I’m sure we’ve encountered this scenario; you’ve gathered with a group of friends either in person, or online and someone from the group asks “Shall we play a game?”
This is received as a fine idea and way to spend time socially and broadly, let’s suppose the group is agreeable. The difficulty arises however, in reaching consensus on what the group will play. Each member may have not only different tastes in game, but their mood, or intrinsic state will also determine a strong bias towards either certain types of game or indeed, specific games.
A conversation will normally be held which may involve a lot of back and forth, including suggestions from various participants until consensus is achieved. That consensus may be on a single game, on a selection of games or when agreement hasn’t been achieved, maybe no play at all. But this is quite a complicated conversation to begin with and it is helpful to perhaps understand the process that might be undertaken for this conversation.
Before I outline this conversation, I’d like to delve into potential psychological factors underpinning this conversation.
It is important to understand that there are a variety of factors which may affect the disposition of each player. To illustrate these factors, I call on a method used by Beck in Cognitive Behavioural Psychology, which breaks down motivation into one of the following: Schemas, Assumptions and Beliefs.
Informally, a Schema is a presupposed determination or condition on action. A practical example of this might be “If I play a game with my friends, I’ll have fun”.
An Assumption is quite self-explanatory, but in this context, the assumption might be that ‘when I play a game with my friends, we like to play a team-based game, with or against each other’.
Finally, a Belief is far more intrinsic, immovable and tends to be quite static. Beliefs are fundamentally incorporated into our sense of identity. In the context of my example, one Belief might be that “Experiences are meaningful to me when they are shared equally with others”.
With the above factors in mind which might affect player disposition and the likely diversity of Schemas, Assumptions and Beliefs among the group, we can appreciate that there are a multitude of ways in which Sympathetic Disposition may be difficult to achieve.
Now that I’ve outlined the intrinsic factors, we can begin hypothesising the underlying context of such a conversation. Individual Intrinsic Disposition is a factor. Para-social Sympathy (is the group in accord?) is as well. Temporal condition is a factor (have we got time to both agree on a game and conclude a play session), and Conversational fatigue may also be at play (the negotiation may take so much time and effort, a huge degree of compromise may be required by one or more members).
There’s also a product suitability factor here; it places a huge burden on the respective players to negotiate and navigate their way to consensus, even before play has begun. This paradigm extends beyond matchmaking and raises the question as to how the broad range of games meets, or more importantly, does not meet the needs of the group. From a design perspective, the availability of games and their selection may not meet the intrinsic needs of the group on an individual or collective level and this seems like the perfect problem for user-centered design to try and address.