Skip to content

An Affordance Based Model of Gameplay

Pinchbeck, D.(2009).An affordance based modelfor gameplay. Breakingnewground: innovation in games, play, practice and theory. DiGRA 2009 Conference Proceedings

Pinchbeck build on the work of scholars such as Calleja, Klevjer and Wilhelmsson to help further articulate an “Affordances” based model of game analysis. This form of analysis is deeply rooted in a ludological, proceduralist and object orientated discourse of game studies. The paper (as many have done before) appropriates Gibbson’s affordances model from psychology (1979) which is used to describe a subjects relationship to their environment, in an attempt to “understand the relationship between the player and the system.” (p. 1) Pichbeck diagrams this approach using a wide range of First Person Shooters (which is not helpful per se for this study but provides and interesting model and mapping).

Useful Quotes

“Gameplay can be understood as a network of allowed actions, that can be summarised as a small number of archetypal affordances mediated by a set of parameters that define their functional relationships” (p. 1)

“affordances offer a structured framework for the interplay of interpretation, action and presentation that forms the basis of what Perron has called ‘the heuristic cycle of gameplay’ (Perron 2006 pp 65-66)” (p. 1)

“Affordances thus rest upon a fundamental extraction of the functions of the object or environment in question, rather than simply its properties.” (p. 1)

“In other words, within a ludic context, an affordance can be described as the functional input/output relationships of an object in the context of the game environment.” (p. 1)

“Multiple state objects can be divided into those whose use is specifically defined and those that can be manipulated more freely by the player.” (p. 2)

“Another basic division can be made between affordances related to gameplay, and those related to diegesis. This divides those affordances that have the capacity to affect other objects and those that do not, but may still exert influence upon the player’s experience.” (p. 2)

“any object that can be interacted with (in other words, that has a supported action or input/output relationship attached to it) yields a parameter change, that may or may not result in a state change.” (p. 6)

“Changing an object’s parameters, with the important subset of changing its location, represents the fundamental activity of gameplay – the manipulation of objects, according to a set of predetermined rules, by the player.” (p. 6)

“It can therefore be argued that gameplay can be understood as a network of affordance relationships existing between objects in an environment, and that both the types of object and types of affordances they have the capacity for are relatively small in number. All activity in a ludic space can be reduced to a small number of affordances, enacting mediated parameter shifts in other objects and this includes the activity of agents, and even the avatar.” (p. 8)

Further Reading

Calleja, G. (2007) Digital Games as Designed Experience: Reframing the Concept of Immersion, PhD Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington

Gee, J. P. “Video games, mind and learning”. The Digital Media & Arts Association Journal 2 (2005), pp. 37-42.

Linderoth, J & Bennerstedt, U. (2007) “This is not a Door: an Ecological approach to Computer Games”. In Proceedings of DiGRA 2007: Situated Play, Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, pp. 600-609

Perron, B. (2006) “The Heuristic Circle of Gameplay”. In M. Santorineous (ed). Gaming Realities: A Challenge of Digital Culture. Athens: Fournos , pp. 65-66

Published inPhD