Asymmetric Games: Understanding how to meaningfully engage people in asymmetric play

Gameplay interface

Many people develop lasting social bonds by playing games together, and there are a variety of games available so that individuals are likely to find games that appeal to their specific play preferences, abilities, and available time. However, there are many instances where people might want to play together, but would normally choose vastly different games for themselves, due to these various asymmetries in play experiences, such as grandparents and grandchildren, highly skilled players and novices, or even simply two players that enjoy different games. In this work, we aim to improve the design of asymmetric games—games that are designed to embrace and leverage differences between players to improve multiplayer engagement.

This research works to describe the elements of asymmetry that can be used to design such games, and tests their application through the development of experimental prototype games. For example, in “Beam Me ‘Round, Scotty!”, pairs of players engage with asymmetric gameplay mechanics and interfaces (e.g. leading vs. support, action vs. strategy, gamepad vs. mouse interaction) in a cooperative adventure to escape a hostile alien world. “Beam Me ‘Round, Scotty!” presents a multi-faceted play experience designed to bridge differences in player skills, styles, and interests. By introducing deliberate interdependence through asymmetry, different types of players can come together and have fun overcoming obstacles, defeating enemies, and escaping the alien planet via their unique contributions.