Who am I?
I’ve studied architecture and design for 4 years at the NHTV Breda in the Netherlands. During the first 2 years I did a bit of everything: art, design, programing and management. It was awesome because it allowed me to create my own games from scratch. It also helped me to communicate and understand both programmers and artist. During those years I grew to like design more and more so for my final 2 years I decided to focus on game design only. I did an internship as a game designer at Triumph studios. Here I worked on DLC for Age of Wonders 3, a pretty hardcore game. It was a cool and complex project and I liked it a lot.
After I graduated I started at Tingly games as a game designer. Tingly games was a small studio that made casual games for the web. We were making a game from start to finish, which took about 2 to 3 weeks. The teams were small and only required 3 people: a designer, an artist and a programmer. As a designer I often worked at multiple games at the same time. It was completely different than working on a hardcore game like Age of Wonders 3. A couple of months later Tingly teamed up with Boostermedia to become CoolGames. The projects I worked didn’t change that much. I gained some new colleagues, studio moved to Amsterdam but I still designed web-based casual games.
Last year I decided to quit my job at CoolGames and go back to university to do a master’s. I felt that I was lacking knowledge that I couldn’t gain at CoolGames. I wanted to study something broader than games but still design. So I went to Eindhoven to study Human Technology interaction. It didn’t really work out though, I failed a class (calculus) which meant that I couldn’t continue. Still, I would like to pursue a master’s in the same field as Human Technology interaction so I’m looking into my options.
Why do I want write these articles?
While working at Tingly games and CoolGames I followed online classes in different subjects. It gave knowledge and inspiration that I applied to my design work. One of my favorite subjects was psychology, I especially liked the lectures on human emotions. I became very interested in how psychology affected games and how I could apply it to game design. Later I found a course named “human-computer interaction” (HCI), which basically is psychology applied to technology. It taught me theories on how to improve usability, user experience and how to apply psychological principals to technology. These two courses are the reason I quit my job to do a master’s in the first place. During my bachelor’s I never came into contact with HCI or psychology. I wasn’t even aware a field like HCI existed. I realized there is a gap between HCI and games that should be closed. To be honest, game design is very much related to HCI. Digital games are in fact a form or human-computer interaction (or human-machine interaction). Games can learn much from HCI and HCI has much to gain from games. Games can be improved when we apply the principles of HCI and psychology. I have made it my job to find out how.
What I would like you to take away from them
I was faced with some resistance from my colleagues when I tried to apply psychology in my game design. To support my designs I used very scientific arguments. I backed many ideas with several psychological studies. My colleagues were used to a more philosophical and logical way of reasoning which was often based on what works for other games. Unfortunately, psychology isn’t always very logical, people’s behavior isn’t always very logical.
What I took away from my years at NHTV and work is that inspiration for game design is often found in other games. As a game designer you should play lots of games and create awesome designs based on that knowledge and philosophical reasoning. Playing lots of games is a good method to start your design process with. However, it shouldn’t be your only method. To create truly creative and innovative games you have to get your inspiration elsewhere. As a game designer you might not be aware how psychology affects your game. Which is completely logical since very little psychology studies are done with games. It might also be that we often see games as this magical digital medium that lets us escape reality. Games are special, why should they be affected by psychology? But yes they do, games are affected by psychology. Some games even are designed around psychology. Think about games that are designed to get the player high on arousal. Or horror games that are all about scaring the player to death.
I’m not going into detail on how psychology affects games right now. That is something I want you to take away from my articles. I’d like you to become aware of psychology, how it works and how you can use it to your advantage when designing a game. In each article I will discuss a psychological theory or theme and show you games that already use it. I will also suggest how you can implement the theme or theory in your own game design. Hopefully these articles inspire you and create spark of interest in you to do your own research. I strongly encourage you to speculate how your game is affected by psychology or how you can use it to improve your game.