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Playing to Win? Measuring Social Interaction in Games
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Playing to Win? Measuring Social Interaction in Games

January 24, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3


Achievers, who are defined by their interest in visibly demonstrating their success at a game, showed the highest level of interaction and arousal when the game displayed a visible indication of their progress.

In Buzz! Quiz World, this was noted particularly for the Pie Fight round, where the players received a pie in the face for an incorrect answer, and in the Over the Edge round, which raised players who were doing badly towards a sludge tank.

In their interactions, it was also noted that achievers were prepared to give up their advantage to verbally demonstrate that they knew the answer.

In trivia games like Buzz! there is an advantage if your opponent doesn't know the right answer; however, achievers were noted to say their answers out loud while answering, demonstrating their superior knowledge, at the cost of in-game success. Evidently prestige is more important than the game's defined objectives.


Achievers described how they'd like further rewards in game, as demonstrated by comments that they'd like the audience to chant their name in-game.

As such, a game can be tailored towards encouraging interaction from achievers by offering the opportunity to visibly display success in each round against their opponent, not just through badges and trophies, but through in-game mechanics, such as stats and support!

A player falling towards the sludge in Over The Edge, with a visible peak in the Achiever's GSR signal (green)


Among socializers, it was noted that their interaction was primarily collaborative. Socializers would work together with their opponent, and discuss the choice of rounds to ensure that they both shared enjoyment in the game session, whereas other player types often chose categories their opponent would perform poorly in.

Socializers demonstrated the high degree of "shared awareness" verbal interactions, and discussed the answers. Unlike achievers, this interaction was collaborative and involved two players working out the correct answer to the questions together. It was also noted that socializers were uninterested in the progress of the game, and showed a low level of GSR arousal to in-game events, compared to other player types.


Due to the high level of arousal noted when socializers talked to one another, the recommendation can be made to emphasize communication between the players, even in typically competitive gameplay, to ensure that they remain engaged in the game. This can be achieved through development of plot or the use of humor.


Explorers, who are defined by their interest in exploring and understanding the breadth and depth of the game and its mechanics, also demonstrated a high level of cooperative interaction -- and, like socializers, worked together with other players while describing what was happening in the game.

They showed the highest level of interaction when engaged by new challenges, such as selecting the topic for a new round, discovering the mechanics of the round, or being asked new questions. Explorers also demonstrated a high level of interest in the visual aspects of the game, such as describing what their in-game avatars were doing at the time. Like socializers, they were not engaged by Buzz!'s overt success goals, and a explorer even said "I'm not interested if I win or lose."


When targeting games towards explorers, it is important to display a wide variety in content, both in the game mechanics and graphically. Minigame collections, such as WarioWare and Mario Party are good examples of games that encourage social interaction from explorers.

An Important Note

It is important to recognize in the recommendations for all player types that optimizing a game towards one player type may create a detrimental experience for other types, and hence it will be important for the design team to evaluate the results of this method against their development goals.

Where Next?

Developed in partnership with Relentless Software, the methodology for live-coding the forms of social interaction that occur during gameplay allows great insight into precisely what elements of a game cause reactions with players. The application of this methodology during development can allow designers to tailor a game towards emphasizing specific forms of interaction, or targeting specific player types.

This study has shown how the forms of social interaction differ for each player type in the social trivia game Buzz! Quiz World, from the taunting of highly competitive killers, the boasting of achievers, or the collaborative discussion of socializers. The application of this to different game types, from FPSs to RPGs, would reveal interesting distinct traits in the interactions found among each player type in response to more directly competitive play. There is also potential to explore how social interaction changes among larger groups of players.

Reading List

Voida, A, S Carpendale, and S. Greenberg. "The Individual and the Group in Console Gaming." CSCW '10 Proceedings of the 2010 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work, 2010

Ackermann, J. Playing computer games as social interaction – an analysis of LAN-Partys. In: Fromme, J. Computer Games / Players / Game Cultures Berlin: Springer, 2011

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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