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Applying Self Determination Theory to Examine Shared Control in Video Games

In his Master thesis Philipp Sykownik examined shared control as a novel interaction pattern for multiplayer games. He elaborated a framework that formally defines four different patterns of shared control that guided a structured design approach for his originally developed shared control game Shairit.
As a theoretical framework for the design and evaluation of Shairit, Self-Determination Theory was applied. Thus, the thesis aimed to identify the impact of shared control on satisfaction of the psychological needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness as factors of the overall game experience.

Shairit distinguishes itself from other multiplayer games by allowing up to four players to control a shared player representation. It implements two of the four previously defined shared control patterns by either alternating control between
players automatically or granting them with simultaneous control over the collective representation. To further evaluate those two control patterns in terms of their potential to provide an entertaining game experience, each of them was implemented
in two versions, that differ in some game mechanics expected to provide different game experiences.
The objective of Shairit’s game design was to evaluate how different patterns of shared control may impact the perceived need satisfaction and how potential threats introduced by them could be prevented by purposefully designed game mechanics.
An experimental evaluation of three of Shairit’s control modes indicate that the two implemented patterns tend to satisfy different needs, and that a theory-guided design process seems promising to prevent the patterns from being dissatisfying.
Evaluation of the fourth control mode is pending.

Ultimately, the identification of threats and benefits induced by shared control is crucial to allow for effective application of the interaction pattern in other contexts, given that positive game experiences may enhance various healthy processes.
After all, Shairit provides a hilarious game experience, nurtured by the social dynamics between players, and absolutely worthwhile to try out.