So last year, you may remember, I worked on developing a model of player types that could also be used to describe games. This led into a model that tries to do better than genre at describing games, based upon a synthesis of four models of play style/motivation [Bartle’s, Yee’s, DGD1 and BrainHex]. The result was the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI) model for describing video games and their players. The synthesis research and model descriptions will be available from McFarland sometime in the spring or summer this year. It is in the spring catalog and you can watch for it here. So, because it has been quite a large project for me, and because it will be some time before the book actually comes out, I have decided to finally write out the descriptions for each of the components so that people can see them. These will be a bit different from the descriptions in my chapter of the book, but the ones in the book are better situated, so use what you will if you do. I make no money on the sales of the book, though I am sure my editor (Zach Waggoner) does and he’s a good guy (he let me write a chapter in his book, after all!). So without much further ado, I’ll get into a brief description of the structure of PGDI, and then go into the components’ descriptions.
So let’s start off with a picture that took more time than it should have to make. The following is a graphical representation of PGDI.
I know, it’s very colorful, and at this point it is completely unintelligible to you. I know how it represents PGDI because I made it, but to you it just looks like a colorful hexagon with a bunch of lines (or a cat). I drew it by hand using Paint.NET, so it is likely not at all mathematically sound. As a fun fact, there is a regular hexagon shape in Wingdings 2, because you need to know that. One thing that you may be able to discern from the image is that there are 26 different cells. There is one cell for each component in PGDI. So, yes, PGDI has 26 components. It seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Those 26 cells are divided up by color, which creates six triangles. These six triangles represent the six organizational categories of PGDI. I’ll get into what the categories and components are in just a moment. Before I do, I want to say something about the purpose of PGDI. I wanted to get the graphic out of the way immediately so that you were introduced to something tangible before being thrown into a bunch of text.
As stated earlier, PGDI was designed to do a better job at describing games than genre does. In addition to that, it is pulled together from play style research, so it is based on how people play and what people look for in a game. As such, it is also useful for describing players. I designed the model using components that describe a kind of gameplay. The components are intended to be independent of one another (the value of one component does not indicate a propensity for another component), and are scales (a game can have a lot of a component or a little). The model is supposed to work by comparing how much or how little a component bears on the game by itself. In other words, one is not supposed to measure a game or a player by comparing it to another game or player. It is: “How much of this is there here?” not: “How much more of this does this have than that?” If it has a lot of that component in the game, then it gets a strong rating. What “a lot” is for a game depends on a number of things like how long the game is, how varied the gameplay is and similar factors. The point is to be able to make games and players comparable to each other by using a more arbitrary scale. In a way, it is designed to represent components in the way that statistics (like strength) are represented in games like Dungeons & Dragons. Each component gets a score and that score only represents what we are examining and each score doesn’t care what the other scores say.
So PGDI is comprised of 26 components, which are divided into six categories. It is important to note that the six categories are completely organizational. They are not there to say that the components in them tend to appear together. They are simply there to be able to tie things together and make everything easier to digest. This does not mean that we can’t say that a game is strong in X category, or that I prefer games with a strong Y category. This is shortcutting, and in conversation it can be very helpful. We just have to acknowledge that just because we say a game is strong in X doesn’t mean that all of the components in the X category are strong. Some may be weak or nonexistent in the game, so long as enough components are strong enough to outweigh the difference.
So enough of this X and Y category nonsense. Let’s get you the names of the categories.
This blue triangle houses the social components. There are four social components (Community, Competition, Cooperation, and Multiplayer). The components in the social category all have something to do with interacting with other people through games.
The purple triangle is the participation category. In the participation category are components related to the player feeling like they are participating in the game, that their actions matter. The participation category has four components in it (Agency, Challenge, Power, and Reward).
The red triangle represents the immersion category. “Immersion” is a contested term in games studies right now, but I have tried to use it in as least an offensive way I can. The immersion category houses components that deal with making the player feel or experience something in tandem with the game. It is this situation of shared experience, of transferred affect. The immersion category has four components (Embodiment, Emotion, Excitement, and Instinct).
The components in the orange customization category deal largely with a player’s effect on their play experience. These components examine the player’s ability to tailor their gaming experience to what they want by offering pieces of the game that can be customized or reconfigured. This can happen on both an aesthetic and a cerebral level. The customization category is the first of the categories to have five components (Building, Experimentation, Replay, Uniqueness, and Variety).
The yellow triangle represents the mastery category. There are also five components in the mastery category (Achievement, Collecting, Discovery, Process, Skill). These components each have to do with some sort of control or knowledge of something in a game. They are tied to the ideas of completion, beating the game, and being the best at something.
The progression category is represented in green. The components in the category have to do with how the game goes from one point to the next. These components describe how the player goes through the game and how the game is won or lost, as well as describing growth. There are four components in the progression category (Ability, Character, Goals, Plot).
This has gotten a bit long, so I will cut this off here and put the descriptions of the components in different posts, one for each category. This will make it easier for you to reference and digest. When the new posts go up, I’ll retroactively make this post more interactive so that it’s easy to jump around to information.