An explorer’s journal for machines: Exploring the case of Cyberpunk 2077

Marcello A. Gómez-Maureira, Isabelle Kniestedt, Giulio Barbero, Hainan Yu, Mike Preuss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


With increasing technological capabilities, video games provide ever more expan-sive virtual worlds for players to explore. Designers employ various mechanics and level design principles to encourage such exploration. However, what moti-vates people to explore in virtual environments, and which approaches are success-ful, is not yet clearly established. Methods for measuring player experience often take place retroactively after a play session, relying on recall, and are thus prone to missing less salient events and their motivations. Journaling events as they occur allow promises to be a suitable method of collecting data, but presents a challenge in aggregating data points due to their freeform nature. This makes it difficult to identify overarching patterns of exploration behaviour. We present an exploratory study in devising a journaling protocol for gathering information during game-play sessions, focused on documenting moments of exploration in a manner that balances ease of data capture and data evaluation. We describe our efforts in proto-typing this journaling method and how we used it to analyse Cyberpunk 2077 and several other game designs. Our results show that exploration occurs in a pattern of event → expectation → resolution. The motivation to explore depends on the expectations that a game raises through its marketing and design. At the same time, exploratory behaviour going unrewarded by the game quickly reduces the desire to explore. When recording instances of exploration, the addition of emotion words is essential in order to properly contextualize the information. This arti-cle lays the foundation for documenting exploration in games, as well as other emotional or behavioural constructs that require in-the-moment data collection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-135
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • analysis protocol
  • computer game analysis
  • experience reporting
  • exploration behaviour
  • game design patterns
  • game journaling


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