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  • Daniel J. King

Dissertation Blog #22

Citation of the Day

Isbister, Katherine. How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design. MIT Press, 2016.


This book introduces basic building blocks for evoking player emotion through game design choices:

  • Games are made up of choices with consequences, which is the root of their emotional power. Because players make their own choices, game designers have unique opportunities to evoke emotions that audiences typically do not experience with other media, such as guilt and pride.

  • People have an innate tendency to respond to social cues as if they were real, so game designers can set up emotionally meaningful interactions between player avatars and nonplayer characters.

  • Customization options encourage players to project themselves into the game and form an emotional attachment to its events.

Design and Mechanics

The decision points in Field of Cures have to be simple to play, but also impactful. I am not creating an advanced simulation with emergent consequences -- rather, I am presenting individual dilemmas with binary choices between right and wrong. I need to make sure the consequences are reflected in the gameworld in some meaningful way.


Types of dilemmas in Field of Cures:


1. Conduct rigorous research or manipulate the data.

  • Conducting rigorous research means doing more puzzles in order to discover a treatment guaranteed to work.

  • Manipulating data means it takes solving fewer puzzles to get a treatment to market, but some of the treatments you discover will not actually be effective (though they will make money).

2. Spend money to develop a region of the world with a nature reserve, factory, or villa.

  • A nature reserve will provide bonus specimens to use in puzzle solving for the rest of the game.

  • A factory can be used to lower the price of a treatment, making it doubly accessible. Nine effective treatments and the cure must be made accessible for the player to achieve the "need" victory condition.

  • A factory can alternatively be used to lower the cost of producing a treatment while keeping the price the same, generating more profit for you.

  • Five villas are necessary for the player to achieve the "greed" victory condition.

A region developed with a factory or a villa will no longer supply specimens for puzzle solving. If the player cannot solve a puzzle with the naturally occurring specimens in their fields, they may spend money to buy a box of random specimens or use genetic engineering equipment as a workaround.


Types of decision consequences and how they impact the player:

  • Did rigorous research: one professional-looking report added to Research Progress meter

  • Manipulated data: two messy, marked-up reports added to Research Progress meter

  • Effective treatment discovered: +money, World Health meter goes up one notch and common people celebrate

  • Non-effective treatment discovered: +money, World Health meter stays stuck and common people boo

  • Nature reserve built: -money, field becomes visibly more lush

  • Factory built to lower treatment price: -money, factory fills up field space, World Health meter goes up one notch and people celebrate

  • Factory built to increase profit: -money, factory fills up field space, +money every round for rest of game

  • Villa built: -money, villa fills up field space, Personal Wealth meter goes up one notch and rich people raise champagne glasses

Current Events


My latest draft of the plan:

  • January, 2021: Write and submit FDG paper: "Serious-Casual Game Design: Opportunities and Challenges in Integrating Distinct Sets of Design Principles" (Talk about inclusivity in abstract)

  • February: Exam 1: Core

  • March: Exam 2: Serious Game Design Research Methods

  • April: Exam 3: Culture and Economics of Casual Games


  • May: Write detailed outline of prospectus

  • June: Write prospectus

  • July: Revise prospectus, learn GML

  • August: Defend prospectus, submit application to IRB, construction kit pseudocode


  • September: Construction kit development

  • October: Construction kit testing

  • November: Lo-fi prototype design, Serious Game Design Assessment self-check

  • December: Lo-fi prototype pseudocode


  • January, 2022: Lo-fi prototype development

  • February: Write textual game content

  • March: Produce art assets

  • April: Playtester recruitment


  • May: Playtester interviews

  • June: Hi-fi prototype design

  • July: Hi-fi prototype development

  • August: Hi-fi prototype debugging


  • September: Write detailed outline of dissertation

  • October: Write first chapter

  • November: Write second chapter

  • December: Write third chapter


  • January, 2023: Write fourth chapter

  • February: Write fifth chapter

  • March: Revise dissertation

  • April: Defend dissertation


  • May: "Bring Your Own Nerf Gun" Party


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