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Designing for Emergence in Games

Workshop at INTETAIN conference 2009

Tower of hanoi.jpg

Designing emergent gameplay is a somewhat paradoxical task as emergence is a notoriously elusive concept. During this workshop my colleague Remco van Swieten and I challenged the participants to create emergent gameplay using feedback loops as a leading structural concept. The general idea is that feedback loops within the game system are an important contributor to emergence in games. We briefly outlined this idea in a presentation in which we also introduced a graphical notation designed to capture feedback loops, and a number of feedback patterns that have been harvested from other games. As you might have guest this graphical notation is the same as used here in the machinations tool.

After the presentation the thirty participants were divided into six groups and were given two randomly selected patterns, boardgame materials and the task to design a game with the theme escape. We were lucky: the weather was really nice and we had access to a lovely garden as you can see from the pictures.

There was only one hour, and although it is possible to design a game in this short timeframe, this left little time for reflection. In any case the participants were asked to record their games. From these records game diagrams were created and put online. You can find the results by following the links below.

I was quite happy with results, and during the conference dinner paper sketches and diagrams allowed us to discuss all the game concepts in considerable detail. Although given more time a more gradual build-up of the theory would be welcome.