Conference PaperPDF Available

Learners as players and designers: A formal learning approach to game design

Conference Paper

Learners as players and designers: A formal learning approach to game design

Abstract

Researchers have supported "design" approaches to learning for the last few decades, acknowledging the in-depth understanding the design work requires of learners. On the other hand, the perspectives of the users (players in the case of game design) are less considered as learners' designs may not be used beyond their classrooms. This paper pays attention to learners' experience as game players when taking the role of game designers in the classroom while exploring the implicit and explicit relationships of the mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics. Moreover, we seek to understand what students learn when these relationships emerge. To reach these objectives, we analysed how ninth grade students in a west-Canadian junior high school worked together as small teams to design games in a Career and Technology Studies classroom. Learners in different groups pursued varying game ideas driven by their interest. We collected qualitative data through weekly observations and analysed the data to explore the implicit and explicit relationships existing between mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics of their evolving game design. We found that the students developed an insight into the implicit and explicit relationships between mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics of their game. Game design practices engaged learners in deep understanding of design as an iterative process.
27
LEARNERS AS PLAYERS AND DESIGNERS: A FORMAL LEARNING APPROACH TO
GAME DESIGN
Farzan Baradaran Rahimi1, Beaumie Kim2
1. Computational Media Design, University of Calgary
2. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary
ABSTRACT
Researchers have supported “design” approaches to learning for the last few
decades, acknowledging the in-depth understanding the design work requires of
learners. On the other hand, the perspectives of the users (players in the case of
game design) are less considered as learners’ designs may not be used beyond
their classrooms. This paper pays attention to learners’ experience as game players
when taking the role of game designers in the classroom while exploring the
implicit and explicit relationships of the mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics.
Moreover, we seek to understand what students learn when these relationships
emerge. To reach these objectives, we analysed how ninth grade students in a
west-Canadian junior high school worked together as small teams to design games
in a Career and Technology Studies classroom. Learners in different groups
pursued varying game ideas driven by their interest. We collected qualitative data
through weekly observations and analysed the data to explore the implicit and
explicit relationships existing between mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics of
their evolving game design. We found that the students developed an insight into
the implicit and explicit relationships between mechanics, dynamics, and
aesthetics of their game. Game design practices engaged learners in deep
understanding of design as an iterative process.
Keywords: participatory practice, game design, mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics
INTRODUCTION
Two studies by Tan and Kim (2015) on learning design, showed that when adolescents use
digital media, they “introduce their out-of-school literacy practices into their school literacy practices”
(p. 181). Moreover, designing games, provide opportunities for learners “to construct new
relationships with knowledge in the process” (Kafai 2006, p. 36). Studies show that practicing design
(in general) and game design (in particular) help learners develop problem solving skills,
communication skills, systems thinking, decision making, and social skills, such as taking and
negotiating roles, that are necessary skills and competencies in modern world (Baradaran Rahimi &
Kim, 2019; Kickmeier-Rust & Albert, 2012; Prensky, 2006; Redecker et al., 2011; Squire, 2006;
Sourmelis, Ioannou & Zaphiris, 2017).
Poundstone (1993) suggested that the basic components of a game are player, strategy, and
payoff. Players may compete against each other (e.g., Chess), cooperate with other players (e.g.,
Mysterium), or create an initial pattern with properties and let the game run for itself (e.g., Conway’s
Game of Life). Strategy is concerned with the rules and actions that players take in a game whereas
payoff includes the scores and consequences of actions taken by players (Poundstone, 1993). By this
definition, rules explicitly trigger the actions of the player whereas actions are implicitly motivated
by payoffs. More recently, Hunicke, LeBlanc and Zubek (2004) suggested mechanics, dynamics, and
28
aesthetics as the basic components of the games, considering games as designed artifacts that are
consumed by players. From the designer’s perspective, the mechanics bring about dynamics which
itself prompts aesthetics (Hunicke, LeBlanc, and Zubek, 2004). From the player’s perspective,
aesthetics set the tone, which is brought out of perceptible dynamics and mechanics. As a game is
designed for players, it is necessary to think about both perspectives of the designer and player while
taking into consideration the implicit and explicit relationships of the components.
The objective of this paper is to explore the implicit and explicit relationships of the
mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics when learners as game players take the role of game designers.
Moreover, we seek to understand what students learn when these relationships emerge. We discuss
how ninth grade students in a west-Canadian junior high school worked together as small teams to
design games in a Career and Technology Studies classroom. We collected data through weekly
observations and analyzed the data to explore the implicit and explicit relationships existing between
mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
According to Hunicke, LeBlanc, and Zubek (2004), “mechanics is the first and the most
concrete component. Mechanics describes the particular components of the game, at the level of data
representation and algorithms” (p. 2). They consider that a game is a series of data and algorithms.
For example, in Super Mario Bros., Mario has some data like his position. He also has actions such
as jumping. Thus, Mario’s position and his act of jumping are both pieces of mechanics. The authors
offer a second definition and explain that “[m]echanics are the various actions, behaviors and control
mechanisms afforded to the player within a game context” (p.3). This definition only references a
subset of the earlier definition as it limits and binds itself to players. The second definition challenges
and takes away the notion that the entirety of a game’s data and actions form the mechanics. For
example, the position of the Goombas (the first enemy players encounter) in Super Mario Bros. is not
an action, behavior, or a control mechanism afforded to the player. The Goombas perform their role
in the game and take positions regardless of Mario’s position and action or a control mechanism
available to the player. However, it is still a mechanism that is related to data representation and
algorithms level holding the characteristics of the mechanics.
Hunicke et al. (2004) suggested, “[d]ynamics describes the run-time behavior of the
mechanics acting on player inputs and each other’s outputs over time” (p. 2). The term run-time refers
to a program when it is executed. Thus, one is playing the game when dynamics takes place. The
runtime behavior of mechanics incorporates going from one state to a new one in the game as a result
of the actions which modify data. In the last two segments of the dynamics’ definition authors make
two assumptions. They assume dynamics arise from mechanics acting on player inputs. However,
some dynamics are not dependent on the player’s input while some others depend on player’s inputs.
For example, when the player presses B on the controller, Mario jumps as a result of the player’s
input. Yet, Goomba’s always move in Super Mario Bros. in a linear path without receiving any inputs
from the player. The second assumption is that the game mechanics works as time progresses. This
conveys the idea that dynamics is the flow of mechanics taking place when the game is played.
Consequently, one can consider dynamics as a group of related mechanics.
Aesthetics marks the final and most abstract components. According to Hunicke et al. (2004),
“[a]esthetics describes the desirable emotional responses evoked in the player, when she interacts
with the game system” (p. 2). Here, the focus is on the experience of the player. The aesthetics
definition sounds like the positive feeling that a player has when playing a game. The authors give
some examples to clarify this definition, including sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, discovery,
fellowship, expression, submission, and competition. A player may be drawn into the world of the
fantasy game, clash against the challenging game, or anticipate every corner of a discovery game. In
the authors’ sense, aesthetics grows out of dynamics because it reflects player’s experience in playing
29
the game. For example, when a player talks about a game and mentions that “it had great exploration”
or “it had a poor shooting” s/he is talking about aesthetics. These are the final interpretations based
on the game play experience.
Hunicke et al. (2004) define mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics (MDA framework) from a
computer science viewpoint. However, MDA can be also used for describing non-computer games as
data and algorithms also exist in a non-digital format in other types of games, such as bord games and
card games (Kafai & Burke, 2015). Zimmerman (2009) provided a more operable definition from a
design perspective. For Zimmerman (2009), mechanics depicts the specific segments, at the level of
rules and physics of the game, dynamics portray the player’s interaction with the game, and aesthetics
generate sensual and emotional responses in players while playing the game. However, audiovisual
attributes of a game can be considered both mechanics and dynamics. Although they represent
audiovisual data in the game, they are the primary sources of generating sensual and emotional
perceptions in players. We believe that some aspects of the games do not emerge as mechanics,
dynamics, and aesthetics but in their implicit or explicit relationships. Explicit relationships host those
aspects of the game, such as audiovisual attributes, that directly belong to more than one component
of MDA framework while influencing other components. Implicit relationships host those aspects of
the game, such as design iterations of the characters’ look, that strongly float between the components
of the MDA framework and influence them without belonging to any of the components.
RESEARCH DESIGN
The study was conducted in a west-Canadian junior high school. The task was to design an
interest driven game in a Career and Technology Studies classroom. In a participatory practice, nine
graders worked as groups on different components of their games including aesthetics, mechanics,
and dynamics. We collected qualitative data such as observational notes, video recordings of every
classroom session, photos of students’ in-progress games, students’ reflections on their own and
others’ projects, and interviews. Videotapes of interviews were transcribed verbatim. Observational
videos during class sessions were separately logged and notes were taken based on the classroom
events. The textual materials, including the video logs, transcriptions, and observational notes as well
as the students’ reflections were then analyzed in Nvivo 11. We identified themes, categories, and
codes related to the objectives of the project. Several sessions of discussing codes, categories, and
themes were then conducted until the researchers involved in this paper reached an agreement.
Quotations from the students were then selected for inclusion in this paper.
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
The work of students showed their developing understanding about the mechanics, dynamics,
and aesthetics in their games. Game design practices included various learning outcomes, such as
learning about the iterative process of design and the importance of trial and error in developing ideas
in a design project. Moreover, learners found opportunities for meaning making while relying on their
experiences and preferences as game players engaged in design. We observed the following learning
30
and development opportunities, especially in two groups (Figure 1). One of these groups included
five male students designing a sandbox game, Voxel War, and the other group included four female
students designing a card game, Meme Game. We use pseudonyms for the learners in this paper.
Implicit Aspects of Games and Learning About the Iterative Process of Design
Data related to the game characters and representation was one of the areas that learners
focused on. For example, Zeus explained the steps he took to develop parts of the Voxel War and
mentioned in the interview that “I’ve gone from sprites to voxels to a different kind of voxel to
polygon, which is the more 3D realistic design of characters”. What Zeus points at is the iterative
process of designing a part of data that represents the characters in the game. The graphic applications
that learners used represent the binary data related to a character’s look in visuals that are recognizable
for players. Characters’ look can influence the perception of the players as the vessel to explore and
perceive the world of the game. These iterations were important to make sure that the player’s
perception of the characters is close to what learners want (being realistic). Here, data representation
(i.e. mechanics) implicitly addresses the player’s perception of the game’s world and may influence
the player’s emotional responses (i.e. aesthetics). One may argue that aesthetics can be more about
how components interaction with players evoke various emotions. However, MDA framework does
not explain this. Deimos, pointed at the classification of power items in Voxel War and explained that
an area which needs more time and effort is “[b]alancing all of the classes and subclasses to make
sure that they are used because of the play style and not because it is an overpower”. Deimos’
discourse refers to the algorithm that must put in place to provide a balance between a dynamic (i.e.
play style) and a certain mechanic (i.e. overpowering items). As design iterations are tied with trial
and errors which are time consuming, learners needed more time and effort to reach the balance based
on trial and errors. Here, mechanics implicitly influences dynamics.
Kratos talked about the mechanisms that Meme Game team embedded in their game. She
explained that “[we] had to mix chance with strategies. So that’s when players start enjoying it”. The
balancing mechanism which was implemented at the level of rules in their game (i.e. mechanics)
implicitly helps player to make joy out of her playing experience (i.e. aesthetics). Her teammate,
Keres, went into details and explained that “before, we were going to play chance and then if you lost
you could throw a ball at somebody and that’s why we had all the balls but then that didn’t really
work out ‘cause that was all chance still so then we had to get rid of that”. This shows the iterative
process of design based on trial and error and the process through which learners understood that a
part of design does not work. Moreover, Kares exemplified in her discourse a piece of mechanics (the
mechanism of punishment and award) in run-time and the dynamics (throwing the ball) that arose
from it. When asked how the game is played, Kares replied “you lay down your cards and you roll
your dice and then whoever has higher than the attackers can block some of the attacks”. Kares not
Figure 1.
Voxel War
(
left) and
Meme Game
(
right) being played.
31
only described the rule (a piece of mechanics) but also described the run-time behavior of the
mechanics acting on player inputs (to get or block an attack by rolling dice). Here, the player follows
the rule of rolling dice (a piece of mechanics) which implies following the mechanism of punishment
and award (another piece of mechanics). Data shows that learners could identify the role of iterative
design process in developing the game. Moreover, mechanics can implicitly influence other
mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics in a game.
Explicit Aspects of Games and Meaning Making
There seemed to be a verity of items that appeal to the designer and player in commercial
games. For instance, Zeus talked about the narrative for their game, Voxel War, in the interview and
explained that “[y]ou’re being invaded by another kingdom, it starts in your border village and you
have to get to the king, warn him about what’s happening, join whichever faction your class is part
of. Every 20 levels there’s a main story mission that’s kind of a huge scale battle. Like the last one is
a huge battle in the capital city, you’re being sieged, and you have to stop that, and you end up killing
the enemy king”. Zeus provided certain data related to the narrative, such as, background, motivation,
and goal of the game. Such data are meaningful to computer only in binary codes, but the game
engines and graphic applications take care of the codes while representing the narrative in audiovisual
format that is more meaningful to players. This shows that the learner noticed the importance of
narrative in providing a context for meaning making. Such data stand at the level of mechanics which
is concerned with data representation and algorithms. Although the narrative can be considered as a
piece of mechanics, it directly expresses the background, motivation, and goal of the game to keep
the player engaged in dynamics. However, many pieces of mechanics (e.g. rules) implicitly influence
dynamics and aesthetics, meaning that they are not directly expressed to the player. Kratos told that
the narrative provides a “highly fantasy except there’s no elves or dragons, at least as far as we’ve
gone so far”. Kratos gives a meaning to the narrative by describing it as highly fantasy. Narrative can
alter the overall experience and emotional perception of the game as it gives meaning to the game
characters, events, and environments. Here, narrative as a piece of mechanics explicitly influences
dynamics and aesthetics of the game.
For Meme Game the explicit aspect of their game was different as it was a boardgame. When
asked about the experience of game for players, Kares mentioned that “this one’s more tactile”. In a
boardgame that players touch the game pieces (e.g. tiles) considering tactile attributes of the game
can affect the overall experience and emotional perception. In a computer game, however, the tactile
attributes of the game are limited to the hepatic feedback that a player receives from the game
controller. Tactile attributes can help players to make meanings. For example, the haptic feedback
can help players to make deeper meanings of getting shot in the game. Kares response can also be
interpreted in relation to the texture. Texture in a computer game is usually a visual attribute. For
instance, a wall represented by a rough vs. soft texture in a game motivates different senses in player.
Wrong texture in a game can make different meanings for players like a black carpeted floor being
represented by a glossy texture (wrong texture). Audio has a similar attribute. When the soundtrack
changes during the game as a result of an encounter with the enemy (dynamics) or cheers up the
player as s/he completes a level (aesthetics), it conveys different meanings to the player. Audiovisual
and tactile attributes of the game can be considered at the mechanics level focusing on data
representation and mechanisms. Yet, these pieces of mechanics are explicit and directly influence the
aesthetics and dynamics of the game.
CONCLUSION
We described how the students were not only developing a comprehension of mechanics,
dynamics, and aesthetics, but also an insight into their implicit and explicit relationships. Some parts,
such as the rules of the game, can implicitly influence mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics. Other
32
parts, such as audiovisual attributes, of the game, can explicitly influence dynamics and aesthetics.
While MDA framework is useful to describe game design approach, it still needs to consider the
explicit and implicit relationships among the mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics. We suggest a
formal game design approach to learning, so that the relationships and arrangement of game
components are considered in addition to the content of the game.
We advocate for adopting game design practices not only to engage learners in deep
understanding of design as an iterative process, but also to make new meanings through design. We
acknowledge that we could only demonstrate a part of our findings with a limited number of students
in this paper. There was a range of guidance that came from teachers and researchers. In addition,
students and teachers mentioned other skills, including how students could evaluate their own
development, to learn from each other and learn to work together. We are further exploring ways to
better support students in thinking about complex systems that they represent in the game.
REFERENCES
Baradaran Rahimi, F., & Kim, B. (2019). The role of interest-driven participatory game design:
considering design literacy within a technology classroom. International Journal of Technology
and Design Education, 29(2), 387-404.
Poundstone, W. (1993). Prisoner's Dilemma/John von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of
the Bomb. New York, NY: Anchor Books.
Hunicke, R., LeBlanc, M., & Zubek, R. (2004, July). MDA: A formal approach to game design and
game research. In Proceedings of the AAAI Workshop on Challenges in Game AI, 4(1), 17-22.
Kafai, Y. B., & Burke, Q. (2015). Constructionist gaming: Understanding the benefits of making
games for learning. Educational psychologist, 50(4), 313-334.
Kickmeier-Rust, M. D., & Albert, D. (2012, July). A domain model for smart 21st century skills
training in game-based virtual worlds. In 2012 IEEE 12th International Conference on Advanced
Learning Technologies (pp. 680-681). IEEE.
Prensky, M. (2006). Don’t bother me, Mom, I’m learning! How computer and video games are
preparing your kids for 21st century success and how you can help. Saint Paul: Paragon
House.
Redecker, C., Leis, M., Leendertse, M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner, P., ... & Hoogveld, B.
(2011). The future of learning: Preparing for change. JRC. Luxembourg: Publications Office of
the European Union.
Squire, K. (2006). From content to context: Videogames as designed experience. Educational
researcher, 35(8), 19-29.
Sourmelis, T., Ioannou, A., & Zaphiris, P. (2017). Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games
(MMORPGs) and the 21st century skills: A comprehensive research review from 2010 to 2016.
Computers in Human Behavior, 67, 41-48.
Tan, L., & Kim, B. (2015). Learning by doing in the digital media age. In T. Lin, V. Chen & C. S.
Chai (Eds.), New media and learning in the 21st century (pp. 181197). Singapore: Springer.
Zimmerman, E. (2008). Gaming literacy: Game design as a model for literacy in the twenty-first
century. In B. Perron & M.J. Wolf (Eds.) (pp. 45-54). New York, NY: Routledge.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Adolescents develop skills and ideas from their interest-driven practices, which shape a type of literacy that may differ from the traditional ideas of literacy. This paper takes a qualitative approach to identify adolescents’ activities through interest-driven participatory design. We interacted with grade 9 students at a Western Canadian school who were designing games in a Career and Technology Studies classroom. We collected data through weekly observations, group presentations, written individual reflections on their own designs, oral and written group peer feedback, and final interviews with group members. Based on literature review and our observations, we drew on a framework focusing on adolescents’ participation in exploring, developing, and creating designs based on their own interest. We advocate for adopting interest-driven participatory game design in technology classroom, to engage learners more in learning and developing necessary skills to thrive in their lives.
Chapter
Full-text available
There is a general agreement that adolescents are not only using a wide range of digital media but also developing a new culture of learning as they use it. Drawing on two separate studies on adolescent digital literacy practices, this chapter expounds on the commonly cited term, learning by doing. We argue that learning by doing is integral to the adolescents’ school and everyday lives. The arguments put forward in this chapter are drawn from a social view of literacy to understand adolescents’ use of digital media in and out of school. Using an ethnographic perspective to researching adolescents’ literacy practices, this chapter provides illustrative ethnographic accounts of how learning by doing is enacted in adolescents’ school and out-of-school literacy practices. We hope that the ethnographic accounts are able to inform educators on the emerging culture of learning in adolescents’ digital literacy practices and open up new vistas for redesigning learning environments that are more relevant to adolescents’ lifeworlds in the digital media age.
Article
Full-text available
There has been considerable interest in examining the educational potential of playing video games. One crucial element, however, has traditionally been left out of these discussions—namely, children's learning through making their own games. In this article, we review and synthesize 55 studies from the last decade on making games and learning. We found that the majority of studies focused on teaching coding and academic content through game making, and that few studies explicitly examined the roles of collaboration and identity in the game making process. We argue that future discussions of serious gaming ought to be more inclusive of constructionist approaches to realize the full potential of serious gaming. Making games, we contend, not only more genuinely introduces children to a range of technical skills but also better connects them to each other, addressing the persistent issues of access and diversity present in traditional digital gaming cultures. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00461520.2015.1124022
Book
Full-text available
This report aims to identify, understand and visualise major changes to learning in the future. It developed a descriptive vision of the future, based on existing trends and drivers, and a normative vision outlining how future learning opportunities should be developed to contribute to social cohesion, socio-economic inclusion and economic growth. The overall vision is that personalisation, collaboration and informalisation (informal learning) are at the core of learning in the future. These terms are not new in education and training but will have to become the central guiding principle for organising learning and teaching in the future. The central learning paradigm is thereby characterised by lifelong and life-wide learning, shaped by the ubiquity of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). At the same time, due to fast advances in technology and structural changes to European labour markets that are related to demographic change, globalisation and immigration, generic and transversal skills become more important, which support citizens in becoming lifelong learners who flexibly respond to change, are able to pro-actively develop their competences and thrive in collaborative learning and working environments. Many of the changes depicted have been foreseen for some time but they now come together in such a way that is becomes urgent and pressing for policymakers to consider them and to propose and implement a fundamental shift in the learning paradigm for the 21st century digital world and economy. To reach the goals of personalised, collaborative and informalised learning, holistic changes need to be made (curricula, pedagogies, assessment, leadership, teacher training, etc.) and mechanisms need to be put in place which make flexible and targeted lifelong learning a reality and support the recognition of informally acquired skills.
Article
In the past decade, there has been increasing interest in studying the educational affordances of Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). Using the KSAVE (Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes, Values, Ethics) 21st Century Skills framework, this paper presents the current state of the art in MMORPGs empirical research from 2010 to 2016, considering the latest overview reported in 2010. This review sought to determine the level of maturity of the body of MMORPGs research and to identify lacks of knowledge, with respect to 10 types of 21st Century Skills. The current work considered 120 research publications and categorized 49 empirical studies according to their research foci and results on one or more types of 21st Century Skills. The results revealed a strong body of evidence suggesting that MMORPGs are spaces in which a variety of 21st Century Skills can be fostered. Yet, most MMORPGs research focuses on the investigation of the communication skill (22% of the skills examined), whilst creativity and innovation as well as problem solving and information literacy are largely unexplored in this context. The discussion focuses on understudied areas in MMORPGs research aiming to advance future inquiry that addresses current challenges.
Conference Paper
The demands of galloping societal changes and technical (r)evolutions on today's learners are immense. At present we need empower people to solve problems we do not even know yet. This requires a substantial change of education, away from teaching knowledge towards teaching meta-skills such as problem solving, non-linear thinking, creativity, or communication skills -- the so-called 21st century skills. This is not trivial, since such meta-abilities cannot simply be tackled by conventional tutorial methods. IN this paper we briefly introduce an approach to systematize 21st century skills and to develop intelligent tutorial systems for this distinct domain.
Article
Interactive immersive entertainment, or videogame playing, has emerged as a major entertainment and educational medium. As research and development initiatives proliferate, educational researchers might benefit by developing more grounded theories about them. This article argues for framing game play as a designed experience. Players’ understandings are developed through cycles of performance within the gameworlds, which instantiate particular theories of the world (ideological worlds). Players develop new identities both through game play and through the gaming communities in which these identities are enacted. Thus research that examines game-based learning needs to account for both kinds of interactions within the game-world and in broader social contexts. Examples from curriculum developed for Civilization III and Supercharged! show how games can communicate powerful ideas and open new identity trajectories for learners.
Article
From the Publisher:Should you watch public television without pledging?...Exceed the posted speed limit?...Hop a subway turnstile without paying? These questions illustrate the so-called "prisoner's dilemma," a social puzzle that we all face every day. Though the answers may seem simple, their profound implications make the prisoner's dilemma one of the great unifying concepts of science, an idea that has influenced leaders across the political spectrum and informed our views of conflicts ranging from the Cuban missile crisis to the Persian Gulf War. Watching players bluff in a poker game inspired John von Neumann--father of the modern computer and one of the sharpest minds of the century--to construct game theory, a mathematical study of conflict and deception. Game theory was readily embraced at the RAND Corporation, the archetypical think tank charged with formulating military strategy for the atomic age, and in 1950 two RAND scientists made a momentous discovery. Called the "prisoner's dilemma," it is a disturbing and mind-bending game where two or more people may betray the common good for individual gain. Introduced shortly after the Soviet Union acquired the atomic bomb, the prisoner's dilemma quickly became a popular allegory of the nuclear arms race. Intellectuals such as von Neumann and Bertrand Russell joined military and political leaders in rallying to the "preventive war" movement, which advocated a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. Though the Truman administration rejected preventive war the United States entered into an arms race with the Soviets and game theory developed into a controversial tool of public policy--alternately accused of justifying arms races and touted as the only hope of preventing them. A masterful work of science writing, Prisoner's Dilemma weaves together a biography of the brilliant and tragic von Neumann, a history of pivotal phases of the cold war, and an investigation of game theory's far-reaching influence on public policy t
MDA: A formal approach to game design and game research
  • R Hunicke
  • M Leblanc
  • R Zubek
Hunicke, R., LeBlanc, M., & Zubek, R. (2004, July). MDA: A formal approach to game design and game research. In Proceedings of the AAAI Workshop on Challenges in Game AI, 4(1), 17-22.