The Gamer's Brain / Jeu Vide-A

This topic is dedicated to do a comparative lecture between Celia Hodent Book; The Gamer’s Brain and the principles we developed for Jeu Vide-A . Along my reading I understood a lot and also spotted many points of convergence that I felt I could deepen here.

One of the firsts phrases that striked me in the Gamer’s Brain is that first citation from the preface by Brenda Romero where she tells her surprise when watching a player playing for both sides of a game. Yes this I can connect to, obviously as many mone kid I was doing this all the time, maybe this has an influence on the choice we made in Vide-A game to challenge theidentity based game play and and play as many chracters as the player wished.

Further on I could read about UX conception “that’s the thing with games - they are their interface …” yes this is exactly the reason why we decided to explore other UX modalities to transform the game paradigm, although we know it is risky and we know we might enter in conflict about the notion of game itself.
In fact I come from a world where we differentiated game and play and pledged alliance to playfulness over any other exchange, it is with this spirit that I agreably dived into The Gamer’s Brain, to match these thoughts against Jeu Vide-A concepts.

The first part of the book is a huge learning process about how our brain functions and debunking common assumption about neurological sciences and simplified brain understanding. I loved what I read and got outfom it the main characteristic of our brain is its plasticity, there is no magic solution to understand the brain,but there are magicians out there that probably have integrated some fundamental notions. Here are the ones that have stoke me in relation to our Vid-A game endeavor:

  • Perception is absolutely a subjective construct nourished by many criteria, sensorial, environmental, social etc… Do not assume anything.
  • Attention is scarce and so is memory however processing information helps to deepen memory, and an onboarding plan is essential.
  • The book places a particular focus on emotions and insists on caring for the player so that they feel included in the game.

I will develop more the relation I feltin Jeu Vide-A while reading second part of the book:
After a great overview of UX including UX history and a clear explanation of most important usability issues and propositions to facilitate them (I will not go through them as they are somewhat to advanced for the stage of development we are in).
What stroke me the most and that I realted the best to is the 12th chapter dealing with the notion of Engage-Ability, indeed this were we chalenge existing assumptions.

From here I will continue exploring the book statements starting from the books own citations:

The Gamer’s Brain largely develops importantly about motivation:

The book distinguishes different motivation mechanisms,some of them being external others being intrinsic to the game.

  • “This is the reason why the game industry has mainly approached motivation in games through the distinction between extrinsic motivation (i.e., engaging in an activity to obtain a reward external to the task itself) and intrinsic motivation (i.e., engaging in an activity for its own sake).”

The main external motivation functions according to a behaviourist pattern of reward and punisment, while intrinsic motivations are more attuned with cognitive and constructivist principles but this is not a clear split.

In Vide-A game we pledge stay away from rewards and punishment mechanisms, instead we tend to find intrisic motivations that convey our principles, it is mostly for those reasons that our project differentiate itself from usually agreed upon game principles, the reward is uncharacterised. Some tell us this project is not a game anymore, wequestion can playfulness characterise a game, how are game and play united and differentiated.

  • “Self-determination theory (SDT) currently is the dominant framework for the study of intrinsic motivation (Deci and Ryan 1985; Ryan and Deci 2000). It posits that three innate psychological needs are at the basis of intrinsic motiva- tion: competence, autonomy, and relatedness.”
  • “For any features and elements in your game, you need to ask yourself
    how you can clearly express meaningful goals to your audience.”

I feel HeLa directly states meaningfull goals in its clear approach to a tricky subject however it is not certain the immediate goals of each level are clearly communicated. Video tutorial might be useful.

  • “Goals have to be meaningful for one main reason: We pay more attention and allocate more cognitive resources to the things we care about when we clearly understand “why” we should care.”

I will further add in HeLa there are both immediate goals and long term goals, the long term is clearly expressed in in the Jeu Vide-A statement and we count that itprovokes the user’s commitment. On the inmediate there is till some work to be done to clarify them to the player but one thing we know is that they should keep coherent with the Jeu Vide-A principles, since this is the primary motivation of the game.
So indeed once the goals are clearly stated: we need to support the health of all players and we need to support the discovery of HeLa’s story-

-Further on the author’s insists on the need to place yourself in the players’ shoes. and she rightly reminds us that “Players do not have the same level of knowledge you have about your own game, so don’t expect them to understand the things in the same way that you do,”

Those arguments that come in a recuring manner across the book bring with them a very feminist perspectivem in the sense that they call for caring for the player and therefore the people engaged in the game development need to extract themselves from their own sensation to care about the player.

In HeLa it probably be something we are good at, indeed, because we are aware that we are proposing a very different paradigm and therefore need to be explicit about it, we take the time to fully explain what we are doing and how we do it. While in the first level we often use text based tutorials already at the second level we try to get the player in learning by doing for example concerning the platform that the characters carry on their head that can be used by other players to climb up.

  • “You can also add a short video clip to show the ability in action because it will help players project their growth in competence and make them dream about when they will be able to earn and execute that ability”

I would love to insert a few video clips, but also those desires are made exxplicit during dialogues with HeLa where she explains the nature of the planet and how players are also embeded in the planet itself.

  • “All in all, the key element is to make players feel a sense of purpose for their goals in the game and to give them clear feedback on the progress made so they also can feel a sense of achievement.”

This is something we clearly try to achieve differently indeed as there is no individual goal to achievem there is necessarily no competitive pattenrn engaged, this transforms radically user’s habit in terms of motivation, reorienting towards collaboration and discovery, this is the biggest challenge we face with HeLa.

  • “Craft your onboarding carefully so players can understand how to become competent after you’ve teased them about why they should care because this will have an impact on retention.”


  • “Autonomy and agency such as capacity to impact significantly the situation or change the course of the game, for example triggering different scenariosndepending on the player’s choice.”
    “Autonomy has to be guided so that players can fully experience control over their meaningful decisions.”

This is an interesting point we could easily work through starting from the narrative of Henrietta lacks life.

Collaboration is embeded in the game principle themselves, therefore there is no need to sustain motivation for collaboration they are at the heart of the game.

  • “Give players the means to block other players they do not want to encounter again and to flag players who displayed an inappropriate behavior. Define inappropriate behaviors in your game and make players read and accept the code of conduct. Do not tolerate violation of this code of conduct. Explain to the violators why their behavior is not allowed and give them a chance to redeem themselves, but do not let toxic behavior go without consequences.”

This is essential I do not know how many games implement that currently but if we ever get to develop a multiplayer game it will be the first preoccupation.

Extrinsic and Intrinsic rewards and meaning of HeLa

The rewards of HeLa are necessaritly intrinsic since the notion of participation is core to the game. Maybe proposing in game dialogue features allowing to comment when the game develops and how might help to emphasise this.

  • "Some self-determination theorists are moving away from a strict extrinsic/intrinsic motivation dichotomy to focus instead on the distinction between autonomous and controlled motivation (see Gerhart and Fang 2015). Within this perspective, an incentive will have a dif- ferent impact on intrinsic motivation if it is task-contingent (i.e., rewarding engagement, completion, or performance) versus noncontingent (i.e., not tied to any particular behavior). "

In HeLa we tend to function more on global motivation and experimentation, very few incentives are task contigent, it is a challenge we bring up to the game and we will observe wether it is meaningful for the player or not.

  • Rewards are expected in Games:

This is the main challenge we have to face indeed as transient and collaborative platform it is very strange to reward a specific player, “reward than a mere achievement. So, remember to reward players’ time and effort accordingly.” we need to find unique wqys to tqckle this issue.

Game feel:

  • “Feelings of mastery and clumsiness, and the tactile sensation of inter- acting with virtual objects” (p. 10). Designing the game feel entails paying atten tion to the controls, the camera (how the players see into the game world), and the characters. For example, if the camera of the game has a very narrow field of view and is angled in such a way that it is difficult to see the horizon, the player may feel claustrophobic, which would be inappropriate for a relaxed exploration game (albeit appropriate for a tension-ridden horror survival game).

" Suspension of disbelief is an exciting goal to achieve in terms of game feel, and character design has an important role in it."


  • " Carefully designing control, camera, and character (known as the 3Cs) addresses many of the components for presence because control and camera are central to physical presence, character design can have an impact on narrative presence, and all the 3Cs combined influence emotional presence. Physical reality and game flow (as described later in this chapter) are also important components to enhance presence."

Control design is not yet refined in HeLa quite the contrary so I will not come to it now but Camera design and switching vues between characters is an important feature we are keen to explore.
So is the possibility of playing any Character, and changing the character according to desire need and situation.
These features quite different from usual features are explained at the beginning of the game and they probably take a long time for the player to assimilate, and also change a lot the intrinsic motivation situation.

Sense of Physicality:

While the sense of physicality certainly needs to be believable it this in HeLais not achieved through similar to life situations, but through small engaging and believable details, in this example:

  • “In Fortnite (Epic Games), players can hit a piñata in the shape of a llama (which is the metaphor the art team found for opening a card pack in the game store) and, before hitting the llama, its eyes fol- low the cursor movements”

Celia Hodent’s example here is very interestin because a small maybe improbable movement of the eyes of a prop give a sense of materiality to the scene and truly engage the viewer.

  • “Teasing curiosity and enabling dis-covery is important because discovery brings pleasure, and pleasure is what evo- lution has found to motivate humans in choosing an efficient behavior.”
    This is our main game motivation I hope we match this expectation and Henrietta Lacks story and the ensemble of the project brings the player to another space of curiosity and dicovery.

Game Flow:

This notion makes me think of the jazz people quest for th “IT” this thing that you feel fully acquainted with when you are into itand that can carry you along seamlessly during a determined amount of time(always finite). This thing is magic it has no real determination you can never quite know when it appears you can only materialise it by looking for it, training your own skills in the quest of the flow. So here comes my question,there are chances that the player is actively engaged in creating the gameflow.

As Celia Hodent note: “Jenova Chen instead proposes focusing on a way for players to control their own flow experience by offering a wide spectrum of activities and difficulties so that each player can choose to navigate in the game however they want and to set their own level of challenge.”

Entering game flow is determined by certain characteristics:

•• A challenging activity that requires skills (which we know we have a chance of completing).
•• The merging of action and awareness (the person’s attention is com- pletely absorbed by the activity).
•• Clear goals (when the goal is challenging to accomplish and is meaningful).
•• Direct feedback (feedback is immediate and related to the goal).
•• Concentration on the task at hand (we forget the unpleasant aspects of life and information that is irrelevant to the task).
•• The sense of control (developing sufficient skills to master the task).
•• The loss of self-consciousness (no room for self-scrutiny).
•• The transformation of time (losing track of time).

Regarding Mastering and skills I think those are not yet applicable to our stage of development, hopefully we will get to address those issues in further Vide-A development maye at larger scale.

  • “A contextual tutorial is one that is well-integrated in a mission, allowing the player to experiment with a new mechanic in a situation at the moment it is taught. A meaningful tutorial is one that makes sense within the experience (relative to a player’s current goal and interest) and piques the player’s curiosity. Players must understand why it is meaningful for them to learn about a feature.”

Most probably in HeLa we only have tutorial without contexts for the moment, it would be very intersting to get to do contextua tutorials but a very challenging endeavor as we have completely different game mechanics from the existent. However putting the player in situation is important when displaying a tutorial.

  • “To sum up, designing for game flow implies accounting for the level of chal lenge (difficulty curve), the amount of pressure (pacing), and it requires distributed learning by doing (learning curve), preferentially through level design.”

If players enter into games to relieve themselves fromto much worries or daily routine, ease their brains from too much thinking, then how can we build up from this towards playing,in the sense of getting engage in a different pace different imaginaries, differnt interaction principles…