Design communication, improvisation and control in the computer game development process

  • Patrick Keith Stacey

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The aim of this thesis is to make a contribution to practice and knowledge regarding the nature and management of the computer game development process. The practice-based motivation is that the computer game industry needs a process management approach that does not stifle creative practices and yet still facilitates process control. This practical impetus merges with gaps in our scholarly knowledge of the ISD process. One particular gap is what the software development process is like in a computer game development context. Inspired by these practical and theoretical motivations, I conducted an in-depth case study of a computer games studio in Singapore between 2004 and 2006. Having collected and analysed data pertaining to numerous computer game projects in that time and context some key insights emerged. Firstly the ISD process in a computer game development context is contrapuntal – a harmonious combination of flux and sedimentation, i.e. improvisation – the reworking of something. The sedimentation or control of designs in-use was an outcome of the sedimentation of meaning enabled through the intensive practice of play-testing. An aspect of this intensive practice was emotion reflexion – being reflexive over how the game made the developers feel. Secondly, the study revealed the important role of emotions in the process/context, which had motivational and disruptive potential. It was suggested that there is a need to manage the meaning of development ‘events’ and yield uplifting interpretations so as to minimise disruption to the process. Thirdly, another source of potential disruption was the interdisciplinary nature of the game development context.The findings infer that interdisciplinary knowledge sharing can enhance participation and thereby improve the game development process.
Date of Award16 Jan 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJ Nandhakumar (Supervisor)

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