Archive for the ‘Thesis Chapters’ Category

My paper Player Character Engagement in Computer Games was accepted to Games and Culture. Here is the abstract:

This article argues how players can control a player character influence interpretation and facilitate engagement within a game. Engagement with player characters can be goal-related or empathic, where goal-related engagement depends on affects elicited by goal-status evaluations whereas characters facilitate empathic engagement. The concepts of recognition, alignment, and allegiance are used to describe how engagement is structured in games. Recognition describes aspects of character interpretation. Alignment describes what kind of access players have to a character’s actions, knowledge, and affects. Allegiance describes how characters elicit sympathy or antipathy through positive or negative evaluation of the character.

This is an old paper published in 2003 containing an early version of character recognition framework developed further for my thesis. This version contains some edits compared to version available in Digra Digital Library due to quick html conversion (no foot notes, tables are lists, etc.).

Presented at Level Up Conference Proceedings, Utrech: University of Utrech, November, 2003. A presented version is downloadable at digra digital library, © Authors & DiGRA, 2003. Free for educational and research use; commercial use restricted and only by permission.

Petri Lankoski, Satu Heliö, Inger Ekman
Hypermedia Laboratory
University of Tampere

Interpretation of characters is a fundamental feature of human behavior. Even with
limited information available, people will assign personality – even to inanimate objects.
Characters in computer games will be attributed personality based on their appearance
and behavior. The interpretation of these characters affects the whole game experience.
Designing the protagonist character in computer games is different from the design of
static characters (e.g. film or literature), because the player’s actions will affect the
nature of the character. There are, however, many ways to control and guide the actions
of the protagonist and thus the character’s nature. By setting goals, scripting pre-
defined actions and choosing what kind of actions to implement, the game designer can
restrict the player’s freedom. This, together with the characterization of the character,
will affect the interpretation of the character.
Characters, Design, Interpretation

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Petri Lankoski¹ and Tommi Horttana²
1 University of Art and Design Helsinki
2 Helsinki University of Technology

This is author’s version of the paper. Authoritative version is published in: U. Spierling and N. Szilas (Eds.): ICIDS 2008, LNCS 5334, pp. 44–47, 2008, URL=
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008. 

Abstract. Lies and Seductions is a computer game in which a player controls
Abby, a character on a wager to seduce a rock star who has promised to stay a
virgin until marriage. The game is loosely based on the story of Les Liaisons
dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons). The game is a design experiment exploring
how to use social relations, seduction, and tragedy as meaningful gameplay
Keywords: Computer game, social interaction, seduction.

(EDIT 7.7.2009. The Lies and Seductions game is available for free at

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Petri Lankoski
Staffan Björk

In GDTW2008 Proceedings, Liverpool John Moores University, UK (12th – 13th Nov).


Contemporary computer and video games utilize characters in large extent. However, game research literature says only little about how to design gameplay so that it reflects characters’ personality; mainly focusing on the narration and graphical presentation of the characters.  This paper presents a character-driven game design method, which uses ideas from dramatic character design to include gameplay into the design process. Based upon previous work on NPC design and a new analysis, several design choices regarding gameplay are identified. These choices are described as gameplay design patterns and related to how specific features in a character design can support gameplay. In conjunction with the patterns, the concepts of recognition, alliance, and alignment are used to introduce the method and provide examples. The paper concludes with a discussion on how the method can affect the overall gameplay in games.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.8.0 [Personal Computing]: General – Games.

General Terms: Design, Human Factors.

Keywords:Gameplay design, game design, player character, non-player character.

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Petri Lankoski
Media Lab
University of Art and Design Helsinki

Staffan Björk
Interaction Design Collegium
Chalmers University of Technology & Göteborg University

In GDTW2007 Proceedings
Fifth International Game Design and Technology Workshop and Conference
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
14–15 November 2007

This paper explores how games can be designed to make the social networks of characters as part of the gameplay. We start with a premise that game characters and social relations between them are import in games. We examine several games and derive gameplay design patterns from those games. Models from social network analysis, actor-network theory and Egri’s model for dramatic conflict is used to focus the analysis. In addition to isolating design patterns from existing features of the games, we look situations where game structures do not support social networks or conflicts as proposed in above-mentioned theories. Patterns identified include Competing for Attention, Gain Allies, Social Dilemma, Internal Conflict, and Social Maintenance.

Gameplay Design Patterns, Gameplay, Narration, Non-player Character, Computer Games, Gameplay Design

As social creatures, humans easier to engage in a game and narration when characters portrayed in these have social relations to each other, or in other words that the relations between characters form a social network. This is common knowledge within scriptwriting theories for theatre and film (see, e.g., [6, 7, 17, 19]), and these theories are also applied to creating games. However, social relations in games are typically part of the storyline (see, e.g., Thief II: The Metal Age [34], Dead or Alive 3 [44], Silent Hill 3 [45], and Half-Life [48]) and games typically do not let players directly act to influences those relations, instead letting them be consequences of other (most commonly physical) actions that are shown through cut-scenes. One example of this can be found in Quake 4 [22] where the relation between the player character, Matthew Kane, and the other characters in the Rhino squad are only changed in the cut scenes. No possibilities to do so are available during gameplay, including making it impossible for the player to terminating the relationship by killing the other team members. When players are given direct choices to influence the relationship this is typically done as explicit choices between a limited set of alternatives, and the effects of these are localized and seldom have the complexity of nuances of real social relationships, including how one change in a relationship can propagate through a whole network. Although these limitations typically make sense from gameplay or storytelling point of views, we think that the above-mentioned ways limits the design space of games, and having further alternatives would expand the expressive design space of games.

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Petri Lankoski
Media Lab
University of Art and Design Helsinki

Staffan Björk
Interaction Design Collegium
Computer Science and Engineering
Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University


Situated Play, Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference
(c) 2007 Authors & Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA). Personal and educational classroom use of this paper is allowed, commercial use requires specific permission from the author.
Definitive version is be available in conference proceedings and

Descriptions of humans require several qualities for people to experience them as believable: human body; self-awareness, intentional states, and self impelled actions; expression of emotions; ability to use natural language; and persistent traits. Based on these we analyze non-player character Claudette Perrick in The Elders Scroll IV: Oblivion to detect how these qualities can be created in the interactive environment of a game. We derive the gameplay design patterns Awareness of Surrounding, Visual Body Damage, Dissectible Bodies, Initiative, Own Agenda, Sense of Self, Emotional Attachment, Contextual Conversational Responses, and Goal-Driven Personal Development, which point to design choices that can be made when designing believable non-player characters in games.
Author Keywords
Gameplay design patterns, non-player character, game design, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

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