Statistics and game design
There seem to be a trend in game design and game research lately about the importance of having metrics and ways to assess/describe/grasp/apprehend game usage with more powerful techniques. The discussion about Second Life figures is maybe an connected phenomenon but this topic goes further than just a journalist/researcher discussion. Conversely, there has been a some posts on Terra Nova about facts in game research (here and here (and also on the "Methodologies and Metrics" panel at the State of Play/Terra Nova Symposium). Interestingly, game designers are now more prone to think about those issues, as attested by two articles on Gamasutra that concern the use of statistics: Statistically Speaking, It's Probably a Good Game, Part 1: Probability for Game Designers nd Statistically Speaking, It's Probably a Good Game, Part 2: Statistics for Game Designers by Tyler Sigman. In these case, the interesting thing is that it's firstly about probability and then about facts or generalization: "Most games have one or more elements of probability incorporated into their base mechanics". The first article can then be seen as a primer about probabilities, distributions, patterns, variance with some take-home ideas for game design. It's very well summarized with some critical issues.
Especially, it's very interesting to see concrete examples such as:
For example, in the game I just finished, we recorded data from play sessions and then set challenge levels in the game based upon the mean and standard deviation values from those recorded data. We set Medium difficulty to be equal to the mean values, Easy difficulty to be equal to the mean minus a certain amount of standard deviations, and then Hard difficulty equal to the mean plus a certain amount of standard deviations. Had we collected much more data, it would’ve actually been accurate!
Why do I blog this? what would be next move: ethnographic methods for game designers? that would be pertinent, to ponder the emphasis on quant stuff. As in research, I am sure the use of mixed methods could be valuable in game design.