Celia Hodent from Epic Games provides a broad view of the cognitive mechanisms involved in games in her talk from GDC 2016 entitled “The Gamer’s Brain, Part 2: UX of Onboarding and Player Engagement.”
Please see the following description from the GDC Vault: “Engaging your audience within the first minutes of play is a delicate endeavor, and has become a critical aspect of development in the era of free-to-play games. If the developers fail to captivate their audience’s attention quickly, there won’t even be any retention challenges to care about. This talk will cover the common onboarding pitfalls, provide guidelines from User Experience (UX), and discuss best-practices by using knowledge of how the brain learns. It will provide examples from various titles (including insights from the development of Epic Games’ Fortnite) to help you improve player engagement during early exposure with your game.”
Jason VandenBerghe from Ubisoft delivers an interesting talk that relates theories on personality, motivation, and drive to game design.
From the GDCVault: “In an unholy psychological fusion, Jason has merged the 5 Domains of Play and the Big 5 with Scot Rigby’s PENS model SDT. The result is a startlingly usable model of your player’s motivational journey through time. It starts with taste, expectations, and individual variation; and then carries through to long term satisfaction, nostalgia, and deciding to buy the sequel.
Knowing which of your proposed game design features fit with what part of your player’s motivational journey is what this talk is all about. As a bonus, this unholy semi-unified motivation model also works as a fantastic tool to communicate your project’s answer to the timeless questions: ‘Who are our players? What do they want?’ on your team, in your company, and even to your players.
Don’t be scared. It’s just science.”