Considering the Person in the Puzzle: Challenging common assumptions about Sudoku player strategies

Lynch Alice Jefferson Chris Hinrichs Uta
2022 DiGRA ’22 – Proceedings of the 2022 DiGRA International Conference: Bringing Worlds Together

Pen & paper puzzle games are an extremely popular pastime, often enjoyed by demographics normally not considered to be gamers. There has been extensive research into generating and efficiently solving digital pen and paper puzzle games, often by creating an artificial player. However, there have been few academic studies focusing on players themselves. We conducted a qualitative study where we observed the Sudoku solving strategies of 31 participants. Our findings reveal interesting discrepancies between common assumptions about players’ Sudoku solving strategies made by both guides and AI Sudoku systems, and their actual approach. For example, in contrast to approaching Sudokus in a systematic way and applying simple deductions—a strategy commonly assumed by AI systems—we found that a range and combination of strategies are applied to even the simplest Sudokus. Our findings suggest new directions for designers (both human and AI) of Sudoku and other puzzles, informed by players rather than models.


Free-to-Play or Pay-to-Win?: Casual, Hardcore, and Hearthstone

Howard Kenton Taylor
2018 DiGRA '18 - Proceedings of the 2018 DiGRA International Conference: The Game is the Message

“Casual” and “hardcore” are commonly used descriptive terms for games and gamers. While critics have discussed these terms with regards to game design and culture, “free-to-play” games like Blizzard’s Hearthstone add a monetary dimension to such considerations. Players can play such games for free, but success at them often entails purchasing in-game content. These games are sometimes instead derisively referred to as “pay-to-win:” players who spend money win more often. Free-to-play games suggest that casual and hardcore depend on how much money a player spends on the game, in addition to measures like time investment or play practices. I argue that free-to-play games encourage casual players to become more hardcore by spending more money on them in addition to improving their skills at the game, using Hearthstone as a case study to examine the implications of the free-to-play pricing structure on both game design and game players.


Formalizing casual games: A study based on game designers’ professional knowledge

Chiapello Laureline
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

While the casual game market is expanding, there are increasingly few research projects and explorations about the definition of this game style. Existing definitions are contradictory and some areas, like casual game design practice, remain under-explored. Using game designers’ professional knowledge, this study aims to provide a new understanding and perspective towards definitions of casual games. Results contradict previous studies that have advocated for a radical shift in casual game design values. Outcomes indicate that certain traditional concepts like challenge are still valuable in understanding casual games. The discussion illustrates how different traditional concepts fit with the casual game trend and how some recent assertions about casual game definitions might be deceptive for game designers.


Anxiety, Openness, and Activist Games:A Case Study for Critical Play

Flanagan Mary Lotko Anna
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

This paper explores the boundaries of social issues or‘activist’ games with a case study on a popular gamereleased in 2009 which fosters a critical type of play amongthe audience. We assess the game’s public reception tobetter understand how contradictory play elements led to ananxiety of ambiguity during open play. Borrowing from the“poetics of open work,” we will demonstrate how the mostpowerful play experience in activist games result from anew relationship formed between the audience and theplayer through mechanics, subject position, representation,and content.


Killing Time in Diner Dash: Representation, Gender, and Casual Games [Abstract]

Soderman Braxton
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

In the ongoing debates concerning the emergence of game studies, ludologist approaches often dismiss or marginalize narrative and visual elements of games while privileging games as formal systems of rules and game play mechanics. Indeed, the visual representation of games is frequently gendered—for example, when Espen Aarseth dismisses the visual importance of Lara Croft or when Chris Crawford refers to graphics as “cosmetics.” This discourse inevitably reinscribes stereotypical gender formations where the “hardcore,” abstract, formal, mathematical systems privileged by these approaches to games are masculinized while the “casual,” material, visual content, and non-essential aspects of games are feminized. This gendered distinction seems eerily similar to the recent fears and anxieties expressed by the hardcore gamer community over the rise of casual games which can be linked to a distinctive gendering of the hardcore as masculine and the casual as feminine. Thus, this paper will analyze the hardcore “fetish” (in gaming and in game studies), attempting to expose the gender dynamics that structure and subtend the distinctions between the hardcore and the casual.