Character-driven game design : a design approach and its foundations in character engagement

Petri Lankoski

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


    In this study I propose a design approach for character-based games. In order to develop a design method for character-based games, I look at how games guide players and the playing experience (especially the relationship between formal features and playing experience). This design approach has been used in the design of the game Lies and Seductions. Research implies that people react to human-like entities (e.g., game characters) as if they were people, including empathizing with characters. I argue that player characters can be used to guide the playing experience by limiting player choices. In addition, the system can make some things easier or more difficult to perform. This means that when the game system promotes or denotes some choices, the system can fix the personality traits of the character. These techniques support certain kinds of interpretation of the player character and of the game. In this study, I argue that the relationship between the game system and the representation of characters should be taken into account. I use formal analysis in conjunction with theories of cognitive science to distinguish designable features and trace the possible implications of using these features within the design. As the main results I introduce a character engagement model and a design approach (that is grounded to the character engagement model) for character-based games that integrate insights from dramatic writing for theatre. The proposed design approach focuses on character-driven conflicts.
    Translated title of the contributionCharacter-driven game design : a design approach and its foundations in character engagement
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor's degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Björk, Staffan, Thesis Advisor, External person
    • Järvinen, Aki, Thesis Advisor, External person
    Print ISBNs978-952-60-0002-2
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-0004-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • computer games
    • characters
    • design
    • game design
    • character design


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