I’m starting to honestly believe that, against all expectations, there are a bunch of people out there who seem deeply interested in the work of translating the Big 5 into game design.

Does that sound stupid? It sort of does to me – I mean, yeah, there was a lot of interest, and there continues to be a lot of interest, and wasn’t that obvious?

It wasn’t. Not even close.

So, before I start to forget it, I’m going to start writing down some of the… stuff? I guess? that led to my presentation at GDC this year. It’s been a weird road, and… well, and I like telling stories. So here we go.

First: my talk at GDC was “The 5 Domains of Play”. In that talk, I presented a preliminary translation of a model of motivation psychology called the “Big 5” into game design principles… or, at least, I made a good stab at it. The talk was well received. Yay!

But I gotta tell ya – getting there was quite a thing. Especially considering my original destination had nothing at all to do with the Big 5. I hadn’t even *heard* of it when this whole thing began.

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I design.

2 thoughts on “Prologue”

  1. Accidents are great. Getting to the “Big 5” was your Newtonian experience, you shouldn’t complain. 😉 I assume that you’re basing the reception of your talk on the GDC poll results and offline interest post-GDC, right? I think that your presentation was pretty inspiring but I’m kinda worried that transplanting idea from outside of the gaming realm may prove to be suboptimal. E.g. I’ve tried using GNC for cRPG design before a bunch of times. It’s far from perfect. It’s a great learning experience, but results were kinda meh (even given the fact that I’m no pro designer).

  2. Let’s restate your concerns more directly: applying psychology to game design is usually a waste of time.

    There are exceptions – and they are the ones that have just been absorbed into design practice without any fuss (Bartle, Lazarro, LeBlanc, etc).

    I don’t know if what I’m doing will end up being a waste of time for other people or not. I do know that it has profoundly changed the way *I* design, and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface so far.

    But yes – transplanting won’t work. That’s why I’m trying a different approach: translation. I’m taking the principles that lie underneath the Big 5 system (and their approach to study and discovery) and am searching for the application of those principles in our day-to-day design work.

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