As first post on this blog I’ll allow you guys to download the paper I’ve written last year about using psychology principles in (social) game design.

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This paper is written as an extension of a third years project commissioned by the Utrecht School of Arts and Technology (USAT) and THQ Bluetongue.

The assignment was to design the next big thing in social media games, and to design it for smart handheld devices. My role in this project was design lead. This means that I was in charge of defining the game’s goals, it’s underlying core mechanics, the game structure and the balance between these elements. The task mainly involved setting up these elements, refining them, making sure that they stayed in line with the assignment and guidelines and subsequently making sure everyone stayed on track during further production to ensure a coherent product.

From the get-go we decided that if we wanted to bring any innovation to the genre of social games, we’d have to come up with a way to involve actual skill- or strategy-based gameplay with the strong social mechanics which other social games employ. During the research period we discovered that even though these games are labelled social, the interaction between players isn’t all that direct because of the ‘together apart’ type of structure these games have.

In this paper I will expand on the research we have done during the project, and I will answer the following research question: ‘Which are the five major psychological tools game designers can use to create engaging social games, how do they work and how are they best used?’
In the course of this paper I will reference to the most successful social game to date: Farmville a lot, if you haven’t played it yet, I suggest you try it out for a bit before continuing. Beware though, Farmville employs some of the most clever designs in the social game genre, you might spend more time playing it than you initially intended.

Enjoy.

Download paper (PDF)