Game play experience today

Nine friends played Wii games today at my home including sport games and Mario party games. We have four handlers which means that we could have four people play at the same time. When we played those minigames, eight of us were really enjoy. Another one was very busy and working by using her laptop.

Clearly, everyone has a clear goal, win the game. In order to win, people use strategies, and share their win strategies with others. When we played 2 vs. 2 games, people shout their strategies to their partner about how to divide their labor, and how to aim their targets. Through the practice sessions, we were trying to find some tips by doing consciously. We were trying to stand out of others by predicting the others’ behaviors and actions.  Sometimes we wanted to win, and also want others to be happy. Activities were mediated in the game experience.

However, it seems that nobody really think about the final goals of the party during the gaming process. Maybe they were thinking about it, but who knows!?

Based on this game experience, I got some questions about Activity Theory. In AT, we mentioned in our class that all the activities involved in conscious mini goals. How about when activities happen in a social contexts, and everybody has different mini goals and maybe has similar activity? Or maybe we all have same mini goals but express it in different ways? When these happen, we have no way to connect a specific goal and a specific activity due to the dependency on people and context. The mini-goal direct activities are always changing. How can we connect activities and operations with planed and un-planed?

In one game, suddenly one friend found a new way to shake the handler and he won the game. He was very happy to tell others that we could shake the handler faster by using his strategy. And every other three players stared at their own handlers and began to shake in that way. This is really a wonderful breakdown!

I also think that the mind/body theory was challenged in this game.  It is impossible to think and plan our activities first before actions. The situation in every moment decided by the past activities and mediated by both the game environment and other people’s reaction. A lot of operations were  conditional response. and happened unconsciously. However, if some players are very familiar with the game, and they got the ability to predict the possible situation in the future moments, and they kind of got “more time” to react to the situations they were facing. This  matches the embodiment theory and this kind of familiar shapes the sensibility in HCI design.

Embodiment always exist in reality.


  1. davidroyer

    Interesting story Mingxian. It seems like activity theory does not seem that well suited for games.

  2. airlee

    I think the game can be divided into infinite part. In every part, motivation, expectation, action, response happened, and during this extremely short time activity theory works well. However it is a dynamic environment, variety of parameters have impact on final result- familarity, former skill experience, adaptation, confidence, even personality, all these parameters could be the major one that control the whole match, even best player can not win all the games, there are always unexpected winners. And that is why competitive games are beautiful.

    Anyway, good game!

  3. Tyler Pace

    Activity theory may work for games as long as you remember to couch it in terms of the ecological levels. There are many levels of activity going on when playing party games with friends. Focusing on a single activity may blind you to others that are equally important or supportive of the one you’re analyzing.

    Also, I love that you brought up the sort of tacit gamer knowledge that develops over time. After playing games for 20 years, I know that my game knowledge is pretty extensive and you start to internalize level and game design patterns. Long term gamers interact with games wildly differently than noobies, much like the way an oenophile approaches wine compared to the casual drinker.

  4. mingxian

    And also it is interesting to observe the social dynamics within the group. Some people like me were enjoying other players’ activities rather than play by myself. The only person who was not involved in the game was the one who reminded us about time and claimed that he party was over and time to go home.

    To airlee: you mentioned the infinite part, that is what I thought as where embodiment existed.

    To someone who knows better: Could I say that the mind/body theory is at a relative larger scale compared with embodiment? For example: large scale means that the whole game party, from planning to game over, while embodiment involves every “infinite” activities people did.


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