. A primary example of short term goals are tutorials or dispatching the next wave of enemies. Clarity of message is also of extreme importance. How can one play if short term goals aren't explicitly explained?

Providing feedback

Feedback for short term goals has to be immediate and understandable. Game wiles that convey measurements or game states are well suited for this. Damage text, lifebars, death animations or reddening the edges of the screen are all examples of wiles that inform players of status and progress.

Long term goals do not need their feedback to be as immediate as short term goals. Game wiles such as progress bars, percentages and fractions are all applicable. Displaying a progress bar representing the completion of the whole game prominently but periodically is a good way to reinforce a sense of overall progress. Place it on a loading screen or somewhere in the menu system where players regularly pass by. Provide an understandable, accesible structure that conveys a sense of task proportion. Map screens that offer an overview of the game world, level lists in a puzzle game or an inventory of the attainable vehicles in a racing game are all examples of such structures. Make sure their requirements are explained (e.g. level requirements for a spell) to avoid misleading players. All this gives a sense of proportion that helps players gauge the effort expected of them before they are rewarded. You're making a deal witht the players. You're telling them, 'This is what you get if you complete a task that is roughly this difficult.'

Promoting confidence

Long term goals often correspond to game rules. In order to win the game you need to finish the last level while overcoming several other long term goals first (e.g. finish preceding levels). Short term goals are mostly achieved via game mechanics. Game mechanics are therefore chiefly responsible for player success and success promotes confidence. Short term goals are instrumental in maintaining the state of flow in players. If the game is too easy the player gets bored and abandons it. If the game is too hard the player quits it as soon as her limit for frustration is peaked. Games need to constantly raise the skill bar in order to maintain flow. The method is simple. Explain a short term goal (like how to move). Teach the mechanics needed to complete it (which buttons to press) and allow players to practice it (finish a level using the newly acquired mechanics). Then, clearly convey to the player when success is met. Then introduce a new mechanic (raise the skill bar) and do it all over again.

Illustration 6: The Flow Channel

Refusing contentment

It is interestings hat refusing contentment is becoming a popular tool for the free-to-play business models. At some point a player hits a threshold or a wall that can only be surmounted by either investing countless hours on repetative play or for a small fee is able to purchase the necessary tools to overcome the hindrance. This is refusal of contentment and people will pay to have it lifted.


Related to bliss, curiosity and joy,[13] wonderment via game mechanisms is an illusive task. The best way I can think of is to introduce unexpected game behaviour. When Wolfenstein 3D first came out it was wonderous. It was game behaviour noone expected, and people loved it. Another example is a legendary game mechanic that totally blew the FPS population away: Half Life's Gravity Gun. Wonder produced by game mechanisms often stems from originality, where a game allows you to do something you've never done before. Examples of games that did this successfully are Lemmings, Portal and World of Goo. Originality is not the only way to surprise players with game behaviour.Changing the type of play can cause wonderment. World of Warcraft does this frequently by providing players with varied mini-games. Creating a mini-game allows designers to grant players temporary abilities that under normal game-play would be unfeasable. A player can find herself suddenly in a flying machine, dropping bombs on scores of foes dealing incredible damage. Another game that did this brilliantly as well is God of War where certain foes made you match an on-screen sequence of buttons to dispatch them. The game takes advantage of these mini-games by providing additional death animation for these special opponents which were often over-the-top and brutal. Providing players with a feeling of power can also trigger wonderment, where players marvel at how amazing and unstoppable they are. Powerups and expensive-to-use abilites are means to allow this. Mechanics that change game rules are a tried and tested method to provoke feelings of power and thus possibly of wonderment. Lessening conditions to achieve win states or temporarily ignoring penalties are examples of this. Attention though, such mechanics will loose their wonderment over time if their use becomes too frequently.


Excitement is produced by the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system and is induced when the body releases epinephrine (adrenaline).[14] Triggers for epinephrine release are incitements such as the threat of harm, noises, bright lights and uproar.[14] To best induce excitement in players, tap into each of those aspects. Soundeffects, particles, and on-screen chaos are effective game wiles for this purpose. Lemmings is an example of a game that uses on-screen chaos to induce excitement. Guitar Hero abuses particle effects to convey excitement and action games would become dull sans soundeffects. The underlying factor in my opinions is threat. All this means little if there is nothing on the line. The threat itself not only needs to be clearly communicated, but the absolution of it must be explicit. Most player types that want excitement want it in waves punctuated by relief and fireo. Consider a healthbar. When full, it is green and as it empties it changes colour and accumulates a glow. The higher the threat, the brighter the glow and redder the colour. When the healthbar is refilled by some mechanic, returned to complacent green and the glow disappears, relief is felt. Reddening screen edges or edges from where the threat originates are proficient wiles for clarifying threat. Another abstraction of excitement is to attribute it to decision making. Sometimes the depth of the decision tree that is available to a player is deep, like in strategy games, and sometimes it is shallow but enhanced by being rapid, like in shooter games. Tetris, Puzzle Bobble and Super Mario have shallow decision trees but accuracy and pattern recognition are rapidly required of the player. The combo game mechanic can induce excitement as well. Performing a combo is the act of stringing together combinations of interacting game mechanics as means to an end. As the player progresses along the combo string excitement grows. Examples of combo strings are combination attacks in fighter games. In short: Convey a threat. Emphasize the threat. Provide relief clearly.


When trying to compel curiosity it is done differently for each player type it touches upon. Usually you can employ obscurity to create curiosity.


Mechanical curiosity is wanting to experiment with all the game mechanics the game provides. It is done for autotelic reasons or for optimization. Players experiencing this type of curiosity ask questions like, 'How does this mechanic work? ' 'Is one configuration superior to another given the situation I'm facing?' 'What happens when I do this?' Game mechanic interactions and restrictions are best suited to keep these players curious. By interactions I mean that one mechanic's results depends on how it is combined with other mechanics. An example of this are talent trees in where players select talents that complement and enhance each other. By restrictions I am talking about restricting access to mechanics without limiting availability. A player has to make choices of what mechanics to use from a pool of mechanics but can only choose a limited ammount of them. Team Fortress 2 does this by providing a myriad of different weapons with subsets of weapons interacting in special ways, but only allowing the player to choose three. Another method is to hide attributes. In the team menu in FIFA12 footballer's special abilities are immediately visible but in the FIFA13 team menu they're not and it's not until one inspects a player that their sepcial attributes are apparent. Intentional or not this information hiding encourages discovery and hence curiosity.


Illustration 7: FIFA 12, team menu. Illustration 8: FIFA 13 team menu.   


For these players curiosity lies in the results of social interacton. They create personas and enjoy reactions to that persona. Fascilitating role-playing is a mixture of normal social features such as chat, examination of others, emotes and customization. This group of people often require privacy as the immersive experience is fragile. The inclusion of non role-playing players will destroy the immersion. World of Warcraft for example has specially designated servers for role-players, freeing them from unwanted stimuli. Game wiles that affect immersion are often indistinguishable from aesthetics.Take the World of Warcraft login screen for example. Depicting a decrepit, ruinous landscape with fire and ash everywhere. But! In the middle of the screen, a stone portal containing your login information and beyond it, sunny skies and pastures green. All you have to do is to just to enter your password and that's where you'll go, to that beautiful place beyond the stone portal. If not for the interaction the user has to make with the login information, the garphics of the WoW login screen would just be that, graphics. But because of the interaction, that the player has to enter his password into the stone portal, the player is subconsciously making a decision to enter the portal.


Discovery is the inherent reward of curiosity. Enticing discovery players with game wiles is easy! Hide parts of the game but make sure their existance is known. Fogs of war and maps with unexplored locations blank but outlined seduce explorers. Multiple paths serve this purpose as well. Super Mario player have all mentally noted that next time they finish a certain level, they're taking the pipe on the far left. Another way to provide discovery are hidden facets. How well they are hidden decides the method of discovery. If players have no idea that there are hidden levels their introduction must be forced (otherwise one is creating content for noone). Find a bottleneck in the game flow and force the discovery there. One can also associate specific indications with hidden facets and place them next to them (all the trees are brown except the ones with hidden properties, they are a slightly different colour of brown). Players will learn to recognize these clues. High up, in a seemingly unreachable position, there is an off-colour tree revealing that a hidden facet to the game is yet unexplored.

Illustration 9: Path choice in Super Mario.


Personal triumph over adversity is expressed with the Italian word fiero. In order for players to experience fiero, all that is required is that task completion is possible and has meaningful rewards. The importance of the reward often determines the intensity of fiero. Extremely tense situations, where excitement is abundant, induce relief and fiero in players who succesfully navigate them and the player finds satisfaction is in hiw own capabilities. Emphasizing fiero is done with game wiles. One of the oldest and dearest game wile to do so are score lists.

Any game that uses score to measure progress has to have a score list to encourage betterment and to provide a frame of reference for players to estimate their success. But score lists are fundamentally flawed when approached from the viewpoint of a new player entering the game. New players don't know if an arbitrary number presented at the end of a level is good or bad. Instead of abitrary numbers one could do as Angry Birds developer Rovio did. Rovio abstracted the metrics of a player's performance and presented a simple representation of fractions. When completing a level players are shown how many stars out of three possible they earned. Immediatley players understand their performance and achieving all three stars is an experience rich in fiero. This is such a successful game wile that it is now a widely adopted for measuring performance in a multitude of games. How important Rovio value this game wile is seen when examining the evolution of the level completion screen between Angry Birds games.

Illustration 10: Angry Birds level performance screens. On the left, the first version, with small stars that have roughly equal screen importance compared to the score. On the right, the newer version of the game. Here the stars are the most important feature and appeared on screen with a resounding thud, one by one.

Denying fiero to players has the curious effect of multiplying the feeling when it is eventually achieved. Frustration fuels fiero. A game wile that can be used to deny players fiero is the ascending soundeffect. Computer-games frequently provide players with strings of tokens they have to collect. Each token collected plays a sound effect which is raised in pitch for every succeding token collected. As the pitch grows, so does excitement. Missing a token in a string resets the pitch promoting a sense of failure. Successfully collecting the entire string of tokens where the last token produces a the highest-pitched sound creates a sensation of fiero.


Designing surprise for computer-games includes game wiles like lotteries, unexpected over-compentsation for achievements and automated completion of difficult problems all surprise players. An example of lotteries is rolling for items dropped in World of Warcraft where players compete for rewards by a toss of the dice. Over-compensation is to award exceedingly rare items or a fortune of in-game currency. An example of automated task completion is to introduce a scripted event that saves the day where at death's door players are saved by a non-player character or a world event. Unintroduced game mechanics can also surprise players. Either mechanics given to players or employed by adversaries. These special mechanics are given to players in certain situations like accessing a surface-to-air missile launcher to deal with enemy aircrafts in an FPS game or bossfights where as the fight progresses players learn the fight by trial and error and the bosses abilities come one-by-one as a surprise. Often, these are incorporated into mini-games. Surprise is strongly related to the idea of acting according to rules.[15] Breaking game rules and unexpected game behaviour surprises players. Including surprise in a computer-game design is usually a byproduct of other intentions of the designer. In horror games surprise turns to fear, in exploration games surprise turns to bliss or wonderment and in action games surprise is morphed into frustration or relief.


Naches is a Yiddish word describing the feeling of pride one takes in the accomplishments of ones child or mentee. To specifically provide for this emotion, computer-game designers need to include a frame work for teaching and guidance. Obviously, communication between players is important so an ingame chat either via text or voice is fundemantal. Team Fortress 2 has a special feature right in the main menu that pairs an experienced player with a newcomer. As naches are a sought after positive emotion in games it might be a mistake not facilitating it. MMOs have picked up on naches. Aion Online and World of Warcraft both provide a mentor system where in Aion mentors receive ingame tokens in recognition of their contribution and mentees level up faster. In World of Warcraft the mentor system isn't exactly that. It is introduced as a buddy system where both players level up faster when playing together and intended to provide players with a way introduce their friends to the game. World of Warcraft provides numerous rewards for participation.


Relief is related to joy and it can be produced by providing tension followed by absolution. In most games relief comes naturally as tense situations are resolved. But designing for relief specifically I would point out how rush games do this. Rush games are computer-games that target this emotion specially. My first experience with the rush game mechanic was in Disney's Aladdin from 1992. It contained a level commonly known as the lava level. Aladdin is escaping the Cave of Wonders upon the flying rug under the constant threat of advancing lava. Failing to negotiate obstacles decreased the distance from the ever-advancing lava. The seasless threat coupled with a high rate of decision-making provided a huge relief upon task completion.

Illustration 11: The lava level fom Disney's Aladdin


Players experince bliss in labor, creativity, socializing and immersion. Players gather ingredients, combine them and the end product provides bliss and contentment. Customization allows players to adjust their representations within the game so they are aesthetically pleasing to them. Immersion provides bliss as the real world fades and players become one with the game. Positive social ineteractions and meaningful relationships with other players promote self acceptance and happiness. Designing for bliss is tricky at best and I speculate that bliss emerges from activites players find autotelic. Because each player type has their own preferred autotelic activites a designer's best bet at producing bliss via mechanics is to keep players in the flow channel.


It is my hope that the Augmented Yee Model at the very least promotes discussion on the association of player types and emotions and at best that it becomes a tool for two things. A checklist of game aspects to be included to best target players seeking certain emotions. An overview of possible aspects to include in a design. When designing a rush game for example, one can see that the primary emotion of the game, relief, is present in a few player types and it could be worth exploring if the game can somehow target those types as well.

I would point out that how I assigned emotions to player types is the most speculative part. I have not seen any studies that investigated the relationship between player types and emotions espcieally and perhaps the subject warrants an investigation. I provided myself with a 'second opinion' of my assignments by comparing them with Lazzaro's two previously mentioned studies. The assignments are for the most part based on intuition, the relationship of the emotions themselves, speculations and crude research. Thoughts on their proper places in the Augmented Yee Model are appreciated.

As I focused on Bateman's list I am only using the most popular positive emotions. Emotions like schadenfreude and fright have yet to be placed (although they are probably linked to seratonin and epinephrine respectively) and I am sure there are many more that can be justifiably placed in the Augmented Yee Model. I am not a medical doctor nor a psychiatrist. Critique is welcomed and wanted.


[1] ComputerHistory (2008, September, 22). Game Design with Will Wright.[Online]. Available:

[2] Daniel Cook. (2006, October, 23). What are game mechanics? [Online]. Available:

[3] Miguel Sicart. (2008, December). Defining Game Mechanics. Journal [Online].Volume 8 (issue 2), Conclusion. Available:

[4] Heather Desurvire et. al.. (April, 2004, 24-29). Using Heuristics to Evaluate the Playability of Games. Paper [Online]. Pp 1. Available:

[5] CasualConnect. (2012, March, 11). Player Type Theory: Uses and Abuses | Richard Bartle [Online]. Available:

[6] Dan Dixon. (2011, May, 7). Playe Types and Gamification. Paper [Online]. pp. 2. Available:

[7] Nicole Lazzaro. (2004, March, 8). Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story. Report [Online]. pp.1,3,4, 6. Available:

[8] Flow (psychology) [Online]. Available:

[9] Nick Yee. (2006). Motivations for Play in Online Games. Journal . [Online]. Volume 9. pp. 773. Available:

[10] Chris Bateman. (2008, April, 9). Article [Online]. Availble:

[11] Andre Ortony, Terence J. Turner. 1990. What's Basic About Basic Emotions? pp.2. Journal [Online]. Available:

[12] Contentment. [Online]. Available:

[13] Wonder (emotion). [Online]. Available:

[14] Epinephine. [Online]. Available:

[15] Surprise (emotion). [Online]. Available:

[16] Richard Bartle. (1996). Virtual Worlds: Why People Play. Paper. [Online].Available:


Related Jobs

Remedy Entertainment
Remedy Entertainment — Espoo, Finland

Lead Game Designer
Blackstorm — Mountain View, California, United States

Studio Game Engineer
Plarium Michigan Studio LP
Plarium Michigan Studio LP — Portage, Michigan, United States

Senior Systems Designer
Naughty Dog
Naughty Dog — Santa Monica, California, United States

Web Developer

Loading Comments

loader image