Game Design Praxiology

Research output: Book/ReportBookScientificpeer-review


This dissertation is positioned on the multidiscipline of game studies. It presents the findings of a ten-year study of game developers and the contexts of their creative practices. As a multidisciplinary enquiry, this study draws from the theoretical and methodological traditions of creativity studies, management studies, computer science, and design research to supplement the young discipline of game studies. However, studying game developers is not a typical focus for the field of academic game research. The dissertation critically comments on the tradition of game studies for its ontological narrowness and the neglect of the relevance of the creator in the quest for understanding the phenomenon of games and play.

Altogether, this work draws from nineteen sub-studies to explore game development as experienced, highlighting issues that frame creation practices. The study is exploratory utilising multiple methods capturing the voices and realities of the creators. The overview of the study is ethnographically informed: the data collection covers an extensive period in games from 2006 to 2016, bridging the sub-studies with field work and digital ethnography at multiple industry events around the globe and social media platforms.

The findings are distilled into five claims: 1) Game design is timely and particular, 2) Game design is value pluralistic, 3) Game design process is opportunistic, 4) Game design process is a plethora of ideas, and 5) Game design practice is natured and nurtured by the surrounding ecosystem. These theses form the grounding of game design praxiology, which in this work is defined as a pursuit of studying games as created.

This dissertation takes several levels of game developers’ realities and experiences into consideration. Firstly, it addresses the changing environment and recent trends in the game industry painting a picture of a challenging field of action. Such an environment requires flexibility and adaptation from the creators making game development a constant learning process. One of the highlighted trends is the casual turn in games. This normalisation of digital play has had a wide impact on the ways games are created.

Secondly, this work explores the multitude of game design, and discusses how games can be many and always affected by the values and appreciations of their respective creators. The notion of game design value is utilised in communicating the pluralistic nature of game design. Game design cannot be reduced to a single value, even though making a single game can be dominated by one.

Thirdly, the dissertation addresses the iterative nature of game development. Iteration as a core concept within game development is elaborated in this work into a larger notion of opportunism in design work. Opportunistic attitudes are visible on multiple levels of game work, and embraced as well as amplified within game creation cultures. Game developers do not only need to react to the changes within the industry, but take the opportunities that might come about within the development processes.

A big part of the study is revolving around the notion of a game idea. The level of ideas is more accessible to the outsiders of the creation cultures, but often misunderstood. The creative process of making games is collaborative and social, requiring creative input from several professions. The game innovation processes are not solely based on single overarching game ideas, but rather on various idea acts. This forms the fourth focus point for the dissertation.

Lastly, the work highlights how the larger ecosystem impacts on the game development practices. For the past decade, the game industry has expanded into a wide ecosystem of diverse actors and professions. This varying network of actors, including non-commercial actors, has its own role in nurturing the developments of the field. As one example, the phenomenon of the game jams is highlighted exposing a widely spread movement of creative communities emphasising diversity, co-creativity, opportunism, and prototyping cultures impacting a whole generation of game developers. The work calls for further research within game design praxiology: as long as game making is not a part of the basic education in the same way as writing or drawing, games are in danger of remaining misunderstood as a wide and vibrant form of art and practise.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTampere
PublisherTampereen yliopisto
Number of pages183
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-03-0742-4
ISBN (Print)978-952-94-0354-7
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeC1 Book

Publication series

NameActa Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis
PublisherUniversity of Tampere
ISSN (Electronic)1456-954X


  • game studies
  • game research
  • game design research
  • design research
  • game design praxiology
  • design praxiology
  • developer studies
  • creativity
  • study of practice
  • games
  • game industry
  • game jams
  • game trends


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