The Power-up Experience: A study of Power-ups in Games and their Effect on Player Experience


DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play
DiGRA/Utrecht School of the Arts, January, 2011
Volume: 6
ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666

Power-ups are important game world and game play changing game elements. In digital games like 카지노 검증, power-ups can be seen as one of the tools for non-trivial traversal of a game. They can change the way the game world is interpreted and traversed – or even change the look or structure of the game world itself. In this paper I propose a model for analyzing and categorizing power-ups in a way that allows us to further inspect and understand why games are played and enjoyable, and how developers bake such possibilities into the structure of the game. There is a lack of a comprehensive discussion of what a power-up is and how it can be studied. There is no agreement in the literature on a definition of a power-up and the term is often used without defining it. Power-ups are used as examples in the game ontology project when discussing higher level elements like Entities and Entity Manipulation (Zagal et al., 2005). In game design literature the term is used varyingly and seen from different perspectives for example as “resource” with its most common system effects or for its strategical advantages in reaching educational goals through its effect on player behaviour (see Fullerton, 2008 and Squire et al., 2003). These contributions are nevertheless still significant when attempting a further inspection of the power-up. Utilizing a combined framework for aesthetic analysis of games I perform a case study of Metroid Prime (Retro Studios, 2001) where play experience of perceived aesthetic goals is used as a way to see how the designers might have intended their power-ups to work to reach such aesthetic goals as identified through play. Metroid Prime was chosen for its heavy use of power-ups and this approach allowed me to focus in on what player experience power-ups might provide. The framework is adopted from Aarseth’s proposed typology of game research (2003) and Hunicke et al.’s MDA-framework (2004). This allows for looking at interdependencies between gameplay, game-structure and game-world related to designers’ intentions and player’s experience brought about from those elements. Based on my findings and synthesizing previous related literature, the model presented in the end groups power-ups according to whether they are expendable (stored), expendable (instant), constant upgrades or re-chargeable constants. Possible modifiers such as "acquired through", "supply", "duration" and "necessity" are suggested. With this model I attempt to differentiate power-ups from other formal design elements and in such a manner provide a possible reference for designers looking to choose appropriate solutions for their games, as well as an analytical tool for researchers. A mention of other games and how comparable yet different power-ups were implemented in these is also provided to exemplify the model’s utility. In the paper I also argue power-ups are used to afford paidia play as well as ludus play through their application in hyper-ludic and contra-ludic game systems as described by Steven Conway (2010). Using the case study I argue that the most interesting aspect of power-ups as game mechanic is that they shift experiential character when a given power-up's implied formal use changes during gameplay. With this I mean that a power-up can at the same time be a means to achieve a goal as well as goals to be achieved themselves. A model explaining this is also provided. When considering the above, power-ups as abstractions are malleable elements that can be changed to fit in different games for different experiences. Power-ups can impact on the player experience, and changes to power-ups in turn impact on that experience. As the MDA-framework suggests, designers can tweak the run-time dynamics between player and game system by altering mechanics to reach aesthetic goals in their design. For the benefit of further work, both of this paper’s models can be used to inspect and compare other games to better be able to compare them and further increase our understanding of games’ formal elements, and, their impact on player experience.