Collective Play explored “how do the rules of interaction shape non-competitive play?” and “code and test design strategies for playful group interactions.”
For our final project, Simon and I decided to create a game which forces the user to actively engage with common uncomfortable situations. The situations we were most interested in exploring are those we commonly experience when group-forming in professional, educational, and romantic settings: rejection and rejecting others. We were particularly interested in this when we realized that, for many people, even long-removed memories of rejection from our schoolyard days (not being chosen for sports teams, etc.) have strong emotional responses.
In order to explore this, we started by making a number of physical games which forced the players to explicitly or implicitly reject one another. For the implicit rejection scenario, we asked players to form two-person teams after a countdown:
- Each turn, players choose a partner
- If two players choose one another, they leave circle
- Last player standing loses
And for our explicit rejection scenario, we asked users to reject one another outright by removing the worst members of their team:
- After a brief group assignment, players had to reject one of their group-mates
- Group mate with most rejections would leave game
- Begin new group assignment with remaining players
We decided to explore some of the group dynamics from these physical tests in our final digital game. In particular, we wanted users to work individually within a team-based format. This would force players to create factions from their teammates and opponents, always keeping their own individual score in mind. Using players’ phones’ accelerometers as inputs to a socket.io / node.js based game server, this game required players to stand very still to avoid resetting their team scores during play. The first team to remain still for 15 seconds would be given a point. A simple set of rules enforced the group dynamic we were seeking:
- points were given out inversely based on team size (smaller teams got more points),
- players could switch teams after each round,
- winning a round was more difficult for larger teams.
With these rules, players were incentivized to seek smaller teams and form factions with better players. Eventually, however, each player won or lost based on their individual scores. Based on the feedback we received, the challenge of keeping track your place in a pool of 15+ players was difficult. Ongoing work in the information design of scoring and ability would help players focus on the dynamic challenge of building and breaking factions.