Three GDC 15 Talks on Psychology and Video Games

The Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) is an annual event where game developers gather to network and share knowledge. Central to the event is a program of talks given by game industry veterans across a variety of tracks including technical, business, design, and other topics. I love listening to these talks when I can, and was happy to see that GDC opened video recordings and/or slides from select talks up on their website.

Looking through them all, I noticed three in particular that dealt with psychology and video games. As a service to you, I have collected them here. Check them out while you can; I’m not sure how long GDC will leave them open to nonmembers.

First up is More Science Behind Shaping Player Behavior in Online Games by Jeffrey Lin of Riot Games –the company behind League of Legends.

Riot's Jeffrey Lin on the science behind shaping player in games

Riot’s Jeffrey Lin on the science behind shaping player in games

Here’s the overview:

The next evolution of multiplayer game design and community building is to give players the tools to build their own online communities and moderate them. To show the impact of this philosophy, Riot Games will use social network analysis to map out how player behavior spreads in League of Legends and what we can learn from player interactions to make the Internet a better place. We’ll discuss how Riot leverages machine learning to “learn” at massive scale what players believe is OK or not OK in the community and deliver feedback to players, and how these cutting-edge techniques can be applied to curate any online community.

Lin gets into some really silly name dropping at about the 3:25 mark –I mean COME ON, who are you trying to impress, Jeff?1 The rest of the presentation, though, is chock full of really interesting social science being done in a game company.

Next up Ben Lewis from Player Research continues along the same line with Anti-Social Behavior in Games: How Can Game Design Help?

Player Research's Ben Lewis on how game design and mechanics can improve player behavior. Special guest appearance by whatever seems to be stuck in his throat for most of the talk.

Player Research’s Ben Lewis on how game design and mechanics can improve player behavior.

Overview:

Anti-social behavior in games is a problem that is gaining increased awareness. Indeed, there has been much said about what people can do to help tackle this problem on an individual basis. What players can do, and how they can take responsibility for their actions. But what can game designers do? And specifically how can they design games to reduce the anti-social behavior that occurs within them? This talk will seek to provide answers to these questions, supported by best practice psychological principles and concrete examples from existing games.

This is a nice, in-depth presentation highlighting many game mechanics, social tools, and systems that can be used to pull psychological levers and make gamers get along better. I got multiple ideas for future articles to research and write for my own site, so thanks Ben!

Finally, we have a talk by Celia Hodent of Epic Games about The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and User Experience (UX) Can Impact Design.

Epic's Celia Hodent on how psychology and neuroscience can guide attempts to test and improve user experiences.

Epic’s Celia Hodent on how psychology and neuroscience can guide attempts to test and improve user experiences.

Overview:

User experience (UX) and neuroscience are becoming trendy in the industry, but how can these disciplines concretely help a team to develop a game? Some designers might think that this knowledge is not easy to apply, or even fear that it will distort the experience they intend to offer. However, UX and neuroscience combined are at the service of design, and can provide very concrete and easy-to-use tips to anticipate and solve design problems, sometimes even before the play testing phase. The real challenge today is to figure out how the player will likely perceive the game. By having a general understanding of how the brain works and by following UX guidelines, the designers increase the chance of their audience experiencing the intended design. This talk will provide (sometimes fun!) brain facts and UX tips illustrated by examples from various titles.

For some reason GDC only made Hodent’s slides publicly available, so I’m linking to her blog entry where she provides detailed notes to go along with them. It’s the next best thing to a video. The presentation gives a great overview of some of some ways that psychology and games intersect that I never thought of.

Make sure to share these presentations if you enjoy them!

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Footnotes:

1. Also, thanks for mentioning me, Jeff!

2 thoughts on “Three GDC 15 Talks on Psychology and Video Games

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