John Harris, PhD candidate
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
Playing games with preexisting social relations, such as family and friends, has been shown to help strengthen relationships and promote wellbeing, but it can be difficult to find games that provide both enriching social interactions and are able to accommodate the wide variety of player types, ability levels, genre preferences, and social roles that each player brings to the group dynamic. Asymmetric cooperative games — games that present their players with sharply contrasting aesthetic experiences in the same shared play — are well-positioned to tackle this multi-faceted problem by providing different players with different interfaces, challenges, abilities, and information while tightly coupling their interactions through shared goals and feedback.
My research focuses on better understanding the design of asymmetric cooperative games and how they can leverage interdependence to enhance players' social play experiences. In my dissertation, I discuss two prototype asymmetric cooperative games I developed, "Goombagrams" and "Beam Me 'Round, Scotty!" for use in a series of focused player experience studies, and the development of a conceptual framework supporting the design and research of this uniquely social but under-studied form of play.