Leveraging Asymmetry and Interdependence to Enhance Social Connectedness in Cooperative Digital Games
Asymmetric cooperative games---games that present their players with sharply contrasting aesthetic experiences in the same shared play space---are well-positioned to tackle the multi-faceted problem of bridging preference and ability boundaries among members of preexisting social circles, and supporting the development of enriching social capital. By providing different players with different interfaces, challenges, abilities, and information while tightly coupling their interactions through shared goals and feedback, asymmetric cooperative games may better overcome the "alone together" paradox common to many modern multiplayer games; even games such as the "massively multiplayer online" game World of Warcraft which are often not inherently as social experiences as might initially be assumed.
My research focuses on better understanding the design of asymmetric cooperative games and how they can leverage interdependence to enhance players' social play experiences. In this seminar, I discuss two prototype asymmetric cooperative games I developed, Goombagrams and Beam Me 'Round, Scotty!, for use in a series of focused player experience studies, and the development of a conceptual framework supporting the design and research of this uniquely social but under-studied form of play.
John Harris is a PhD candidate in Computer Science working at the University of Waterloo's Games Institute. His background in Game Design, Human-Computer Interaction, and Mechatronics Engineering has allowed him to take a highly-technical, design-centric approach to games user research and the hands-on study of how games can be developed to better support unique social interaction between players using custom-built prototype games.