Das Serious Game Spielfieber wirkt

Die Evaluation der Uni Bremen des von mir mitentwickelten Serious Game „Spielfieber, der Countdown läuft“ ist abgeschlossen.

Das Spiel funktioniert wie intendiert und führt zu einer Verringerung von glücksspielbezogenen Fehleinschätzungen ohne das Interesse an Glücksspielen zu steigern.

Ich zitiere aus der Studie:

„Bilanzierend bleibt festzuhalten, dass mit „Spielfieber“ auf ein innovatives und probates Tool zur Prävention der Glücksspielsucht zurückgegriffen werden kann, das im Rahmen einer Kombination aus verhältnis- und verhaltenspräventiven Maßnahmen einen sinnvollen Beitrag zur Glücksspielsuchtprävention liefert.“

Aufgrund der guten Ergebnisse wird das Spiel weiterentwickelt und auf Smartphones und Tablets (iOS und Android) portiert.

Detailiertere Informationen und die ganze Studie zum Download gibt es hier:
http://www.spielfieber.net/evaluation/

Die Pressemitteilung findet man hier.

Danke an den Auftraggeber Aktion Jugendschutz Bayern (insbesondere Daniel Ensslen),  meine Co-Entwickler Fine Fin und SgtRumpel sowie Christian Ganser von der Fakultät für Soziologie der LMU München, Niels Brüggen, Gisela Schubert und Sebastian Ring vom JFF für Unterstützung der Evaluation.

Diploma thesis completed

I completed my diploma thesis and are waiting for my result. Right now I am preparing for my final exams. I will have completed my studies in March 2009. I will prepare a summary of my findings then.

In short: There were huge differences in demography and play style between the Hardcore Game Player and Casual Game Player audiences. There is not just ONE computer games culture. Gamers associate different functions and meanings with gaming. Generally restrictions (like income, time, experience with input devices and games) are less relevant when choosing which games to play than preferences (like attitude towards violence in games).

Edit: I was awarded the mark „very good“ on the thesis.

Do Casual Gamer become Hardcore Gamer over time?

End of last year I conducted a survey on a casual games website (the German part of Zylom.com) and two Hardcore Games websites (Gamestar.de, Ingame.de).
In this blog I call the players from the casual games website casual gamers and the gamers from the hardcore games websites hardcore gamers.

I was very busy selling my own casual games company since the survey was online. Therefore I was only able to take a very brief look in a not statistically significant part of the data yet.
But this brief look already changed my view on the „most Casual Gamer will slowly become Hardcore Gamer“ topic.
The typical argumentation line is the following:
Casual games are way easier to pick up than hardcore games and are therefore the natural starting point for most non gamers.
Through playing casual games these gamers will over time become more experienced with computer games (becoming computer game literate) and will then slowly migrate to the more sophisticated hardcore games.

But my data does not support this as the Casual Gamers are already playing since 16 years while the HC Gamers only play since 10.

Therefore if you only look at the years of experience with computer games, the Casual Games are ahead.
This speaks against a general trend of casual gamers migrating to become hardcore gamers the longer they play.

In my survey the hardcore gamers have an average age of roughly 20, while the average age of the casual gamers is a bit below 40.
Youngsters are considered to have much more time to play games than older people.
And you generally need more time to play hardcore games than casual games. So how about hardcore gamers becoming casual gamers when they get older?
I did not ask about it, so this one is pretty much open for speculation. But what do you think judging your friends and family?

To sum it up I don’t think the years of experience are very important, but the age someone did play computer for the first time.
I think older persons are not as playful with new things like computers as kids are and therefore more easily frustrated and turning to the simple to learn casual games.
I my survey the hardcore gamers started playing with 10, the casual gamers with 20.

Searching a ‚rational‘ approach to playing computer games

I want to try to find theoretical based hypothesises which I can test in an quantitative study. Seems I am pretty alone with this approach. Almost all game researchers I know base their work much more on issues like systematic, rules, narration and use ethnographical and very qualitative ways to research the topic computer games. Why are harder theoretical theories which generate testable hypothesises like rational choice not being used? Is it because it so hard to measure game playing or game playing experience? Is it because the topic of gaming is so complex that if you use “strict” (and more compact ) theories that you can not approach them in an “as if” modelled approach.

I hope this is not the case. I was thinking about a framework which would integrate enough (but not to many) aspects gaming to be actually usable.

All of this is totally sketchy. But I had to get it on paper and out of my head.

The central point for the framework I came up with is “investment”.

To actually play a game a player has to do a certain investment. He will only pay this investment if he thinks it will pay off. Meaning that it would not be rational for him to do a similar investment into another activity (People familiar with rational choice will read the term marginal utility between the lines).

I broke down the investment into four different fields:

Time

Money

Game Capital

Social investment

Time: Time you are investing in a game session?

Money: Money your investing in a game session? Some would argue that time and money are actually interchangeable (meaning “time is money”). I will have to give that idea more thought.

Game Capital: Similar to Human Capital theory you are acquiring Game Capital which is your individual experience with (computer) games. A player will have to master using a mouse and the keyboard in a pretty decent way before he can play an FPS in any reasonable manner (my grandma can’t do that). When you are playing a game session you are automatically bringing your game capital with you. So you already have made this investment into your game capital long before you start the gaming session in question.

Social investment: There are many stereotypes surrounding playing computer games. Many people don’t want to be associated with these stereotypes. Imagine your grandma playing a violent game like Quake. For example most elder people and especially females seem to dislike violent games. Playing these games is not what they are supposed to do. It would not feel right for them to engage in an activity they (partly wrongly) associate with young males. Bridging this gap between the social norm of what you should do on one hand and what you actually do on the other is what is meant with social capital.

You can see the different investments as restrictions in an rational choice way. This is most obvious with the monetary restriction. If you do not have enough money to get your hands on a game you can not play it. If your game capital is not strong enough you will not play a certain game just for fun. But why would people then actually play games not just for fun.

This brings us to the aspect of user motivation. Somebody who just wants to relax a bit with playing a game will actually only enter a game session if he considers it rewarding – meaning having a positive ration of utility to investment. If somebody has the motive to compete he will take more risks concerning the ratio of utility and investments than someone just interested in relaxation. If your motive to play a game is to keep your mind sharp (many older people answer this in questionnaires) your utility will not be fun (at least not primarily) but the knowledge to do something which keeps you mentally fit. This could even explain why you would enter a game session which is actually not fun for you to play.

Some user motives:

  • Competition (typical used concerning playing “hardcore”)
  • Relaxation (typical used concerning playing “casual”)
  • Kill time (casual)
  • Keep yourself mentally fit (casual)

You an break down Competition into

Competing against someone else.

Competing against the game rules.

Competing against your self (Beating your own high score)

The different motives will lead to a different usage of the utility / investment ratio.

Such a sketched out theoretical framework would let you formulate a lot of hypothesises which you could then try to test.

A possible break point of the framework is that you would have to assign the motives certain investments. Sounds very subjective.

Again: These were just some loose thought which I wanted to formulate. I put them in the blog because I have not heard of a similar approach to playing games. The concept is not at all usable in the present state.

Survey on Casual Games and Gender

While we know that the demographics between hardcore and casual gamers differ (hc: mostly male/younger, cg: mostly female/older) it is not as clear why this is the case.

Therefore I plan to do a online survey on one typical casual games site and one typical hardcore games site.
To get clear results I try to find two websites which are as similar as possible except for their casual and hardcore audience and ask them about user motives, time investment, experience with computers…

I think for the casual side it makes sense to focus on the „try before you buy casual games“ on the pc (and leave the consoles and Massive Online Games out of the way).
This leads me, on the hardcore side, to PC Hardcore gamers, for example Ego Shooters, Real Time Strategy or non massive RPGs.

On the other hand distribution models and often the level of violence differ between these two markets.
Both are aspects which could have a big influence on the possible customers (e.G. many women being turned off by violence). But both are not central differences between casual and hardcore at least if you go with this casualgames whitepaper definition:

Casual / Hardcore games involve less/more „complicated game controls and overall complexity in terms of game play or investment required to get through the game“ (or enjoy the game session as I would formulate it).

I am thinking about good example sites to highlight aspects of the casual – hardcore games difference?

How about „try before you buy HARDCORE games“ which would lead us to indie games – right?