Submissions/Modelling Wikipedia Editing as a Multiplayer Online Game - Ideas from Game Design Theory

From Wikimania 2013 • Hong Kong

This submission is on the wait list for Wikimania 2013.

Submission no.
Subject no.
Title of the submission

Modelling Wikipedia Editing as a Multiplayer Online Game - Ideas from Game Design Theory.

Type of submission


Author of the submission

Gwynfor Richards

Country of origin



Dept. of Mathematics & Computer Science,

Brandon University, Manitoba.

E-mail address



Personal homepage or blog



This presentation makes an analogy between editing Wikipedia and playing a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO). In particular it discusses the “Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics” model of what a game is, and how it relates to Wikipedia. When Wikipedia editing and an MMO are looked at in abstract there are clear structural similarities; it is hoped this approach will lead to another useful way of viewing Wikipedia. It is proposed that ideas from game design can be applied to Wikipedia, and vice verse. Much of the power of the model is its simplicity and that only a passing understanding of online games is required.

Detailed proposal

Wikipedia editing involves 1000's of people interacting in an online environment, with a set of rules trying to a achieve task. This can be cooperative, competitive or sometimes a lonely experience. This is very much the same for someone playing a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO); save the environment, rules and tasks are different. Many of the underlying motivations that draw people to Wikipedia editing are also the same that draw people to an MMO, e.g. a sense of accomplishment, community etc. The Games Industry is a large industry that has drawn a lot of theoretical analysis, including what a game is and how can one be designed. The "Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics" model is a simple description of a game that has proven useful in analyzing and designing games[1] [2]. The three components are, briefly,

  • Mechanics: The rules of play, place of play, equipment etc.
  • Dynamics: How the player interacts with the Mechanics, i.e. player behavior.
  • Aesthetics: The effects of the player’s behavior, e.g. enjoy themselves, want to play again.

The Mechanics generate the Dynamics which in turn generate the Aesthetics. It is known the Mechanics you present players can profoundly affect behavior and hence the final outcome, ie Aesthetics. The analogy is made that Wikipedia editing can be seen as

  • Mechanics: The Five Pillars, Wiki software, keyboard etc.
  • Dynamics: How editors interact with the Mechanics, i.e. editor behavior.
  • Aesthetics: The effects of editors’ activity, e.g. page quality, editor satisfaction, retention etc.

It is proposed that ideas from game design can be then applied to Wikipedia, and vice verse. A number of implications of this analogy are highlighted. In particular, that the final product is probably affected more by the rules, tools and environment provided to the editors; rather than by directly trying to influence editors. This work is not presenting grand solutions but making a connection between seemingly unrelated areas. It is hoped this presentation gives another and useful way of viewing Wikipedia that spawns discussion.

  1. Hunicke, Robin; LeBlanc, Marc; Zubek, Robert, MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research [1]
  2. MDA framework, Wikipedia [2]

Analysis and Public Engagement or WikiCulture and Community (still deciding, advice appreciated)

Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Language of presentation/talk


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  1. Sbouterse (talk) 18:23, 23 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Siebrand (talk) 07:37, 25 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  3. CT Cooper · talk 00:04, 29 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  4. DarTar (talk) 22:16, 29 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Multichill (talk) 14:00, 4 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  6. GastelEtzwane (talk) 15:33, 4 May 2013 (UTC) I have never looked at this angle. I teach programming to my students through game programming, I teach my students how to understand Wikipedia by contributing...[reply]
  7. Ocaasi (talk) 21:51, 8 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Ijon (talk) 02:55, 16 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
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