DiGRA 2005: Changing Views: Worlds in Play, 2005 International Conference

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Pretty good for a girl: gender, identity and computer games

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-04-16
Abstract: 

Young people's participation in the online world of digital culture is one of the fastest and most efficient means by which they become proficient in the management of ICTs, and in the new literacies emerging there. In a predominantly male field, however, less is known about what characterises and contributes to young women's successful participation in online popular culture. This paper reports on a small project investigating the gendered dimensions of teenagers’ engagement in and out of school with stand alone and multiplayer computer games. The project had two foci: (i) the proposition that that there are gender related significantly different patterns of engagement both with different forms of new media (Kress 2000) and with the out-of-school digital culture through which so much of young people’s familiarity and expertise with the new media is acquired (Cassells and Jenkins, Meredyth) and (ii) the argument that the changing nature of literacy in the contexts of ICTs requires traditional school subjects concerned with literacy curriculum to be reconceptualised. The initial aim of the project was to identify characteristics of successful girl game players, and to consider ways in which they might be utilised in the production of English/literacy curriculum for both boys and girls. Information that helps teachers and systems design curriculum that engages productively with ICT-based texts and literacies is significant for schools and systems seeking to imagine and anticipate how literacy communication and curriculum might effectively be reconfigured in the networked society (Castells). The project was thus centrally concerned with the gaming practices of girls and young women who saw themselves as capable and competent players of computer games. In relation to curriculum, it sought to generate understandings about what characterises young women's successful participation in computer games and hence, to gain insights into ways in which curriculum utilising ICTs might more productively create hospitable environments, activities and opportunities for girls. A second concern was to explore intersections between ICTs, digital culture and imagined possibilities more generally for curriculum renewal and English, and to contribute to debates about the future of English, and the reconfiguration of curriculum subjects in the present times. Thirdly, the project sought to extend understandings of intersections between game playing, community and identity, with implications for debates around connectedness and engagement for young people, and the ways in which schools might build stronger connections between young people’s worlds, schools and the curriculum. The project was carried out in two locations: a year eight English classroom in a mixed Victorian secondary school, and a suburban internet (LAN) café which was a specialist centre in Melbourne for clan wars and competitions around the game Counterstrike. In this context, the project focussed particularly on an all-girl gaming clan. Specifically the project sought to explore: • On- and off-line game-based literacy practices of successful female gamers • On- and off-line game-based literacy practices of successful male gamers • Young people's sense of agency and identity in the every day spaces of computer games. • Issues of access and equity for girls participating in online popular culture • Implications of different practices, orientations and preferences for learning online • Implications of different practices, orientations and preferences for school-based English/literacy curriculum The first phase of the project centred around the design and teaching of a English unit organised around curriculum games at year 8 level, working with 14-15 year old boys and girls and their teacher. The unit was planned jointly between the teacher and the researchers, and took place over a two week period at the end of term. Students and the classroom teacher were interviewed at the start and end of the unit, and a third time towards the end of the year. Data also included the analytic grids completed by the students, their imaginative writing and videotapes of the presentations where they played and spoke about their game. The second phase of the project focussed on the literate and social practices of a group of young women who form their own clan in the game Counterstrike. Five young women aged 18-22 were observed on site during a six week competition and interviewed about the game, their history as game players, and their experiences as membership of an all girls clan. The age difference between these players and the schoolgirls was taken into account in the analysis of interviews, together with the differences in location, so that observations about both groups were seen as part of a continuum rather than as the same. Similarly, differences were noted between those students, both boys and girls, who were game players out of school and those who were not. The research was contextualised within an awareness of the ways in which texts and purposes change when popular culture is brought into the classroom and appropriated for institutional (curricular) purposes. The paper presents an overview of the activities and data from each site, and discusses conclusions drawn. It highlights a range of issues raised for English/literacy educators about the introduction of games into the classroom, and for the design of ICT-based curriculum that seeks to provide for gender equity. In doing so, it also draws attention to the ways in which boys in the study interacted with games, other class members and the curriculum unit. Findings underline the socially situated nature of play, in relation to both classroom and games activity, where relationships, contexts and purposes flowing across both on and offline play are seen as shaping the kinds of literacy and learning practices entailed in the students’ discussion and activities, and in the ways they engage with each other and the games. Observations about successful girl gamers are thus made not just in relation to specific skills, strategies and familiarity, but are more broadly located within the complex dynamics of in- and out-of-school discourses and contexts which need to be factored in to the construction of gender-equitable pedagogy and curriculum.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Addressing social dilemmas and fostering cooperation through computer games

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-29
Abstract: 

Gamers who play MMORPGs often form clans or guilds so they can benefit from pooled resources and skills. It is generally understood that all the members of a given guild will work together, whether the task is fighting a common foe (either other players or game controlled "mobs"), helping each other gather resources and craft items, or performing other in-game tasks more efficiently. Yet, some guilds recruit so aggressively and acquire so many new people that members no longer know each other, which in turn leads to a very diluted sense of community. This sense of isolation has such an impact that there may come a time when some guild members feel no obligation to the guild at all. These members often become free-loaders, reaping the benefits of the guild while neither contributing nor being an active participant in guild activities. This, of course, happens in real life on a grand scale and in mathematical game theory is called a "social dilemma." (A classic example is Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons.) People do not feel compelled to vote, carpool, or recycle even though they may know the benefits of doing so. Reasons for not participating include the fact that contributing has little impact on whether one benefits from the group. Another reason is that people don’t have a strong sense of identity within a cooperative community. In my on-going research, I am examining the role computer games can play in both fostering cooperation and collaboration skills for the benefit of the group and in instilling a sense of responsibility in people when they are confronted with a social dilemma. In a previous project, I, along with two colleagues, examined identity formation of gamers while playing in a simulated social dilemma. For this, we created a custom single-player module for Neverwinter Nights. We found that although players tried alternate strategies when playing the game, their game playing did not appear to affect their real-life choices. Game playing, however, did appear to promote deeper thinking about real-world situations when prompted. We concluded that it is possible we didn’t find any strong pattern between in-game and real-world identities and behavior because the game we created was not deep enough to realistically simulate the complexity of real-world social situations. We also believed that the results of the game would have been very different if the players had to interact with other real-world people. Keeping these in mind, this study examines a group of online gamers in which I participate that is attempting to create a sustainable cooperative guild with a strong sense of group identity in World of Warcraft. It is our hope that the guild will continue to thrive even if founding members leave the game and that members of the guild will benefit greatly from membership and come to understand their role in maximizing the efficiency and camaraderie of a cooperative community. Having done this, it becomes a question of whether this knowledge transfers to real life.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Push. Play: An Examination of the Gameplay Button

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-06-01
Abstract: 

................................................................. PUSH. PLAY. AN EXAMINATION OF THE GAMEPLAY BUTTON Extended Abstract for Long Paper on a Theoretical Perspectives INTRODUCTION At the center of the video game experience is the interface. Before a player grabs the first power-up or meets the first obstacle, the would-be-adventurer must accept the limitations of the encounter. Only the controller can lead to action in the game space. A life in motion must be reduced to input. Modern games have developed a great deal since their early days as quarter-seeking cabinets. However, despite their graphical, dramatical and technical development, one of the defining features of the video game remains unchanged. In order for the art to develop, the means for video game control must evolve. This essay will examine the power of the ever-present button while revealing that it's current embodiment unnecessarily limits the potential of the medium. What follows are overviews of the paper’s four sections. THE BUTTON The button is a central feature in the short history of video games. Of the thirty or more home gaming systems released since the debut of the Odyssey, all have included one or more buttons on the system's game controller. The Atari VCS joystick had one; the Nintendo game pad had four; the current Playstation controller has ten. Personal computers, another prominent means of playing video games, are also founded on button-based input. Both the keyboard and the mouse rely on variations of the device. Over the past 30 years, games such as Tank, Tron, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Defender, Street Fighter, Street Fighter II, and a large assortment of other Arcade systems have also made the button a primary means of taking action. The simple biased-switch has been used for a variety of different game play styles and systems. From the homemade controllers of Space War to the state of the art controllers for the Nintendo Gamecube, the button is a device continually employed for video game play. AUTOMATION Put to use in many everyday products, the button is an excellent means for reducing the need for skillful action. However, it offers little opportunity for engagement. The dependency of game control on the button reflects a disregard for the body's abilities. In its most common form, the button is a biased electrical switch. Used in a video game system, it enables a monitoring computer processor to recognize press and release commands. However, it also has another less obvious function. The button is an artifact of automation. Used for jumping, punching, grabbing, rapping and even raping in video play spaces, the button reduces complex actions to a matter of choice. Like the trigger of a crossbow and the depressible lever or key of a piano, the button reduces gesture to a linear action. The idiosyncrasies and pleasures of the body are extraneous when interaction is equated to functional value. Automation values productivity and efficiency not physical expression. By relying on this artifact of automation, the video game medium must adopt a cognition-centric approach to interaction. THE MAGIC CIRCLE Despite its origins in an ideology of work and mechanization, the button has had continual success in affording video game "play". Its transparent nature is a key to the success of video games. All games are artificial. The play of a game is made possible by the carefully created boundary between the real and the unreal world. It allows the actions and events of a game to take on meaning and to have significance apart from what they typically signify. To an observer of a session of Tony Hawk Pro-Skater, the player may only be pressing buttons while watching a screen, but to the player, each button press is the calculated yet exquisite move of a master street skater. The button sits at the center of the "magic circle". It is a source of the transformative power of the video game medium. Because of its neutrality and simplicity, it offers no resistance when moving from intent to action. The phenomenon of play combined with the button's transparency enables interaction with the device to take on many meanings in the feedback loop of an on-going game. PHYSICAL EXPRESSION While the button successfully affords video play, it's lack of support for embodied interaction impedes the development of the medium. Current buttons are not suitable for intimate, performance-based play. They are incapable of capturing the nuance of corporeal expression. The hand’s movements are situated in time and space while the biased-switch is instantaneous. Consequently, the button is unable to participate in a dialogue with the fingers. The significance of the physicality of the interface is a well-understood point for musical performers. The tangibility of the instrument affords discovery at the interface, and gestural interaction affords affective responses by the performer. Effort and expression are recognized as being deeply linked phenomena. The button has developed little since its debut on game controllers. An opportunity exists for the development of a button system that maintains the transparent nature of current buttons while providing a tangible structure for both supporting haptic improvisation and capturing gestural input. .................................................................

Document type: 
Conference presentation

socio-ec(h)o: Ambient Intelligence and Gameplay

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-27
Abstract: 

The socio-ec(h)o project aims to research a generalized ambient intelligent software platform and design models for responsive environments based on the concept of ambient intelligent "ecologies" and group gameplay. The benefits of the research include a software-architecture, ambient intelligence inference engine, and interaction design models for gameplay and responsive environments. The paper will discuss the results of our prototypes for games in responsive environments. These prototypes will "test" our concept of an ambient intelligence "ecology". Current research in interaction and ambient intelligence is narrowly focused on increasing productivity and communication in the office and home, ignoring more complex social and cultural experiences such as games and play. The concept of "ecologies" is an alternative to thinking of technology as a tool or technology as being socially neutral which is a common understanding of the role of technology today on behalf of many technologists. The focus on the interaction of social groups is unavoidable in the context of social situations and interaction in public spaces since most public interaction is group oriented. In relation to games research the project explores the design and implementation of an ambient intelligent system for sensing and display, user modeling, and interaction models based on game structures. Ambient intelligence computing is the embedding of computer technologies and sensors in architectural environments that combined with artificial intelligence software respond to and "reason" about human actions and behaviour within the environment. In the case of socio-ec(h)o, the term "ecologies" is based on the concept of "information ecologies" by Nardi and O’Day (Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999). Nardi and O’Day describe an ecology to be a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a local environment. They argue that the ecology metaphor shifts the focus to human activity rather than on technology. For example, a library is an ecology for accessing information. It is a space with books, magazines, tapes, films, computers, databases and librarians to help find information. The technology components of the ecology are balanced to shape the environment around human action in accessing information. The concept of "ambient intelligence ecologies" emerged from findings in the previous ec(h)o research project. We discovered that ec(h)o had successfully balanced incongruent elements to form a dynamic and coherent system. Components such as interaction, intelligence, audio display and technology shaped the ambient intelligent environment around the purpose of a museum visit. It could be said that behind the design and system of ec(h)o is an "ambient intelligence ecology" for a museum visit. We were neither conscious of this approach or had it as a project goal, rather it emerged over the course of the research and became evident in the findings. The aim of socio-ec(h)o is to research and test this concept of an "ambient intelligent ecology" as possible principles in designing such environments. This will result in the development of a platform that can support prototypes in interactive narratives and games. In order to test the concept of "ecologies", we need a wide range of activities that are not as specific an application as the museum project of ec(h)o and are outside of the typical productivity or goal-oriented scenarios of most ambient intelligent and wearable technologies research. The paper will discuss the key investigations in socio-ec(h)o: ecologies, game prototypes, gameplay concepts, and multi-users. Informed by the concepts of Nardi and O’Day, ecologies are applied to ambient intelligence environments, and extend the concept beyond information to include interactive narratives and games. The key components of the ambient intelligent ecologies include interaction, intelligence, response and technology. For example, we investigate the balances between such things as wearable technologies in relation to gesture, inference rules and proprioceptive responses. We expect the prototypes to demonstrate the integration of installations with embedded sensors and display technologies. Asoftware architecture will underpin the prototypes and will support the level of reasoning and processing as determined by the ecology-driven design. The environments themselves will be designed to support group movements and actions involving tangible interfaces and audio/visual displays. The play concepts are drawn from a wide range of sources with the goal of encoding a form of play that is between a directed game and open-ended play. We feel this will best allow us to shape and explore a play environment. We draw on James Carse’s concepts of finite and infinite games (Finite and Infinite Games - A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987), Staffan Björk and Jussi Holopainen’s research in game design patterns, and Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman’s game theory (Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambrdige: MIT Press, 2003). The key challenges in the area of multi-users is the design of interfaces and interaction models to support group interaction in the prototype environments, and to extend the research in user modeling to apply to groups rather than individuals, and to respond to the dynamic and changing formation of groups.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

End of story? Quest, narrative and enactment in computer games

Date created: 
2005-05-31
Abstract: 

In a recently published article (1) Espen Aarseth claims that all those computer games that have been described as ‘narrative games’ could better be described as ‘quest games’. Unless a valid counter-example can be found, he suggests that the long and heated debate between ludologists and narratologists about wether or not games are narratives has been settled in favour of the ludologists. My claim is that the computer game "Max Payne" (2) is the counter-example Aarseth is asking for. One central question in all theories of games must be: What is it that makes a game pleasurable? It seems clear that the huge popularity of "Max Payne" can not be contributed to graphics and gameplay alone – after all, the game has been widely criticized for minimizing player freedom through a strict, linear design. The pleasure of playing Max Payne can simply not be fully understood without regard to the innovative storytelling aspects of the game. As in a classic Hollywood movie the game starts with the end, the winning situation, and throughout the rest of the game the player is guided by a voice-over narrating in retrospect the events as the player experiences them (3). The rules of the game are all but clear; staying alive seems to be the one objective of the gameplay. So if any game is narrative, "Max Payne" is, but is it a quest game? If so, it is a very different kind of quest than the ones that Ragnhild Tronstad is talking about, and one must distinguish between the player’s quest and the avatar/main character’s quest. In puzzle-solving quests the central problems of the quest are identical for the player and the main character. However, while the central character in "Max Payne" is on a complex film noir quest of unraveling conspiracy and dealing with his own guilt, most of the player’s quest can be described with an algorithm consisting of the three instructions ‘walk’, ‘aim’ and ‘shoot’. I do not wish to discard the fundamental ontological divide between games and narratives that Aarseth and other ludologists have argued convincingly for. However I wish to focus on the way in which story and game can be integrated in each other in hybrid forms that are indeed new media, with equal emphasis on both words. I suggest that a different concept should be used to describe the pleasure of using such media; the concept of enacting. Disregarding the story aspect of these games may contribute just as much to the perception of computer games as an inferior art form as disregarding the ludus aspect; for even if these games tell stories, they do it in ways that are significantly different from traditional storytelling. Interestingly, "Max Payne" uses game design techniques with similarities to those proposed by Gonzalo Frasca for the purpose of developing "serious" games (4). Thus "Max Payne" is able to create something – wether you call it a "gamestory" (5) or a "story cleverly disguised as a game" (6) – that needs to be studied from more than one perspective to be fully understood. References: 1) Aarseth, Espen, "Quest Games as Post-Narrative Discourse", in Marie-Laure Ryan (ed.): "Narrative Across Media", University of Nebraska Press, 2004. Aarseths central claim builds on Tronstad, Ragnhild: "Semiotic and Non-Semiotic MUD Performance" http://www.cosignconference.org/cosign2001/papers/Tronstad.pdf. 2) "Max Payne", PC version, Remedy Entertainment Ltd, 2001 3) Contrary to the claim that flashbacks are not compatible with computer games – see Juul, Jesper: "Time to Play", in First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan, MIT Press 2003 http://www.jesperjuul.dk/text/timetoplay/ 4) See Frasca, Gonzalo: "Videogames of the Oppressed: Videogames as a Means for Critical Debate and Debate", Masters Thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2001. Available online at http://www.ludology.org 5) Zimmerman, Eric. "Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games", in First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Harrigan, Pat, MIT Press, 2004 6) See Aarseth, id.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Spontaneous Communities of Learning: A Social Analysis of Learning Ecosystems in Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMOG) Environments

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-04-18
Abstract: 

This research project is comprised of a cross-cultural ethnography and social network analysis that seeks to illuminate the spontaneous communities of learning/practice that emerge around the relatively recent phenomenon of massively multiplayer online games. While these games can be played individually to greater or lesser degrees depending on the game, the game play mechanics are generally such that true mastery of the game can often only be achieved by working collaboratively with other players. As a result, groups of players emerge in an entirely decentralised and self-organised way, engaging in groups pursuits and assisting each other to learn how the game world functions. This group emergence follows the classic rules of emergence in biological systems. The way in which players learn mastery of the games runs contrary to many of the assumptions we make about instruction. Players seldom read manuals or learn how to play in formal training sessions. Instead, video games are often designed as ‘learning machines’ (Gee, 2003) that rely on intuitive, convention-based game design to scaffold a player’s learning of the mechanics of game play and the game environment as player ‘curiosity takes the form of explorative coping’ (Grodal, 2003). But as "the first interactive mass medium to unite entertainment and communication in one phenomenon" (Filiciak, 2003), the dynamic and collaboration-based MMOG environments also foster a rich culture of learning support. Not only is interdependence designed into the games, but the flexible parameters specified by game designers involve creating an interactive world where environments are in constant flux: rules change, documentation is scarce, and the mastery of the game relies on a host of skills well-beyond the game’s manual. Indeed, these games and the strategies for playing them, are exercises in co-creation where players, as co-producers, (Papert, 1993) can influence the rules, affect the outcome, and create a rich universe of social interactions and culture that ultimately become the core of game play, rather than the periphery (Downes, 2004). In particular, this project looks at how these groups form a complex learning ecosystem, as players engage in symbiotic learning relationships, assisting each other towards greater mastery of the game. Individuals also interact with one another outside the game, using the game as the cornerstone of a rich web of ‘meta-game’ social and learning interactions, extending the web of community into different virtual spaces and even real life, then back again. There are obvious analogues between this phenomenon and social learning patterns in other physical and virtual spaces. Social groupings that support a community’s learning and evolution have been described as ‘communities of practice’ (Lave & Wenger, 1991) in a professional context and ‘communities of learning’ in the educational context. Massively multiplayer online games present a tremendous opportunity to explore a nascent area of media convergence, while understanding how the naturally occurring phenomenon of self-motivated social learning and collaborative problem-solving can be leveraged into other contexts. "As Lave and Wenger (1991) argue, understanding the shape of learning in naturally occurring contexts, and not just formal ones (e.g. classrooms) is crucial if we are to forward educational theory and practice beyond the contexts we ourselves contrive .. We ought to investigate more naturally occurring, self-sustaining indigenous virtual cultures so that out theory might be a more accurate reflection of them and our practice a better reflection on them in days to come." (Steinkuehler, 2004) [open or closed session is fine]

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Cognitive Callisthenics: Do FPS computer games enhance the player’s cognitive abilities?

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-26
Abstract: 

It is widely accepted that educational video games are a valuable resource for learning. Action video games however, are often viewed as mindless entertainment, but research completed recently show other benefits are gained from video games, such as the enhancement of peripheral vision (University of Rochester, 2003). It has long been known that puzzle games such as Tetris enhance the player’s cognitive abilities. Okagaki and Frensch (1994) used Tetris in their research. They found that spatial visualisation abilities were improved in college students after six hours of playing. Research done by De Lisi and Cammarano (1996), showed that students improved their mental rotational skills playing a game called Block Out. Earlier research completed by Dorval and Pepin (1986) suggests that students with greater spatial visualisation abilities are generally high achievers and excel in subjects like maths and science. (Kearney, 2003b) Unfortunately today’s generation do not play Tetris or Block out. They are more captivated by action games, known as that First Person Shooter (FPS) games, like Counter Strike and Half-Life. In a survey of 25 computer game players, it was suggested that these games "not only enhanced hand-eye co-ordination, but also increased their ability to multi-task. A typical FPS involves controlling the player movement, aiming and firing the chosen weapon, evading being a target for other players, monitoring health status and ammunition supplies, and devising a seek and destroy strategy in order to complete the level. All this is done in unison, in a pressure situation." (Kearney, 2003b, p.6). This paper examines the potential of commercial action video games to be used as a tool to enhance specific cognitive abilities. Basic cognitive abilities like multitasking, hand-eye co-ordination, and increase attention span, are of value to those involved in working with, or those that have, learning or motor skill disabilities. The chosen design for this research was quasi-experimental design ("quasi" because it does not involve the random selection of participants to be observed). The experimental design is a repeated pretest-postest control-group design. Zikmund suggests that this method is "a true experimental design in which the experimental group is tested before and after exposure to the treatment, and the control group is tested at the same time without being exposed to the experimental treatment" (2003, p.277). The only limitation of this design is that the control group may realise what they are being tested for in the pretest, and modify their behavior in the posttest. However, the control group for this research was included to ascertain whether or not the repeated use of the measurement software has an affect on the recorded results. The participants were selected from members of the New Zealand Game Developers Association (NZGDA) and split into three distinct groups:  Groups A: Action gamers (participants that play action video games on a regular basis – more than 4 hours per week)  Groups B: Non-action gamers (participants that do not play action video games on a regular basis – less than 4 hours per week or not at all).  Groups C: Control group – (participants that do not play action video games on a regular basis). The student chapter of the NZGDA meet on a regular basis to play multi-player action video games. These students are studying at tertiary level and typically between the age of 18 – 30 years old. Computerised assessment of cognitive functions is recognised as a highly effective data gathering and analysis tool that reduces human error during both testing and the management of the collected data (Kane, 1999). Based on an earlier DOS product, Syswin was "written in response to a perceived need for a laboratory performance testing situation intermediate between the test typical of Performance Assessment Batteries (PABs) and full-blown simulators" (Elsmore, 1994, p.1). The program displays four simultaneous tasks to the user, each in one quadrant of the screen where the operator is required to:  remember and classify items on demand (MEMORY (Sternberg) TASK)  perform a self-paced task (ARITHMETIC PROBLEMS)  monitor and react to visual information (VISUAL MONITORING)  monitor and react to auditory information (AUDITORY MONITORING) In addition to Synwin, a program called ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) was used. ImPACT was designed to evaluate multiple aspects of neurocognitive processes to assist with the diagnosis of concussive sporting injuries (Lovell, Collins, Maroon, Podell, & Powell, 2004). The ImPACT tests include:  Attention  Memory  Reaction time  Visual processing speed Although this product was specifically designed to test for a reduction in cognitive abilities after receiving a concussive injury, this tool has been used to record an increase in cognitive functions. Normative data is provided for ImPACT scores to assist with the analysis of test results. The findings of this research are of interest to the gaming industry, the general public, and educators, especially those working with special needs students. It will also spawn further research into which games have the ability to enhance cognitive functions. It is hoped that a framework of tests can be developed to enable commercial video games to be tested without the need to observe human participants with each and every game. References: De Lisi, R., & Cammarano, D. M. (1996). Computer experience and gender differences in undergraduate mental rotation performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 12, 351-361. Dorval M. & Pepin M. (1986). Effect of playing a video game on a measure of spatial visualization. Perceptual Motor Skills, 62, 159-162. [Electronic version] Elsmore, T. F. (1994). SYNWORK1: A PC–based tool for assessment of performance in a simulated work environment. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 26(4), 421–426. Kane, R. (1999). Computerized neuropsychological assessment: Overview & appraisal. Retrieved May 30th, 2004, from www.wramc.amedd.army.mil/departments/psychology/conf99/Intro/spr99-Kane1... Kearney, P (2003a). Assignment 1 for ISCG 8022 : IT project planning, Unitec New Zealand Kearney, P (2003b). The impact of Computer Games on Children's aggressive behaviour and learning abilities. Bulletin of Information Technology Research. 1, (1), ISSN 1176-3108. Lovell, M., Collins, M., Maroon, J., Podell, K., & Powell, J. (2001). Scientific and psychometric basis of the ImPACT program. Retrieved April 11th, 2004, from http://www.impacttest.com/ID_images/imdataPDF1.pdf Okagaki, L. & Frensch, P. A. (1994). Effects of video game playing on measures of spatial performance: Gender Effects in Late adolescence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 15. 33-58. University of Rochester. (2003). Altered perception: The science of video gaming. Retrieved 30 April, 2004, from http://www.rochester.edu/pr/Currents/V31/V31SI/story04.html. Zikmund, W. G. (2003). Business Research Methods (7th ed. Vol. 1). Ohio: South-Western.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Possibilities of Non-Commercial Games: The Case of Amateur Role Playing Game Designers in Japan

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-04-16
Abstract: 

Recently, scholars of science & technology studies have been paying closer attention to the role of users in technology. In the market economy, users/consumers have been playing usually silent but often decisive roles in shaping many areas of technology. Sometimes users come up with creative uses of a technological product that its manufacturer never imagined (the most consequential unintended use would be the use of airplanes by Al Quaeda as mentioned by Nelly Oudshoorn and Trevor Pinch). Attention to users is expected to shed more light on neglected though highly relevant groups in society, such as women at home, and to counterbalance hagiographic narratives that make heroes out of prominent engineers. In this post industrial age, the boundary between users and manufacturers need not remain the same. Advancement of information and communication technology might allow a greater participation of users. In particular, in the area of digital games, everyone used to be an amateur in the time of William Higinbotham or Steve Russell. Even today, when game industry has grown colossal, creative amateurs can find their roles. In content production, while technology continues to advance, and yesterday's technology becomes cheaper and cheaper, the one who has the most advanced and expensive technology does not always produce the best product. Amateur game designers in the English speaking world have already attracted attention of some scholars. Especially, activities of "modders" have already been studied relatively well. Whereas digital game cultures in Japan have been generally underrepresented in game studies of the English speaking academia, non-commercial games are even less recognized than commercial ones, because amateurs generally do not bother to translate their work into English. This paper focuses on Japanese amateur game designers who produce role playing games by using a tool called "RPG Tkool 2000." I examine how amateur game creators build a network to create games, how they circulate their games, how players interact with those games and their designers, and how those games differ from commercial games. In particular, in my analysis of amateur role playing games, I focus on narratives and "cosmologies" of the game that regulate game play and storyline. In doing so, I will try to apply an interdisciplinary approach, combining my expertise in science & technology studies with game studies approaches. "RPG Tkool 2000," commercial software by Enterbrain Inc., is the most popular tool to create RPGs and other games in Japan. It is extremely versatile, stable, and easy to use, but this software can only produce low-resolution 2D games. In spite of the relatively primitive interface (or partly because of that), it has a large group of users, and production of freeware and shareware games with this software has been very active. Since gamers can play gamers produced by RPG Tkool 2000 without buying the software itself, game designers can distribute their games as freeware, which ensures wider circulation than, for example, the modules of "Neverwinter Nights." Amateur game designers who use RPG Tkool 2000 and other game construction software form a collaborative network so that they could combine different skills of different individuals, since rarely one person manages to produce a story, code, graphic, and music. Most amateur designers have a website to distribute their games, thorough which players participate in the production of a game, whether as a tester, a contributor of graphic designs, or a voice actor. If game designing is easy enough to be fun, the process of producing a game itself resembles a multi-player online RPG. The extent to which users push the limit of RPG Tkool 2000 is amazing. Not only do they make all genres of RPGs (like medieval European fantasies, science fictions, Japanese premodern stories, contemporary stories, etc.), they devise games in other genres than RPG, including adventure, action, shooting, simulation, strategy, and puzzle games. Most importantly, those amateur games are not always crude imitations of commercial games. Being non-commercial allows freeware games to have more personal and artistic expressions of game designers. Although one might consider commercial and freeware video/computer games as the same digital medium, the messages that they convey often differ considerably. Since amateur designers do not need to conform to the taste of the mass, they can afford to choose topics of their personal concern and design their games according to their own aesthetics. For example, some amateur games deal with social problems of contemporary Japan. There are female amateur game designers who produced games that address the issue of sexism. Many games deal with discrimination and bullying among children reflecting Japan's school life. One designer uses his games to satirize anti-smoking campaign. As often the case with Japan's popular culture, the issues about war and peace, environment, danger of science and technology are favored themes of amateur games. Unlike comics or amine, however, non-commercial games do not have to please their audience. "Seraphic Blue" by Tempura (pseudo.), one of the masterpieces made by RPG Tkool 2000, has a disturbingly pessimistic storyline and cosmology, which repeatedly asks its player whether life is worth all the trouble it causes, or whether we might be better off had we never been born at all. To average players, it is more depressing than fun to play this game. To some, however, this game conveys a very powerful message. In addition, unlike videogames for game consoles, these amateur games are open-ended and self-reflective in some ways. Those who have a copy of "RPG Tkool 2000," it is easy to modify games created by it. Designers can easily produce updated versions of their games according to user feedback. Some games take game designing by "RPG Tkool" as their theme. While many games are parodies of commercial games, a few games satirize clichés of RPG Tkool games. Thus, non-commercial amateur role playing games seem to present some possibilities. Because amateur designers do not intend to make money, they can do what professional designers cannot. Amateur game designers can experiment with their non-commercial games, and make their games vehicles of artistic expressions and social or philosophical issues.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

The use of Video Game Technology for Investigating Perceptual and Cognitive Awareness in Sports

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-04-18
Abstract: 

Emerging evidence concerning the nature of expertise in sport shows that, regardless of innate talent, genetic limitations, and hereditary predispositions, elite skill levels cannot be attained without many years of focused, dedicated, and deliberate practice (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesh-Romer, 1993; Starkes, 2000; Starkes, Helson, & Jack, 2001). Through this ‘immersive’ environment players acquire the appropriate perceptual, cognitive, and social skills needed to optimise anticipation and decision-making within their sport. Similarly, current research indicates that video game play is also a highly immersive endeavour, whereby players develop advanced perceptual, cognitive, and social skills that they are, for the most part, unaware of (Gee, 2003). It is this similarity that we seek to exploit through the utilisation of sports video game play as a framework to understand the mechanisms underlying decision-making in sport. Our research is concerned with the development of expertise. We seek to understand the characteristics of expert awareness and decision-making in sport. The current standard laboratory research paradigm in sport psychology favours independent trials where the onset of the trial is defined by the occurrence of the presented stimulus, a process outside the control of the subject (Ericsson & Smith, 1991). Mechanisms such as cueing strategies, pattern recognition, and visual search strategies are all investigated in isolation of each other. In contrast, within the ecological landscape of an athlete’s playing environment, expert performance is ever-changing and continuous, characterised by a perception-action continuum, and the need to analyse emergent situations in order to elicit responsive action instantaneously (Ericsson & Charness, 1994). While we agree that expertise encompasses specific skills at each of the perceptual, cognitive, and social levels, and that it is important to understand the individual underlying mechanisms involved in expert performance, we contend that researchers must also consider the interplay between these mechanisms, and the ecological context in which they are performed, in order to fully understand the nature of expertise. While much of our own research involves investigation in the field, we propose here a novel ecological approach to the study of sports expertise. This methodological framework takes advantage of the immersive nature and realism of high-fidelity sports video game technology in an attempt to elicit and examine the perceptual, cognitive and social mechanisms at play within the actual sports environment. It is now recognised that experts in sport are differentiated from novices by their superior decision-making abilities (Williams et al., 1999). Decision-making is a by-product of perceptual, cognitive and social skill, and the elements that have been shown to contribute most to high levels of perceptual, cognitive and social skill in sport include; - the ability to process contextual information using effective advance postural cue utilisation; - superior recall and recognition of sport-specific patterns of play; - more appropriate and efficient visual search strategies; and - the ability to anticipate future events through the efficient assignment of appropriate situational probabilities (Tenenbaum, 1999; Williams et al., 1999). From the characterisation presented it is clear that there are various different knowledge elements important to the formation of expertise. The stance taken by most current literature suggests that there are distinct frameworks that govern such different cognitive knowledge types, and that these elements are treated independently. Our research seeks to extend this approach by investigating the ongoing interaction between all of these knowledge types (i.e. cue utilization, pattern recognition, visual search, assignment of situational probabilities), and the instantaneous, and quick-shifting pattern of action between them. Our overarching research hypothesis contends that expertise is characterised by the ability to shift, or translate, between various knowledge representations, or strategies, and to hold these different knowledge types in memory simultaneously during decision-making. Our long-term research goal is to advance the formation of expertise by providing learning mechanisms designed to enhance this ability to shift between, and learn, different knowledge attributes. Specifically, the goal is to create a conceptual framework that will help designers make better-informed design decisions through a more thorough understanding of the constituents of, and interplay between, different knowledge types. This paper will present the results of a pilot study we are currently undertaking to uncover the precursors to perceptual, cognitive and social attributes of decision-making in hockey, as well as the mechanism of interplay between these knowledge elements. We are using an immersive hockey video game environment to examine the perceptual, cognitive and social strategies used by teenage girls and boys in ‘game-like’ situations. The study is specifically interested in; (a) Understanding and enumerating perceptual, cognitive and social knowledge elements used for decision-making in ice hockey. (b) The interplay between the different perceptual, cognitive and social knowledge types employed for decision-making within game play. (c) The temporal patterns of their elicitation. (d) The general patterns of play that precede decision-making. (e) The suitability of a high-fidelity video game environment as a platform to emulate and examine the real ecological environment of sport. Eye-tracking, think-aloud, and interview protocols will be employed in an effort to elicit participants decision-making processes and triangulate the results of the study. A modified grounded theory methodology will be employed based on Glasser and Strauss’ grounded theory approach (Glasser & Strauss, 1967, Strauss & Corbin, 1990). The approach is modified to allow for a combination of inductive and deductive techniques. Further, a twin study is planned that will examine the same processes in the field, in an effort to corroborate the findings of the current study and provide further evidence as to the effectiveness of the video game environment for this type of research. Specifically the procedure will involve a preliminary interview with participants, asking them about their general on-ice decision-making process. Next, the participants will be eye-tracked while engaged in a hockey video game session. Finally, a post-game interview will be conducted whereby participants will be asked to describe their decision-making process concerning plays that will be presented from the eye-tracking data. References Ericsson, K. A., & Charness, N. (1994). Expert performance: Its structure and acquisition. American Psychologist, 49, 725-747. Ericsson, K. A., & Smith, J. (1991). Prospects and limits of the empirical study of expertise: An introduction. In K. A. Ericsson & J. Smith (Eds.), Toward a general theory of expertise (pp. 1-38). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Romer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100, 363-406. Gee, J. P. (2003) What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press. Glasser, B. G. & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategy for qualitative research. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine Publishing Company. Starkes, J. L. (2000). The road to expertise: Is practice the only determinant? International Journal of Sport Psychology, 31, 431-451. Starkes, J. L., Helsen, W., & Jack, R. (2001). Expert performance in sport and dance. In R. N. Singer, H. A. Hausenblas, & C. M. Janelle (Eds.), Handbook of sport psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 174-201). New York: Wiley. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Tenenbaum, G. (ed.) (1999). The development of expertise in sport: Nature and nurture. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 30, 113-304. Williams, A.M., Davids, K. & Williams, J.G. (1999). Visual Perception and Action in Sport. London: E & FN Spon.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Game, Motivation, and Effective Learning: An Integrated Model for Educational Game Design

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-06-02
Abstract: 

Game environments have great potential to support immersive learning experiences. Learning can be defined as "the act, process, or experience of gaining knowledge or skill." To engage in this act of gaining knowledge or skill, learners must be motivated. According to Chan & Ahern (1999), "When people are intrinsically motivated to learn, they not only learn more, they also have a more positive experience." Games meet both these tests for effective learning environments: they are active experiences, and they have the capacity to provide intrinsic motivation. MOTIVATION & FLOW To motivate is to "provide with an incentive". In traditional instructional design practice, motivation is often considered as a preliminary step in the instructional process (Chan & Ahern, 1999). Intrinsic motivation, however, focuses on the development of motivation throughout the entire instructional process. To understand motivation in instruction, the authors of this paper look at the ARCS Model of Motivational Design developed by John M. Keller. The ARCS Model identifies four components for motivating instruction: attention strategies, relevance strategies, confidence strategies, and satisfaction strategies (Keller, 1983). A well-designed game can include all of these strategies. A well-designed educational game will meld them with the desired learning outcomes. Chan and Ahern (1999) suggest Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory as a tool for understanding and implementing motivation. The authors of this paper see Flow Theory as a critical factor in the development of effective educational game environments. Flow Theory describes a state where the subject experiences a perfect balance between challenge and ability. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990), flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. Consistent with the ARCS model, applications of this theory focus on providing the learner with appropriate challenge, setting concrete goals, structuring control, and providing clear feedback (Chan & Ahern 1999). To learn, students need to be motivated, and an appropriate level of challenge combined with a clear and attainable goal is highly motivating. Since flow experiences share these key aspects of motivational design, they can be described as intrinsically motivating. Instructional designers can utilize game environments that support flow and enable learning. Learning environments have been largely limited to the classroom model: the teacher stands in front of the class and transmits knowledge to a listening group of students. To support a flow state, a learning environment must closely match each student’s skill level, and provide tasks with clear goals and immediate individual feedback. Houser and De Loach review Donald Norman's work: Things that make us Smart. Norman identifies seven basic requirements of a learning environment. They note Norman's call for interaction, feedback, goals, motivation, challenge, engagement and concentration and conclude that games demonstrate effective learning environments (Houser & Deloach, 1998). GAME, PLAY, AND LEARNING A game is "a system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome." (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004). The goal of successful game design is the creation of meaningful play (ibid). Johann Huizinga (1955) defines play as "a free activity standing quite consciously outside ‘ordinary’ life as being ‘not serious’, but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly". The authors of this paper argue for educational game environments that combine play, motivation, flow, and learning. Lepper and Malone (1987) illustrate four key attributes that educational games can employ: challenge, sensory and cognitive curiosity, a sense of control, and the use of fantasy to reinforce and stimulate. The diagram below illustrates the potential for well-designed educational games: Games > Play > Flow > Motivation > Learning Games foster play and challenge, which produces a state of flow, which increases motivation, which supports the learning process. The juncture of learning outcomes with well-designed game mechanics can result in learning experiences which are intrinsically motivating. The challenge for educational designers is to build environments where the dynamics of learning are fully integrated with the dynamics of game-play. Lepper and Malone describe a term called ‘Fantasy’. Fantasy is what players first experience when they play a game. They see the graphics, hear the sounds, and interact with the world. Many educational games implement a form of educational ‘sugar coating’ known as exogenous fantasies - the game is merely used to package and improve the educational setting (Rieber, 1996). In contrast, games that employ endogenous fantasies weave the content into the game. One cannot tell where the game stops and the content begins (ibid). These games integrate the learning dynamics within the 'magic circle' [Salen and Zimmerman (2004), Huzuinga (1955)] that constitutes an immersive game world. If learning is situated outside of the magic circle, the game’s powerful ability to draw the learner into a state of flow is broken, and the learning becomes an incidental intrusion. In a fully integrated educational game, ‘stealth learning’ can occur naturally within the context of the game world (Prensky, 2001 as cited in De Castell & Jenson, 2003). The educational possibilities that videogames provide are similar to those known in ‘active learning’. Active learning is student participation in the learning and teaching process, where students themselves engage with and, to an extent, create their own learning experience (Mitchell, 2002). One of the difficulties with flow experiences is the lack of reflection that is able to take place while one is in a flow state. The authors cite the design of a 3D education hockey game that teaches about concussion. In the game, reflection is incorporated into the immersive 'magic circle' of the game play. Players that engage in concussive activities are forced to sit for a while and consider the seriousness and the implications of concussion effects, just a player would be forced to sit in a live hockey game. The act of reflection is incorporated into both the core mechanics of the game, and the fantasy experience of the game world. This is an example of an integrated design approach, which reconciles flow, learning, and endogenous motivation within an immersive game experience. REFERENCES Chamberlin, J. (1998). Reaching ‘flow’ to optimize work and play. American Psychological Association. Vol. 29. No. 7. Accessed: April 22, 2004. Available online: http://www.apa.org/monitor/jul98/joy.html. Chan, T. S., & Ahern, T. C. (1999). Targeting motivation – adapting flow theory to instructional design. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 21 (2), 152-163. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row. De Castell, S., & Jenson, J. (2003). Serious Play. Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol. 35, No. 6, 649-665. Hoonhout, J., Diederiks, E. & Stienstra, M. (2003). Designing fun, and test it too. Usability Professionals’ Association, Marriott City Center Minneapolis, Minnesota. Accessed: April 22, 2004. Available online: http://www.upassoc.org/conferences_and_events/upa_conference/2004/progra... Houser, R., & Deloach, S. (1998). Learning from games: Seven principles of effective design. Technical Communication, August, 319-329. Huizinga, Johann. (1955). Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Boston: Beacon Press. Keller, J. M. (1983). Motivational design of instruction. In C.M. Reigeluth (Ed.). Instructional design theories and models: An overview of their current status. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs. Lepper, M. R., & Malone, T. W. (1987). Intrinsic motivation and instructional effectiveness in computer-based education. In R. E. Snow & M. J. Farr (Eds.), Aptitude, learning, and instruction: Vol. 3. Cognitive and affective process analysis. (pp. 255-286). Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum. Mitchell, L. (2002). Active Learning and Reflection. LTSN: History, Classics & Archaeology. Accessed: April 22, 2004. Available online: http://hca.ltsn.ac.uk/resources/Briefing_Papers/Active_Learning_Reflecti... Murray, J. (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. New York: McGraw-Hill. Rieber, L. P. (1996). Seriously considering play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games. Educational Technology Research and Development; 44(2), 43-58. Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Small, R. V. (1997). Motivation in Instructional Design. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse NY.

Document type: 
Conference presentation