Here is a great exerpt that really shines with exciting game design ethnographic gold:
Gameplay, he says is a psychological experience. It’s all in our heads. And it makes us egomaniacs. If you play Meier’s Civilization series, in which you’re a god-king tasked with building a society that stand the test of time, you’re an egomaniac.
As a designer, Meier says that game developers need to listen to the player, “what they’re really saying.” It’s our jobs, he says, to understand what causes negative emotions in gamers and strengthen what inspires positive emotions.
What is the point of all this? Meier says that developers are trying to create “the epic journey.” How do we use psychology to make the journey more epic, he wonders. One, interesting decisions, a term that Meier says that are the type that encourage players to envision the future, to contemplate what alternate paths they can take. Learning and progress is fundamental to that journey, that players must feel that they’re evolving
In “the epic journey,” players should be drawn into the “one more turn”
One of the tools ethnographers use to understand the users or participants of a particular situation is called participatory ethnography. This means that we go and do what they do. In a traditional ethnographic project, for example ethnographers are brought into the factory to see how working conditions could be improved, the ethnographers would go into the factory and maybe work a few days in the different kinds of jobs. Basically you are putting yourself in your participants shoes.
In the case of this project that means we go and play Plant Wars, which is a stellar thing to be doing and calling it work! Today I felt my first real rush of victory. I clobbered another plant!
This is an important part of our research because it helps us feel how it really is to play the game. We are doing much more than just thinking about how the interface is laid out or how the games community work. We are trying to really get to know why people play. Today I learned that with one little victory. Once you sink your teeth into a game and start feeling the accomplishment it hooks you. I want to be better at it. I want to become the best at it (though I know I will always be a low-level flunky compared to the Plant Wars superstars at the top of the battle ladder). Playing games like Plant Wars is definitely a serious and necessary research activity. I love this project and Plant Wars.