We investigated cooperative and competitive player behavior and experiences by designing multiplayer Breakout. Game rules have a significant impact on player behavior and the gameplay experience. To structurally test the effect of rules, I developed a multiplayer game for an experiment where all game elements were kept the same, except for one rule. This resulted in a competitive and cooperative game.
Results showed that the two rule-sets could generate distinct reported player experiences and observable distinct player behaviors: expected patterns of helping and ignoring, and unexpected patterns of agreeing and obstructing. We applied classic game theory to understand the four behavior patterns and concluded that goal-driven rules steered players towards competition and cooperation. Interaction rules, in contrast, mainly stimulated players to obstruct each other. Since different types of rules thus led to different player behaviors, discriminating in game design between interaction- and goal-driven rules seems relevant. Moreover, our research showed that game theory proved to be useful for understanding goal-driven rules.