Pioneering gamer to speak for Assembly Series

Adams to explain the psychology behind successful electronic games

Madden NFL Football and Dungeon Keeper. On the surface, these vastly different electronic games don’t seem to have anything in common. But they do, on a fundamental level: Ernest Adams was involved with the design of these very popular games.


The pioneering game developer will give an Assembly Series presentation at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, in Steinberg Hall Auditorium on the Danforth Campus at Washington University in St. Louis. The event is free and open to the public.

Anyone who has ever played an electronic game — online, on a computer or on a console such as Playstation or XBox — has a pretty good chance to have played a game Adams had a hand in developing.

Since Adams entered the gaming industry nearly 22 years ago, he has helped design games for equipment ranging from an “ancient” IBM 360 Mainframe to the Nintendo Wii.

Adams’ talk, “Single-Player, Multiplayer, MMOG: Design Psychologies for Different Social Contexts,” will focus on the major differences in game design that extend beyond the obvious considerations, such as challenge level, fairness, and balance. Games also are designed based on how the designer relates to the players, and how his or her own role changes with each type being designed.

According to Adams, the successful game developer must understand how people play and what makes a game more satisfying to play than others.

In his talk, he will explore the various psychologies that underpin game design to help guide the designer’s thinking and avoid mistakes from assuming that all game design is the same.

In addition to his free-lance game design work, Adams is aligned with the International Hobo Design Group, one of the world’s most successful game design companies for the videogames industry.

He also founded and serves as chairman of the International Game Developers’ Association, the largest nonprofit membership organization serving individuals who create video games.

Adams has authored or co-authored four books, including the university-level textbook, Fundamentals of Game Design, now in its second edition.

The first edition of Fundamentals, together with Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design, were the first comprehensive books on commercial game design for both professional and student audiences. Another popular publication, Break into the Game Industry, was published in 2003.

Most recently, Adams was lead developer in the Dungeon Keeper series, and for several years prior he was the audio/video producer for the Madden NFL Football line.

For more information on this or other Assembly Series events, visit or call (314) 935-4620.