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Design Game Theory

I blundered into a discussion on the 3-fold model/ RPG design theory a couple of days ago. Most of those I was talking to appear to take the view that, though the 3-fold model isn’t scientific or modern, it is necessary to apply it in the absence of any other model or theory specific to RPGs.

At one stage it seemed to be stated that only accounts rooted in roleplaying are ‘acceptable’ as evidence – which might present a bit of a problem when RPGs are kind of lacking in substantive let alone scientific models or theories.

Except that earlier in the year I rapidly ran off a basic evidence-based, psychological model concerning design games and tabletop RPGs as a series of posts. At the time I took my sources from mainstream psychology and education – particularly the findings of the leading academic psychologists and educators of the last 30 years.

So – here’s one alternative to the 3-fold model – Design Game Theory. The back cover outlines the manner in which it meets the requirements of a scientific theory. It is unconnected with my employers, but I have signed it off academically.

As Design Game Theory is presented as a scientific model it is up for testing – so please try to break it if you can, but using scientific evidence to do so.

The PDF presented here contains the articles setting out a psychological model focused on design games and tabletop RPG gameplay; notes on design gaming and how it relates to RPGs; and a sample of the type of content that puts the theory into practice.

I’ve already received one discourteous and dismissive reaction – I should add not from within the group where the discussion is on-going – and I expect more.

What can I say – recreational RPGs haven’t exactly flourished under the 3-fold model and its variants. In the areas of educational attainment and educational achievement, design gaming and roleplaying activities are now widely accepted as best practice. Would it really be so bad to look at using the techniques that work so well in other contexts to bridge the skills gap between experienced design game and RPG players and potential players?

The Design Game Theory PDF is immediately available from the link shown and will shortly be made available on DriveThruRPG.

2 comments to Design Game Theory

  • Some Guy

    I think you should come up with a different name than “Design
    Games” for what you are trying to produce. I get that by “design”
    you mean that the player/consumer actually has a hand in the design
    of the game, but I think the word implies that the game was
    designed for a specific goal or guided experience which is the
    opposite of what you intend. I also think that in further
    discussing what in a discussion about game design the term Design
    Game could get confusing. I would also like to see your
    criteria/goals/tenets/elements/whatever for Design Games much
    better described. Right now you mostly describe them by referring
    to existing games. I think it would be better to describe the
    element without reference to existing games because it would give
    us a much clearer understanding of what a potential designer needs
    to put into practice. Right now it is too vague and ill-defined.

  • Brian

    An interesting read. I would like to see this fleshed out a bit
    more though. Get a little more specific about “how” the “theory” is
    applied. Be specific as to how it relates to our hobby and
    industry. How does this work with the GNS model of game design?