An affordance based model of gameplay

By Dan Pinchbeck

Dan explained this to me a bit before, and it is a nice overview of how to categorise items in a game before doing further research. The middle ground of definition is pretty empty. I wish this was easy to do is all, would be useful for historical perspectives.


Lots of high overarching theories and deep readings but no way define the objects in games. Looking specifically now at first person shooters. What will an object let someone do? What does it let other objects do?

Looked at 34 FPS games 1998-2007 reviewed. Objects counted and catalogued, played 3 times with FRAPs capture footage. FPS games are luckily quite simple. RPG’s are a lot more complex.

This is a fairly fast and simple “slutty” methodology. Do you find one game has more agents then other agents? etc. – able to use that before doing symbolic analysis until you’ve differentiated games on this kind of level.

My perspective is there is no differentiation between a ludic and a diegetic property – story and gameplay are mixed.

Objects can be defined by STATES and PARAMETERS. Parameters are relationships that define affordances, states are predefined parameters shifts to effect instant global change to objects.

For instance a crate – X, Y, Z, if the player can stand on it, health, damage, and so on – for instance the damage changed might have the crate break, so a global effect on the affordances (so no longer can be stood on).

Can define a lot of categories of states – single state/multiple state objects. You have ludic and diegetic definitions. For instance a Warthog in Halo is a free trigger, multiple state ludic item (can get in and out, move it, use it how you like). Most are control trigger multiple state ludic objects – like exploding barrels, doors, health kits etc. (one use – one major state change).

Why is this useful? You can look at the affordances in an FPS space – there are not many of them, quite a simple set of functions.

You can also encode AI-driven objects in a game. It is a multiple-state object by definition – alive and dead of course. You can speculate on this more the anything – perception, select behaviour, interact with other objects.

Can also classify the avatar – actions are variances of simple affordances. FPS has shooting at things – shifting guns changes the parameters that you have for inflicting damage on objects. Not to say there can’t be a large number of mediated variables in a game (STALKER, Crysis), but not in others.

Good thing – you don’t have to use terms like FPS/RPG crossovers, you can describe exactly what is different between games.

Why additionally useful and interesting? Potentially could create a vast map of the FPS genre and classify it all, and categorically say in a functional way with very little interpretation in that. Also can come down to intuition pumps – while it would be great to have a database, tendancies, across a genre – it can put all those questions to one side, and say how is does, and also get a different perspective on it.


Q – Also you could search the source code to do this.

Yes, can do this, but it is sometimes easier to see it in run time, and things change while the game is played. SDK’s crack it open and drag code out though, no doubt.

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