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

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What happens if you catch Whypox? Children’s learning experiences of infectious disease in a multi-user virtual environment

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Date created: 
2005-06-01
Abstract: 

For the thematic area of "Learning to Play: Playing to Learn" Multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) have long been a popular genre for entertainment games. Only recently educational researchers have been investigating educational applications (e.g., Aschbacher, 2003; Barab et al., 2002; Bruckman, 1998; Dede, Ketelhut, & Ruess, 2002). Three structural features of MUVEs afford particular instructional opportunities for learning about infectious disease: (1) the ability of learners to create online representation of themselves, called avatars, who can be immersed in disease experiences without direct physical harm to the participant — an aspect difficult to replicate in real life due to ethical considerations; (2) the ability to simulate the experience of infectious disease spread within a large community since some MUVEs have hundreds of thousands of registered users and thousands of concurrent users; and (3) the ability to simulate the real time duration of disease spread over several weeks unlike some previous participatory simulations (Colella, 2000; Krajcik, Blumenfeld, Marx, Fredricks, & Soloway, 1998). This study investigated the learning about infectious disease within a MUVE, called Whyville.net, which had over 500,000 registered users and about 4,000 concurrent users. In this study 46 sixth grade students became members of Whyville and were able to access the website at home and during science class where they learned about natural infectious diseases. The students created avatars in Whyville, which experienced the outbreak and spread of a virtual disease called Whypox during a four-week period. When an avatar had the disease, two important aspects of online participation were affected – the avatar’s appearance by getting red dots on the virtual face and the ability to chat with other Whyville participants by having online chats interrupted by virtual sneezes. This investigation was guided by the following research questions: What do children understand about Whypox as a virtual disease? How does this understanding relate to children’s understanding of natural infectious diseases? Our results revealed that children understood Whypox in ways similar to how they understood natural infectious diseases. For example, when students were asked how they thought Whypox spread through the community, most students said the disease spread through contact, chat, and sneezing. Similarly, when students were asked how Whypox was like a natural infectious disease, most of the student responses included features such as being contagious, having symptoms, and being like a specific other disease. One drawback of having virtual symptoms of sneezing and red spots was that students tended to think that Whypox was caused by contact rather than by germs multiplying in the body and deteriorating the immune system. These findings provide helpful indicators to game designers interested in educational applications of concepts. First, entertainment through features such as chat and on-site recreational games is an essential factor to sustain children’s engagement in a MUVE. Second, too much similarity to a real-life phenomenon might make children think of the real-life version rather than the virtual one. Third, MUVEs provide a dynamic medium to help children learn about concepts that are hard to learn about through traditional teaching methods. References Aschbacher, P. (2003). Gender differences in the perception and use of an informal science learning website. Grant funded by National Science Foundation, PGE 0086338. Arlington, VA. Barab, S., Thomas, M. K., Dodge, T., Goodrich, T., Carteaux, B., & Tuzun, H. (2002). Empowerment design work: Building participant structures that transform. Paper presented at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Seattle, Washington. Bruckman, A. (1998). Community support for constructionist learning. Computer Supported Collaborative Work: The Journal of Collaborative Computing, 7, 47-86. Colella, V. (2000). Participatory simulations: Building collaborative understanding through immersive dynamic modeling. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(4), 471-500. Dede, C., Ketelhut, D., & Ruess, K. (2002). Motivation, usability, and learning outcomes in a prototype museum-based multi-user virtual environment. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Mahwah, NJ. Krajcik, J., Blumenfeld, P., Marx, R., Fredricks, J., & Soloway, E. (1998). Inquiry in project-based science classrooms: Initial attempts by middle school students. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 7(3-4), 313-350. Soloway, E., Norris, C., Marx, R., Blumenfeld, P., Krajcik, J., & Fishman, B. (2001). Handheld devices are ready at-hand. Communciations of the ACM, 44(6), 15-20.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

From the real-world data to game world experience: A method for developing plausible & engaging learning games

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Date created: 
2005-04-16
Abstract: 

This work starts by conducting and analyzing semi-structured interviews with network participants; finding categories of events, activities, conditions and consequences acted by role players under expectations of norms and regulation within the networked community of practitioners. We intend to (1) understand the patterns of causal events and episodes found in our interview cases so as to yield a working description of stories representative of the network, (2) model chains of episodes to simulate generative narrative that represents experienced stories (and could generate new but plausible stories), and (3) to design a new media game system that will allow participants to see previously invisible aspects of a network, to be challenged by the perceptions and expectations of others within the network, to explore simulated narratives within this realistic context, to try strategies for improving network performance, and to cross the costly boundaries that separate professional groups from one another. The work will address the questions (1) What are the factors that characterize learning in practice networks? (This will provide a contrast with better known formal learning situations), (2) How can three analysis traditions illuminate (and systematize) those factors, (3) How can those systematized descriptions can be used to design a simulation game for learning and provoke useful interactions for those practitioners, and (4) How can interactive narrative in games be designed to simulate crossing of disciplinary boundaries (leading to an instructional design approach for networks). We expect an improved understanding of learning in this health network that will benefit the participants. The game has potential to provoke critical reflection on any similar practice with a corresponding impact on the methods used to design learning technologies for workplace networks of action. This is an design experiment (Brown, 1992; Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003; Collins, 1992). We plan to make this process a part of a reproducible instructional design practice for technology supported expansive learning (Engestrom, 2001, 2004) using interactive simulations. Our approach to analysis is influenced by a goal shared with Barab who draws from both cultural activity theory (Engestrom, 2001; Leont'ev, 1978) and actor-network theory (Barab, Barnett, Yamagata-Lynch, Squire, & Keating, 2002; Barab, Hay, & Yamagata-Lynch, 2001; Latour, 1993) but differs in crucial ways that reflect our alignment with cultural historical activity theory. While Barab’s work (2002) builds on networks of temporal transitions through activities (shown as simple events at the nodes of a network) we are more interested in the transformative and expansive learning opportunities and experiences presented within a network. In their earlier studies (Barab et al 2001) that drew from Engestrom’s work (Engestrom, 1987, 1999) they found no activity tensions so were unable to identify opportunities for tension resolution (learning). Nevertheless we see their action-relevant episodes (ARE) as crucial part of our approach to this project both from analytical point of view, since the analysis grain size approximates to that of naturalistic inquiry (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) and because we see the ARE as a basic unit of action in narrative. This is important in producing a generative narrative. Action episodes each have complex antecedent conditions and probable outcomes and can occur only within parameters of regulatory norms or labor divisions and expected temporal patterns of interaction with people and instruments. For example, a family physician rejecting patient with HIV, on the grounds of insufficient knowledge, can only do so after patient diagnosis). With these reservations we use the ARE for analysis of our health network. We recently conducted six pilot interviews with the centre of excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, the Fraser Valley health region centre for communicable disease, and three members of the VPLWA organization. From these interviews we are developing the analysis technique with three processes. The first is modified grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 1990; Glaser, 2002) which is inductive development of explanation (theory) from corpus data. In grounded theory cases are examined for similar outcomes and reviewed for common conditions to find causal factors. Data is open-coded in categories, concepts (nouns and verbs) and properties (adjectives and adverbs) and axial coding then relates these codes (categories and properties) into causal relationships: the phenomena, the conditions, the context, the intervening conditions, the action strategies and the consequences. Software tools help organize data and process. Our pilot interviews with network members each revealed case stories, reducible to action relevant episodes, roles, rules under which practice is governed and talk about tools used. Topics have included: dietary prescription, exercise habits, doctor patient relationships (including rejection by family physicians), treatment adherence, physician expertise and others. The pilot interview data has been open and axially coded (using ATLAS.ti) to reveal many story fragments. The second approach is to picture the events and cases using the diagramming system used to illustrate activity (Dobson, Le Blanc, & Burgoyne, 2004; Engestrom, 2004; Engestrom, Puonti, & Seppanen, 2003). This provides a crosscheck with the given causal explanations from interview data forcing a comprehensive review of activity components. Informants in other studies not using this tool have often failed to see the effect of new tools or objects on their own or other’s behavior, or the consequences of those instruments on preexistent rules of practice within an activity group (Engestrom, 1987). A third approach is to model the interactions of network participants using a simple social network analysis tool called TEAMVIEW. This allows us to illustrate the density of communications between dyads, the sequential ordering of communication, and the types of discourse. The results of these three analysis techniques will be used as basis for the design of an interactive narrative drawing on interactive narrative theory (Bal, 1997; Murrey, 1998), schema theory (Schank, 1995; Schank & Abelson, 1977) but by using the story elements defined by the coding system above we will investigate the extent to which plot can be constructed by chaining events arising from tension resolutions in activity systems. This work will take a simplified view of interactive narrative more concerned with the effect of plausible generated story lines on the user’s learning experience than on the complex process of story understanding (Young, 1999). Our presentation at DIGRA will illustrate this process and show a prototype interaction for a game player. Refcrences Bal, M. (1997). Narratology: Introduction to the theory of narrative. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Barab, S., Barnett, M., Yamagata-Lynch, L., Squire, K., & Keating, T. (2002). Using activity theory to understand the systemic tensions characterizing a technology-rich introductory Astronomy course. Mind, Culture and Activity, 9(2), 76-107. Barab, S., Hay, K., & Yamagata-Lynch, L. (2001). Constructing networks of action-relevant episodes: An in-situ research methodology. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 10(1&2), 63-112. Brown, A. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions. Jourrnal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178. Cobb, P., Confrey, J., diSessa, Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2003). Design experiments in educational research. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 9-13. Collins, A. (1992). Toward a design science of education. In T. O'Shea (Ed.), New directions in educational technology. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13(1), 3-21. Dobson, M., Le Blanc, D., & Burgoyne, D. (2004). Transforming tensions in learning technology design: Operationalizing Activity Theory. Canadian Journal of Learning Technology, 30(1), 21-45. Engestrom, Y. (1987). Learning by Expanding. Helsinki: Orienta-konsultit. Engestrom, Y. (1999). Activity theory, individual and social transformation. In R. Punamaki (Ed.), Perspectives on Activity Theory. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Engestrom, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133-157. Engestrom, Y. (2004). New Forms of learning in co-configuration work. The Journal of Workplace Learning, 16(1-2), 11-21. Engestrom, Y., Puonti, A., & Seppanen, L. (2003). Spatial and temporal expansion of objects as a challenge for reorganizing work. In Knowing in organizations: A practice-based approach. Armonk: M.E.Sharpe. Glaser, B. G. (2002). Conceptualization: On theory and theorizing using grounded theory. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1(2). Latour, B. (1993). We have never been modern. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Leont'ev, A. N. (1978). Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Murrey, J. (1998). Hamlet on the Holodeck. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Schank, R. (1995). Tell me a story: Narrative and intelligence: North Western University Press. Schank, R., & Abelson, R. (1977). Scripts, Goals, and Understanding. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. Young, M. R. (1999). Notes on the Use of Plan Structures in the Creation of Interactive Plot. Paper presented at the AAAI Fall Symposium on Narrative Intelligence.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Interactive Digital Storytelling: Towards a Hybrid Conceptual Approach

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-31
Abstract: 

1 Introduction In this contribution, Interactive Digital Storytelling is viewed as a hybrid form of game design and cinematic storytelling for the understanding and making of future learning and entertainment applications. The paper shall present formal design models that provide a conceptual bridge between both traditional linear narrative techniques as well as agent-based emergent conversations with virtual characters. In summary, a theoretical classification of thinking models for authors and interactive experiences for users will be presented. The conceptual work is based upon practical experiments within several research projects on edutainment, which employ conversations with virtual characters to convey information and to entertain. By building several prototypes, two different approaches where explored to combine plot-based interactive storytelling with character-based emergent conversations. Visual impressions of the examples are shown in Fig. 1 and will be explained in more detail in the full paper. In both examples, several virtual animated characters converse digitally with each other and with a user who mainly types text with the keyboard, optionally complemented by choice functionality and special hardware interfaces. The resulting conversations differ in their direction of approaching a middle ground between predefined narrative presentations and emergent conversations with a user, by combining emerging chatterbot dialogues with a story structure. The user experiences a semi-autonomous behaviour of interacting agents. This paper is not about the difference between stories and games. The motivation is on the potential of both to offer structures for learning and entertainment. Instead of trying to draw a distinct line between them, conceptual models for authors have to be defined, who are responsible to flesh out a suitable design within a variability of forms. Design elements include aspects of drama and filmmaking, dialogue design, as well as game design and game tuning. The actual challenge for the design of learning applications with conversational agents is the necessity that authors have to take on responsibility concerning the intended outcome and effect. In fact, they have to balance the bias between a pre-structured storyline (and possibly a timeline) which they may have strictly defined, and the agency that users shall experience through the design of the author. However, there is no one-dimensional borderline between both. In the following, the paper presents a model with several levels which shall help to form a more differentiated picture. 2 Conceptual Models for Storytelling and Agency In Fig. 2, a traditional modus operandi is sketched at four abstract levels. The distinction between levels may vary from project to project. The four levels were found to be suitable for the addition of interaction at each of the levels to form a classification of genres. On the top level of highest story abstraction, the overall dramatic outline is sketched. For example, there may be a hero’s journey in 3 acts, or a Propp model. Further, authors break down the story into scenes which are handled at the next level. Each scene will be defined by a scene script. Within a scene, dialogues and interactions between actors are defined, and lead to stage directions. If producing for an animated film, these directions are strictly mapped onto virtual actors by a skilled animator, who defines the way the virtual actors move and behave. When storytelling gets interactive, the user can influence the storytelling. In fact, in games as well as in constructivist scenarios for learning, users need to experience agency within a story. However, there are different levels at which to affect the outcome. In Fig. 3, the first author model (compare Fig. 2) has been extrapolated according to the need of introducing agency at each level. Opposed to the author, a participant is modelled who now may contribute to each level. The first implication for the author is that it’s not enough to just model a database of descriptions, but to add rules and models, which control an autonomous behaviour at each level in reaction to the participants. Then, it is possible to think of gradations of granted agency versus authored determination. Within Fig. 3 this is indicated by the sliders between control and autonomy at each level. The levels rather represent conceptual stages for authoring than elements of software architecture, though there are parallels to architectures of a number of existing systems of game and story engines. Semi-autonomy occurs on the edge between predefined factual information and rules for each level. The more rules on one level, the more agency can be experienced by potentially affecting the respective level. For example: It is imaginable that participants only experience agency on the lowest level, as a feeling of presence in a scenario. In this case, everything is predefined, but avatars would still react with nonverbal cues to the visitor and recognize her, comparable to a virtual cursor that shows a live status. At the conversation level, participants can for example have agency in an entertaining and informative chatbot dialogue with the characters. They may even not be able to affect anything in the story logic, but participate at dialogue level with speech acts. Agency at scene level would mean to have real choices about the outcome of a scene, for example, the story of the game would have to change according to user’s actions. On the top level, players would influence the whole story of the application, if the "agency slider" would be at a 100% to the right. For example, a simulation such as "The Sims" (Electronic Arts) can be put into the classification here. For factual knowledge transfer in a didactic lesson situation, the highest level could stay predefined, while the lower levels allow for conversational interaction, however constrained. If authors only provide a rule base with little pre-scripted structuring, they achieve a conceptual model more like an exploration or gaming experience depending completely on the action of the player. While arranging the bias at each level to various slider positions, several abstract genres of Interactive Digital Storytelling can be rebuilt in the model, which helps to specify exactly what kind of user experience an application shall provide. It is a conceptual model that can be used to classify story-related games, and it particularly supports authors coming from linear media, stepping into interactive storytelling. 3 Further Work In the full paper, I will also tackle related work while comparing with other theoretical models between games and stories, including references of the taxonomies of C. Lindley, M. Leblanc, J. Klabbers, B. Laurel, C. Pearce, and traditional classifications such as of R. Caillois. I will give more examples how existing products of Interactive Storytelling fit into the classification, and raise the question if new genres have to be defined particularly for Interactive Digital Storytelling. Literature Caillois, Roger: Man, Play and Games. (orig.: Les Jeux Et Les Hommes 1958) University of Illinois Press, Reprint (2001) Hunicke, Robin; LeBlanc, Marc; Zubek, Robert: MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. In: Workshop Proceedings: Challenges in Game AI. 19th National Conference on Artificial Intelligence AAAI (2004) Klabbers, Jan H.G.: The gaming landscape: A taxonomy for classifying games and simulations. In Copier & Raessens (Eds.) Level up: Digital Games Research Conference. Utrecht University (2003) Lindley, Craig: Narrative, Game Play and Alternative Time Structures for Virtual Environments. In: Proc. TIDSE 2004, Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment, Darmstadt, Springer LNCS vol. 3105, 2004 Pearce, Celia: Emergent authorship: The next interactive revolution. In: Computers & Graphics 26, p. 21-29 (2002) Spierling, U.: Conceptual Models for Interactive Digital Storytelling in Knowledge Media Applications. In: Proc. TIDSE 2004, Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment, Darmstadt, Springer LNCS vol. 3105, 2004

Document type: 
Conference presentation

A Game Architecture for Emergent Story-Puzzles in a Persistent World

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Date created: 
2005-05-30
Abstract: 

This paper presents the design of a semi-emergent architecture for graphic adventures. The proposed architecture is able to create new significant story-puzzles on the fly, combining preauthored material in a coherent and emergent way. As a test-bed of this architecture we use a simple detective game inspired on the famous boardgame Cluedo. INTRODUCTION There are a lot of adventure games in the market and some of them try to tell a re-playable story that change and become slightly different for each player. Blade Runner is a good example of this kind of adventures in which characters do not act always in the same way. However this approach has the disadvantage of the same structure between each generated story. As each game takes a long time to be solved (usually several game sessions), it is not expected a player to finish completely the game more than once. The aim of our architecture is not to create a stand-alone long-play story and then make it up with slight changes. In fact, our assignment is to generate automatically short stories that happen in a closed and persistent world, in which coherence between each game session is maintained. The player must solve chained mysteries that happen in the same environment, using the conclusions reached in previous mysteries to solve new ones. The clues are obtained from the virtually recreated environment and the social behaviour that characters shows (hatreds, quarrels, debts, favours and secrets). Every element in the context is maintained coherently between stories by the plot generator of the system, that in each game establishes the crime, the scene, the culprit and his motivations. The major part of the story unfolds during the interaction between the player and the non-player characters (NPCs), based on the actions and reactions of the autonomous agents that implement the NPCs, their behaviour, goals and plans. STORY-PUZZLE GENERATION Automatic construction of story plots has always been a longed-for utopian dream in the entertainment industry, especially in commercial games that are fuelled by a large number of story plots with only a medium threshold on their quality. Of course, nowadays computers are not able to generate automatically complex stories like the ones that human writers can write. But now it is possible to take advantage of the combinatory power of computers to build some simple story-puzzles. Basically there are two approaches in the automatic plot generation: centralized and distributed. The first one is based on an intelligent system that controls the development of the plot. The second one is based on a multi-agent system in which the plot emerges from the behaviour of autonomous characters. Developing the game concept, the game designer faces the interactive dilemma: if the story plot is created with a lot of detail the characters are more constrained and the range of generated stories will be narrow, on the other hand the autonomy of the characters takes control over the plot and it is not easy to assure that the result will be valuable. The implementation of the centralized approach is quite complex lacks a truly emergent behaviour. But the consistency is also a hard problem in the distributed generation, especially if the model grows during the design process and becomes more sophisticated. THE GAME ARCHITECTURE We propose a double-layer architecture. The so-called story layer has an abstract plot generator that sets the initial game state, the location of objects and characters and the social relations between them. All these avatars inhabit in the persistent world, known as agent layer. This layer controls the simulation progress, using the guidelines imposed by the story layer. This architecture is a mixed approach to the problem of generating story plots from a set of narrative components analysed in terms of Description Logic. An AI-process is defined to generate plots from the user actions, the preauthored plot specifying and a random initial setting for the story, using an ontology to measure the semantical distance between elements taking part in the story development. Formal logics and ontologies allow the system to maintain coherence and structure in the global puzzle. The agents use the common sense-think-act cycle. Their actions take place over a module that simplifies the interaction with the objects of the virtual environment. APPLICATION Our proposed game belongs to a classical genre: detective stories and unsolved mysteries. The player plays the role of an investigator that tries to find the culprit from the cast of characters. Our approach allows the game designer to have control over both layers. Firstly, abstract generation of each story plot can be controlled establishing the theme, mood and background of the game, the set of possible crimes, scenes, suspects and their motivations. In the second place, the autonomous characters also have a set of different personalities for the designer to combine. CONCLUSIONS Our design lets the system to adapt the content of each game session to the player, depending on the player skills solving the proposed story-puzzle, the system can deduce the way the user is thinking, creating a user model that will improve next generations of mysteries. To sum up, using this architecture adventure games can improve the replayability at the same time that the player experience is personalized and optimised REFERENCES "An Oz-Centric Review of Interactive Drama and Believable Agents". Mateas, M. 1999. "Blade Runner". Westwood Studios, 1997 "Causal Normalisation: A Methodology for Coherent Story Logic Design in Computer Role-Playing Games". Craig A. Lindley and Mirjam Eladhari "The Description Logic Handbook Theory, Implementation and Applications". Franz Baader, Diego Calvanese, Deborah McGuinness, Daniele Nardi, Peter Patel-Schneider 2003

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Socially Adaptable Games

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Date created: 
2005-04-15
Abstract: 

In this paper we describe the concept of socially adaptable games, computer games that are intentionally designed to function in and adapt to changing social environments during gameplay. Principles of social adaptability are described as well as how it relates to concepts such as social weight, seamfulness and interruptability. Our ongoing design work for exploring various solutions to support social adaptability is also detailed. The motivation for the work is grounded in the observation that the full potential of mobile and pervasive computer games will not be possible until these games are possible to coexist with complex and changing social environments. Introduction of technology is usually disruptive, at least initially, and especially so in a social environment where not all people use the technology. To gain understanding about how mobile and pervasive computer games can overcome these challenges we have taken the approach of understanding how technology can augment games that are already perceived as socially adaptable without ruining that characteristic. By choosing to look at board games, which arguably are already integrated to function in social environments, we believe that we can learn requirements for using technology to support and maintain socially adaptability. This technology knowledge can then be transferred to mobile and pervasive computer games so that the category of games that can be classified as being socially adaptability can be expanded to include the types of games as well. We also choose to look upon how different social relationships affect each other, extra-game and intra-game, in order to understand how groups form and disperse in and around a game. To support design work for socially adaptable games we have developed a set of principles. Besides describing them in relation to existing concepts we also describe various forms of social adaptability a game can have. We have done so in three ways. The first way is through linking the social adaptability to how a game design can support different types of social interaction and thereby allowing transitions between different activities and different user groups. We have done this by investigating how a game design can explicitly define social roles by linking these to the traditional functional roles. Besides allowing social grouping to form, this can be used to support players who want to take different social roles each time they play the game or let players change their social roles during gameplay. By linking these two types of roles, the issue of social adaptability can be viewed as an integral part of the game design. Also, the game design can be modeled to handle both internal and external events, from a gameplay perspective, that affects the social interaction within the game. The second way is by exploring how a game design can allow for several players to share the social experience of playing a game together but at the same time giving each player an orthogonal, or at least very different, gameplay experience. The gameplay experience could differentiate in many ways, for example through changing difficulty or complexity. This opens the gaming field for players with otherwise incompatible gameplay preferences and thereby gives them a common social playing ground. In this way, the game design can bridge the age and gender gap instead of focusing on a single type of gameplay. The third way is linked to Huizinga’s model of the magic circle. In and around the magic circle we have identified seven different types of change in the social environment from the game design perspective. Through describing the different technical and game design requirements needed for each of the transitions we present a generic way to approach game design for games that are to be socially adaptable. By considering the seven different types of change, a game designer can in a structured fashion decide what aspects of changes in the social environment that the game design should be able to handle and support.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Learning Games as a Platform for Simulated Science Practice

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Date created: 
2005-04-15
Abstract: 

In recent years, we have seen a growing interest in investigating the learning potentials of games. Much effort has been spent on developing a new generation of learning games based on modern learning theories and suitable for today’s complex school education. In this paper, we present studies from a test of the cross-disciplinary educational game ‘Homicide’, which was developed at Learning Lab Denmark. The game is an example of a game where learning and game theory is sought integrated in the game design. In the game ‘Homicide’ (designed for science education for children age 13 – 16), the students play forensic experts solving a murder case. In a weeklong investigation process, the children analyze traces such as fingerprints and traces of blood found at the crime scene and do technical examinations using theoretical and practical methods of analysis. This investigation takes place both in the virtual game space and in the physical space in the school laboratories. The educational goals of the game are closely integrated in fictional investigation process. The overall educational goal in the game is that it should support working with and learning of the process of inquiry as the basis of scientific investigation. The process of inquiry is here understood as the actions involved in the process as both the skills (as data collection and building of hypotheses) and as a description of the overall process (systematic process). The process of inquiry contains different steps as problem definition, creation of hypotheses, conduct investigations, make observations, collect data, explain results, and build a theory. The premise in the game development project was that if we aim to design new game based learning environments that supports modern science learning, it is essential to make real life science practice an integrated part of the design of the science learning environment. In ‘Homicide’, we thus simulate the practice learning of the forensic expert. Learning in game based simulations of real life practice learning environments calls for a highly interactive and productive learner. The individual learner is not gaining abstract knowledge which to transport and reapply in later contexts but skills to perform in and outside school. This approach builds on the theory of situated learning. Lave and Wenger’s theory situates learning in the social and practical context where it takes place and builds on the idea of that learning involves a deepening process of participation in a community of practice. As we se it in many commercial computer games, the game media is well suited for complex simulations integrating many different aspects of real life learning environments and for framing the learning in a graphical simulation that the learner can identify with and relate to. We have tested the game in two different school classes. The objective with these studies was to determine whether it was possible to create a simulated practice situation in the game that would support development of broad science competencies. In the observations of the play testing we not only saw the pupils applying competencies such as handling large amounts of scientific data to establish hypothesis in the game-based learning situation; they also independently re-designed the game tools to help them in the investigation process. These tools became increasingly more sophisticated during the week-long test of the game and thus the students did not merely use individual skills, instead they operated on a methodological meta-level, where tools and methods were evaluated and re-designed / adjusted to meet the challenges of the game. This paper presents a discussion of this approach to designing game-based learning environments. The game described in this example operates with roles of the learner and different communities of practice on different levels. First, there is the community of practice in the class room consisting of students and teachers. On another level we have the simulated science practice where students perform scientific process of inquiry using the tools of real life experts in a fictional setting. The assumption here is that learners interact directly in simulation of a real life science practice, from the perspective of the real life expert rather as a real life expert. The nature of these different communities and how they operate together though needs to be understood more clearly. This knowledge should be related to the design of the game-based learning environments to facilitate an understanding of the relation between communities of science practice and designs of educational science games. Apart from creating important new knowledge about technology- based learning environments this knowledge should also be the basis of concrete new learning game designs.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Fundamental Components of the Gameplay Experience: Analysing Immersion

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Date created: 
2005-05-30
Abstract: 

The field of digital games research can roughly be divided into three main areas, those of games research, player research and the applied research of games, which includes research into the design and development of games, as well as several other lines of inquiry like games' policy issues or application of games into learning or multiplicity of other purposes. All of these three sub-fields are essential for understanding what games have been, what they currently are and mean for their players, what is in the games' future, and why games are played in the first place. Neither are these perspectives mutually exclusive, but rather supportive, as they can complement each other in various ways. This paper is focused on the second of these three areas. There has been a relative bloom of games research that has focused on the definition and ontology of games, but its complementary part, that of research into the gameplay experience has not been adopted by academics in similar manner. Partly this is because of the disciplinary tilt among the current generation of ludologists: the background in either art, literary or media studies, or in the applied field of game design naturally leads into research where game, rather than player, is the focus of attention. Yet, the essence of a game is rooted in its interactive nature, and there is no game without a player. The act of playing game is where the rules embedded into game’s structure start operating, and its program code starts having an effect on cultural and social, as well as artistic and commercial realities. If we want to understand what a game is, we need to understand what happens in the act of playing, and we need to understand the player and the experience of gameplay. Gameplay is one of the more elusive concepts among games research, and also one of the most central ones. Looking at discourses of current digital game cultures, 'gameplay' is used to describe the essential but elusive quality that defines the character of game as a game, the quality of its 'gameness'. In their book on game design, Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams decline to define the concept, because, according to them, gameplay is "the result of a large number of contributing elements" (Rollings & Adams 2003, 199). Yet, everyone who plays games long enough will form their own conception of bad or good gameplay, on the basis of their experience. This experience is informed by multiple significant game elements, which can be very different in games from different genres, as well as by their own abilities and preferences. This starting point can further be illustrated by a quote from Chris Crawford:

    I suggest that this elusive trait [game play] is derived from the combination of pace and cognitive effort required by the game. Games like TEMPEST have a demonic pace while games like BATTLEZONE have far more deliberate pace. Despite this difference, both games have good game play, for the pace is appropriate to the cognitive demands of the game. (Crawford 1982/1997, 21.)

This definition actually translates 'gameplay' into a particular, balanced relation between the level of challenge and the abilities of the player. Challenge consists of two main dimensions, the challenge of speed or 'pace', and 'cognitive challenges' on the other hand. The quality of gameplay is good when these various challenges are 'appropriate' and in balance with regard to each other. On the other hand, one of the most influential theories of fun and creative action, the flow theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1991), identifies the 'flow state' as that particular successful balance of the perceived level of challenge and the skills of the person. In this highly intensive state one is fully absorbed within the activity, often loses one's sense of time and gains powerful gratification. Based on literature and our observations, gameplay experiences can reach this "optimal experience", but this kind of action-intensive flow is not necessarily a component of all satisfying game-playing experiences. The starting point of our research was the twofold perspective we gained in 2003 while interviewing children who actively played digital games alongside with their parents, who mostly did not play such games themselves (Ermi, Heliö & Mäyrä 2004). Comparing notes, it became obvious that these young game players and their outside observers perceived the quality of gameplay experience differently. Parents expressed concern because they thought that their children became emotionally too intensely immersed, or too involved with the game fiction while playing. On the contrary, the interviewed children themselves thought that the emotional immersion and involvement in fiction was typically stronger for them while reading a good book or in watching a movie. But they admitted becoming often immersed in games, but in different ways as compared to immersion into literature or cinema, where emotional identification or engrossment was more common for them than in games. Curious about these different ways of perceiving game "immersion", we studied the responses further and analysed children's accounts of playing games and the different holding powers they had recognized in games in order to shed some light on the structure of the experience. The elements of game-related pleasures were first identified, and then organised into larger constellations; see Figure 1.

Figure 1. Elements of game-related pleasures that emerged from the interviews of the children. In our full paper we will give a more detailed account on how the research was carried out in its different phases, as well as on how the derived model relates to other research traditions, such as the study of presence, as well as different forms of fun and pleasure in games and elsewhere. (Cf. e.g. Reeves & Nass 1996; Lombard & Ditton 1997; Douglas & Hargadon 2000, McMahan 2003, Hunicke, LeBlanc & Zubek 2004; Lazzaro 2004.) In this abstract we will just summarize some of the most central aspects of our approach. In our gameplay experience model (see Figure 2), gameplay is interaction between particular kind of game features and particular kind of game players. In order for this relationship to be successful, both sides of the equation must be mutually compatible. A relational interpretation of the fundamental nature of gameplay as this one has consequences on how games can be conceptualised; it makes no sense to declare a particular game good or bad in itself. This kind of qualitative claims must be contextualised by stating what kind of game player is used as a reference in the evaluation. In phenomenological terms, gameplay can be perceived in a temporal experience, which has three main aspects: the psycho-physiological responses, emotions and feelings, and finally the interpretation where player typically takes into account also other information, such as peer influence, game reviews and other frames of socio-cultural reference.

Figure 2. Gameplay experience as interaction between the player, the game and the social context. The model identifies three fundamental components in the gameplay experience. These are sensory immersion, action-based immersion and mental immersion. In our paper, we will define each and provide examples on how these components are differently present while playing different kind of games. The social context and its effects on the interpretation of gameplay experience will also be discussed, as well as the application of the model into a tool for game evaluation and analysis. REFERENCES Crawford, Chris (1982/1997) The Art of Computer Game Design. Berkeley, CA: Osborne/McGraw-Hill. Available also: , 30.11.2004. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1991) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Perennial. Ermi, Laura; Heliö, Satu & Mäyrä, Frans (2004) Pelien voima ja pelaamisen hallinta - Lapset ja nuoret pelikulttuurien toimijoina. [Power and Control of Games - Children as the Actors of Game Cultures]. Hypermedia Laboratory Net Series 6. Available: , 30.11.2004. Douglas, Yellowlees & Hargadon, Andrew (2000) The Pleasure Principle: Immersion, Engagement, Flow. In Proceedings of the Eleventh ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia, 153-160. Hunicke, Robin; LeBlanc, Marc & Zubek, Robert (2004) MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. Available: http://www.cs.northwestern.edu/~hunicke/pubs/MDA.pdf, 30.11.2004. Lazzaro, Nicole (2004) Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion in Player Experiences. GDC 2004. Abstract available: http://www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames/xeodesign_whyweplaygames.pdf, 30.11.2004. Lombard, Matthew & Ditton, Theresa (1997) At the Heart of It All: The Concept of Presence. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 3(2). Available: http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol3/issue2/lombard.html, 30.11.2004. McMahan, Alison (2003) Immersion, Engagement, and Presence: A Method for Analyzing 3-D Video Games. In Mark J.P. Wolf & Bernard Perron (eds.) The Video Game Theory Reader, 67-86. New York: Routledge. Reeves, Byron & Nass, Clifford (1996) The Media Equation – How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rollings, Andrew & Adams, Ernest (2003) Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. Indianapolis: New Riders

Document type: 
Conference presentation

The Sponsored Avatar: Examining the Present Reality and Future Possibilites of Advertising in Digital Games

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

In 1997 Sony published the Jet Ski racing game Jet Moto 2. The game was a sequel to a moderately received game released a year earlier. While Jet Moto 2 won some critical praise its release was also notable because it contained one of the first instances of in-game advertising. The incorporated advertisements were for the beverage Mountain Dew. While the impact of the inclusion on Mountain Dew sales is unknown, the inclusion of the product spot helped open the door to what some predict as a coming deluge of in-game advertising. This paper examines the present reality of advertising within the space of digital games. Additionally it anticipates the future development of advertising within the interactive entertainment spaces. A future that holds possibilities as varied as actual game sponsorship, like that of television programs, product placement and brand integration within games, or cross promotional opportunities between digital games and other forms of entertainment media. Meaning that the author seeks neither to neither bury nor praise the practice, but to offer a careful and reasoned examination. Accordingly the analysis includes the perspective of advertisers, game publishers and designers, and end user consumers. As a rapidly growing medium the $10 billion world of digital gaming has drawn the interest of advertisers and marketers. A variety of studies, both academic and professional, have concluded that the attention of consumers has grown increasingly fragmented. No longer can advertisers count on consumers to sit down in front of their televisions and view network programming and its accompanying commercials. Instead, the attention that consumers once gave solely to television is now devoted to various forms of media often simultaneously. The world of digital gaming is one place where consumers are focusing their attention and, simply put, advertisers want into that space. And, like water seeping into the minutest crack, if advertisers want into the digital game space they will get in. Additionally, the rapidly growing costs of game development have led to game publishers actively seeking out advertising commitments. In 2003 game publishing giant Electronic Arts doubled its in game advertising revenue from that of the previous year. Meaning that on two sides of the advertiser—game publisher—consumer triangle there is an active pursuit of greater levels of advertising in digital games. But, what of the consumer? Informal studies indicate that while consumers are cautious of having advertising interrupt their experience they welcome it as a contributor to realism. Within game types such as adventure, racing, and sports games consumers consider and actively press game publishers to include real-world products. Hence, for NCAA Football 2004 to be as real as possible Electronic Arts included a sponsorship from Pontiac like that used during actual televised games. So, within the appropriate context the lack of advertising or brands may detract from consumer appreciation of the game. Also advertising possibilities are headed beyond simply inclusion in single-player console games like that seen in Jet Moto 2. The current and future generation of game consoles allows for online participation and the single player nature of games is evolving into a group-oriented and community driven activity. At any given time of day hundreds of thousands of individuals are involved in online games. The games played are from simple digital versions of traditional board games like chess and checkers to MMORPG’s such as The Sims Online or The World of Warcraft. While advertisements or brand integrations are not applicable to every online title the possibilities are expanding daily. More important to potential advertisers is the ability of traditional media tracking companies such as Nielsen to track consumer involvement with the brands or advertisements in the game. Also, developing technologies promise the ability to stream advertisements into online games in a manner similar to that of billboards and storefronts. Consequently this study builds upon earlier research into the impact of brand placement in digital games in that the ability to change advertisements dynamically within the game space may counter gamer frustration with a repetitive encounter with the same advertisement. The possibilities for advertising within digital games are nearly as varied as the games themselves. However, simply because advertisements or brands can be placed into games does not mean that it should be done without careful consideration by all parties involved. Consequently this paper offers specific suggestions to game publishers and developers as to what analysis should take place before making the decision to include advertising within a game. This paper touches upon a number of conference themes. Given the likely future growth of advertising and brand integration into digital games it addresses the question: What makes a good game, and what makes a game good. Also, with the economic resource needs of game developers rising the potential role of advertising within games this essay addresses the business and economic aspects of games. Finally, as brands become a more centralized aspect of games (e.g. McDonalds and Intel in The Sims Online) this paper addresses how digital games become consumer education texts. Meaning that, while not the central focus of this paper, the question of how we learn through playing digital games is addressed.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

A Cognitive Psychological Approach to Gameplay Emotions

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-31
Abstract: 

As David Freeman wrote at the beginning of "Creating Emotion in Games", the subject of emotion in games is a new continent and an almost uncharted one [2004 : 8]. Starting to map the whole territory, I did distinguish elsewhere three types of emotion in video games [Perron, 2004]. Following Ed S. Tan’s study of narrative film [1996], I’ve referred to fiction emotions (emotions rooted in the fictional world and the concerns addressed by that world) and artefact emotions (emotions which arise from concerns related to the artefact, as well as stimulus characteristics based on those concerns). Then, evidently considering the specificity of video games, I’ve talked about gameplay emotions (emotions that arise from the gamer’s actions in the game-world and the consequent reactions of this world). In order to put forward some approaches to those gameplay emotions, this paper will once more rely on philosophical and psychological film theories. For instance, the curiosity theory of Noël Carroll, an object-oriented emotional state developed regarding the monster of the horror genre [1990], is relevant since the video game involves what is literally a play of ratiocination. The «drama of corridors» that Carroll talks about at one point [1990 : 38] applies quite well to the maze structure of video game adventures and the bodily kinaesthetic engagement of the experience of exploration. As for Ed S. Tan’s interest theory [1996], it focusses the attention around the emotional response to the character(s), namely the avatar in a video game, and the investigation of/in the game-world. While the interest in plot structures is not the main concern in games, the notion of action is at the core of our ludic engagement. The emphasis on the fact that emotions are action tendencies [as defined by Frijda, 1986] allows to clearly distinguish film from game and define the main emotional appeal of the 10th art. There is indeed a big difference between a film viewer witnessing a character being stalked by a monster and the possible actions the gamer can make his/her avatar take in the same situation. Depending on the way the gamer copes with it, the situation will be experienced differently (from which the reference to gameplay emotion as opposed to game emotions that would only stress the production from the game and not the singular experiences of the gamers). Then, insofar as the duration of emotions is measured in seconds or minutes, while the playing of a game last for hours, the mood-cues approach of Greg Smith becomes a great tool to analyse video games. For Smith, mood is the primary set of orienting emotions states that can be elicit by various cues. It orients us toward experiencing specific emotions [2003 : 38]. The fearful mood of the survival horror puts for example the gamer in emotional alert and prepares him/her to experience burst of fear. There is certainly a link to trace between the notion of mood and the way the gamer gets emotionally immersed in games. And as Torben Gordal has underlined, video games are often "mood manager" allowing the gamer to participate in a self-controlled arousing experience [2000 : 209] In the final analysis, in order to carry on the work in the space allotted by the conference, this paper will chart in a bit more detail the playground of emotions in video games. References CARROLL, Noël [1990]. "The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart", New York, Routledge. FREEMAN, David [2004]. "Creating Emotion in Games: The Craft and Art of Emotioneering", Indianapolis, New Riders. FRIJDA, Nico C. [1986]. "The Emotions", Cambride/Paris, Cambridge University Press/ Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. GRODAL, Torben [2000]. «Video Games and the Pleasures of Control", in Zillman, D.and Vorderer, P., dirs, "Media Entertainment: The Psychology of its Appeal", Mahwah, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum, p. 197-213.. PERRON, Bernard [2004]. "Silent Hill. Il motore del terrore", Milan, Edizioni Unicopli. SMITH, Greg M. [2003]. "Film Structure and the Emotion System", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. TAN, E. S. [1996]. "Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine", Mahwah, NJ, Erlbaum.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Build It to Understand It: Ludology Meets Narratology in Game Design Space

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-31
Abstract: 

Michael Mateas (1,3) and Andrew Stern (2,3) (co-authors listed alphabetically) 1 Georgia Institute of Technology 2 InteractiveStory.net, Zoesis 3 grandtextauto.org Building experimental games offers an alternative methodology for researching and understanding games, beyond what can be understood by playing and studying existing games alone. Through a simultaneous process of research, artmaking and product prototyping in the construction of the interactive drama Façade (Mateas and Stern 2000, 2003), new theoretical and design insights into several game studies questions were realized, including in the hotly debated question of ludology vs. narratology. This paper describes some of the ways that building games can inform researchers about what game scholarship should be focused on and why, ways that building games can offer new perspectives on existing forms and genres, and some advantages of building publicly playable games. For some designers and theorists, interactive story worlds are a holy grail of game design (e.g. Murray 1998, Crawford 2004), while for others narrative is antithetical to interactive experiences, destroying the high-agency, procedural potential of games (e.g. Eskelinen 2001, Frasca 2003). Player agency lies at the heart of the tension between games and narrative, and it is precisely here where building experimental, agency-oriented games is especially adept at resolving this tension. A player has agency when she can form intentions with respect to the experience, take action with respect to those intentions, and interpret responses in terms of the action and intentions; i.e., when she has actual, perceptible effects on the game world. Player agency can be further classified into local agency and global agency: local agency means that the player is able to see immediate, clear reactions to her interaction; global agency means that the long-term sequence of events experienced by the player is strongly determined by player interaction. In an interactive narrative, global agency means that what the player does in the moment strongly influences what significant plot points occur in the future. Those who argue against narrative games point to a supposed predetermined or predestined nature of narrative -- that strong narrative structures have complex sequences of cause and effect, complex character relationships and sequences of character interactions. Since player interaction can at any moment disrupt this narrative structure, the only way to maintain the structure is to remove or severely limit the player's ability to affect the structure. This effectively eliminates global agency, forcing the player down a predetermined path. Thus, ludologists argue that narrative must inevitably mean a diminishment in player agency, and should not be used in game design. Furthermore, some ludologists argue that narrative is fundamentally inconsistent with interaction, since for them, narrative refers to a completed temporal structure, while interaction refers to a potential temporal structure (the trace produced by interaction). A pro-story response is that interactive stories shouldn't contain a single completed story line, but rather a potential story space -- the trace of any one player experience carves a particular story trajectory through this space. The ludologist response to this is to flatly claim that such a generative story system is technically impossible, as it would require better-than-human AI to build (Aarseth 1997). The process of building the interactive drama Façade, with the explicit goal to explore new ways to deconstruct the potential events of a dramatic narrative into small grained-size pieces, annotated to allow the system to dynamically mix and sequence the pieces in response to player interaction, has helped us understand that there do in fact exist narrative structures that allow for both local and global agency, that can offer a satisfying dramatic experience for players. Our playable results, albeit in need of further refinement, suggest that the ludologists' assumptions about the compatibility of narrative with interaction, including the technical impossiblity of generative story systems, are overreaching and premature. These results were achievable because the Façade architecture was built to offer authorial affordances for implementing both local and global agency for interactive narrative, without requiring AI-completeness or agents that pass the Turing test. For game studies in general, these results suggest that the authorial affordances of a game's engine and authoring environment are critical for understanding a game's features; game tools and architectures define an authorial space that provides a given balance between authorship and control. In fact, the AI architecture can itself become a design resource for thinking about the game (Mateas 2003). Additionally, there are several advantages from a game studies perspective for pursuing the process of building experimental games as artmaking -- that is, to go beyond thought experiments or minimal closed-door laboratory prototypes, to create reasonably well-polished, publicly playable experiences, that could even serve as commercial product prototypes. First, building completed experiences forces researchers to deal with all of the details that are easy to gloss over when doing thought experiments alone. Building completed games helps one realize that the lack of specificity of generic frameworks, such as Propp's, are of limited utility; in fact, authoring frameworks are needed, not generic story models. Finally, and equally as important, building games may be the most effective or possibly the only way get industry developers to pay attention to academic games research. If academia wants to do more than train future game industry employees, they'll need to build games. Aarseth, E. 1997. Cybertext. Johns Hopkins University Press. Crawford, C. 2004. Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling. New Riders. Eskelinen, M. 2001. Towards Computer Game Studies. Siggraph 2001, Art Gallery, Art And Culture Papers: 83-87. Frasca, G. Ludologists Love Stories Too: Notes From A Debate That Never Took Place. DiGRA Level Up 2003, Utrecht. Mateas, M. 2003. Expressive AI: Games and Artificial Intelligence. DiGRA Level Up 2003, Utrecht. Mateas, M. and Stern, A. 2000. Towards Integrating Plot And Character For Interactive Drama. Socially Intelligent Agents: The Human In The Loop, AAAI Symposium, Sea Crest, MA. Mateas, M. and Stern, A. 2003. Integrating Plot, Character And Natural Language Processing in the Interactive Drama Façade. 1st International Conference on Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment, Darmstadt. Murray, J. 1997. Hamlet On The Holodeck. MIT Press.

Document type: 
Conference presentation