Playing in 7D: An Action-Oriented Framework for Video Games

Pedro Cardoso’s PhD thesis, Playing in 7D: An Action-Oriented Framework for Video Games, which I had the pleasure of supervising, is now available online at the repository of the University of Porto.

Grounded on a perspective in which action is a defining trait in video games, this work proposes the development of an action-oriented framework focused on the analysis of the relationships between the player and the game system centred on the existence of actors, which we define as entities responsible for the actions that affect the game — a category in which the player and the game system are included. We describe the grounding principles of this framework as focused on a transformation of action into experience, exploring how relationships are grounded on communicational systems that provide structures for the dynamic formation of distinct networks of actors from which diverse behaviours emerge. These, in turn lead to the enactment of diverse sequences of events building up narrative, which ultimately is a source of experience of the player.

Upholding this framework, we unveil 7 dimensions that serve as foundations for the action-based relationship between player and game system: chronology, responsiveness, thinking and actuation, transcoding, focus, depth, and traversal. Overall, they serve as an analytical model of the player-system action-based relationship, a model that, despite framing both player and game system as actors, takes into account their distinct natures and roles.

This work is not an ultimate theory of action in the context of video games, but a proposal that these can be regarded and analysed as action-based artefacts. With this in mind, it is also a call to awareness for game designers, posing the thought that by designing for action, they are working with fundamental concepts on which video games are built upon.

Keywords: Action, Chronology, Depth, Design, Focus, Framework, Responsiveness, Thinking and Actuation, Transcoding, Traversal, Video Games.