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

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The Pervasive Interface; Tracing the Magic Circle

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Date created: 
2005-05-31
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Walking the Line: The Interface in Limbo Investigating the Interface in Pervasive Games Eva Nieuwdorp, graduate student Utrecht University ** Changing Views: Worlds in Play ** June 16-20, 2005 Vancouver BC, Canada Paper proposal Categories Theoretical Perspectives: Redefining the concept of the interface in formal digital game theory; by researching the existing discourse surrounding interface theory, the applicability of this term to the area of digital games will be tested by looking at the status of the interface in pervasive gaming. Identity in Gaming: The identity of the pervasive game itself, existing both on, and because of, the thin boundary between fantasy and reality, play and game, as constructed both in the physical world and in the imagination of the player. Keywords: pervasive games, ubiquitous computing, exploration, fantasy, reality, interfaces, borders, human/computer interaction, player/game interaction. Abstract Pervasive games are steadily emerging as a new genre in the field of digital games. Unlike other games, the mobile nature of the pervasive game is unique in its ambivalent wavering between fantasy and reality when played. In this research, I will argue that it is exactly this ambivalence that is at the core of the player experience and indeed the construction of the game world itself. Set against the backdrop of the physical reality of everyday life, the thin line between the evident árealá world and the institutionalised fantasy of the game becomes the crux to which the pervasive game owes its existence; the pervasive game can therefore be viewed as a quintessentially and structurally interdisciplinary concept, interweaving the concept of reality with that of fantasy and transforming our everyday environment into a world in play. This situation on the one hand complicates the notions of reality and fantasy (fantasy referring to the game), while on the other hand within the game world the terms áludusá and ápaideaá are set off against one another. But what exists at the crossroads of these intermingling phenomena? What are the instances that incite the merging of fantasy and reality, and how can we best define this merge? In this paper, I will investigate these questions by looking at the applicability of the term áinterfaceá to the problematic co-existence of said antagonistic forces in the pervasive game. When investigating the nature of this type of play, one irrevocably must seek out the borders between the different elements of fantasy and reality, which leads us to the interface. Applied to digital games, the interface is invariably equalled to either the hardware (i.e. controllers and the like) or the software (i.e. visual elements of the game world) that gives rise to human/computer interaction. The screen captures both of these, as it is both a part of the hardware while visually representing the (3D) game world at the same time through software, functioning as a veritable Albertiás window through which the user can step from physical reality into the virtual universe of the game. The screen is viewed as a translucent membrane, an intermediary, which translates digital signs into actual player experience and parallels the player’s physical actions to manipulation in the digital realm. But is this notion of the interface in digital games satisfactorily covering all game genres? The example of the pervasive game, where little hardware and software is present, but which is inherently digital in its structure, challenges the current concept of the interface. Both from the perspective of the game, which is ambivalent in its player/game interaction and reality/game status, and from the perspective of the interface, which seems to be absent in the pervasive game, it is interesting to see how these two terms can be defined in relation to one another. By asking the question where and how the interface comes into being in the pervasive game (if it is in fact an apt term at all in this case), I will investigate the limbo between reality and game, as well as ludus and paidea in the pervasive game genre. The part of the player forms an important part of this paper, as he/she is in effect the crudest example of an interface in this type of play. After all, the player is of primary importance to the existence of the pervasive game: without him/her the streets will inevitably return to their everyday status. I will therefore argue that in part the interface I am trying to define can be located in the thoughts and imagination of the player. However, it must be noted here that player experience as such will not be addressed in this paper. This paper is an addition to the discourse surrounding interface theory and HCI. A buzzword by nature, the term áinterfaceá needs to be investigated and redefined in order to remain academically valid; at the same time the pervasive game, being part of recent developments in game culture, through careful analysis needs to be given a place in the discourse of digital games. In order to gain an insight in the player/game interaction and the relation between reality and game, I will therefore argue that a theoretical perspective is needed as a basis for further research into both interface theory and pervasive games. By approaching the interface through formal game theory, I will investigate the place and status of the interface in the pervasive game, as well as the different factors the intermediation consists of, in search of defining the interaction between fantasy and reality in pervasive gaming as a result from playing in a realistic environment.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Canadian Content in Video Games

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Date created: 
2005-06-01
Abstract: 

THEME: Internationalism: Worlds at Play Topics: Internationalism, Identity in Gaming and Learning to Play Abstract: How does Canada fit into the global cultural context of video games? This paper investigates the culture being reflected in video games being produced in Canada as Canada is one of the world's leading producers of video games. It examines the how Canadian culture is represented in current new media artistic output against the culture, or lack of culture, being represented in video games currently being produced. With the shift of television viewers away from culture-regulated television and onto "culture neutral" video games, is our culture being eroded or expanding to fill a new culture shared with others across borders in virtual space? Canada is one of the most active in internet use, do virtual online gaming cultures form based on physical locale and shared real-world culture? Should we attempt to find our "national identity" in video games, or does culture travel differently through interactive media? Can we measure the impact of the transmission of culture through video games in Canada? In short, an in-depth examination of the impact of the transmission and direction of our national culture through the video games we produce and consume as cultural product. This paper expands and continues to explore issues raises in a paper previously given at the 2004 New Forms Festival with new interviews with leading Canadian video game designers, an in-depth examination of Canadian online gaming communities and an investigation into “serious games” which Canada is producing which portray Canada's unique cultural identity. Canada is one of the world's top producers and consumers of video games. The Canadian video game market (which includes hardware, software and peripherals), generated revenues of $746 million (all dollar figures in CAD) in 2003 a growth of 13% over 2002. Canada is home to the largest and most successful video game studios in Burnaby, BC at over 900 employees, which is set to double its size in the near future. The number one title purchased by Canadians for the first quarter of 2004 was the Canadian produced Electronic Arts NHL 2004 for the PS2, closely followed by another Canadian title: EA's Need for Speed Underground for the PS2 in third place. Other top Canadian video game players include UbiSoft Montréal, known its Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time game which swept the 2004 Academy of Arts and Science Awards (the video game equivalent of cinema's Academy Awards), winning 9 awards in total. BioWare's Edmonton studio produced Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for the Xbox which currently ranks at number 19 in the best games of all-time by GameRankings.com and became the fastest selling Xbox game in history. For online play, Canada is also well-prepared as one of the most internet-savvy countries in the world, ranking second in the world behind the US by the Conference Board of Canada. It is well prepared for the rapidly growing online console gaming market with 80% of Canadian Xbox owners having broadband access and Canada representing 25% of the total online PS2 market. But what are we producing and consuming as Canadians when take a step back and view our video games as a cultural product? How does our prominence as video game producers reflect who we are to the rest of the world? Do our roles as interactive cultural producers have a distinct “Canadian” feel in a culturally deregulated industry, or are we culturally lost in a post-modern hyper-connected world consciousness? Canada is one of the world's leading nations in the production and consumption of video game product and culture and shows no sign of slowing in the near future. Video games themselves are just surfacing as an art form worthy of academic critique. Many universities, colleges and private institutions are now offering courses in video game studies and development, increasing the future talent pool for local video game studios. Additionally, the rise of academia in video games also holds promise for self-referential “high art” games, which can further highlight the role of Canada's culture in video games.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Playing with non-humans: digital games as technocultural form

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Date created: 
2005-06-02
Abstract: 

The relationship between the human and the technological has been a persistent concern in the dramas and images of digital games. Gameworlds are populated with mutants, cyborgs, robots and computer networks – avatars are augmented with headup displays, exoskeletons and impossible weaponry. Yet in significant ways digital games can be seen not only as representations of a putative future technoculture – as a technological imaginary of new media - but also as actual instances of a technoculture here and now. To play a digital game is to plug oneself into a cybernetic circuit. Any particular game-event is realised through feedback between computer components, human perception, imagination and motor skills, and software elements from virtual environments to intelligent agents. This cybercultural language has been regarded with some suspicion within the humanities and social sciences. For intellectual traditions founded on social constructivism any sense of technological determinism is problematic – historical and cultural agency, it is presumed, resides solely in the human and the social. This paper will argue that a full understanding of both the playing of digital games, and the wider techno-cultural context of this play, is only possible through a recognition and theorisation of technological agency. The paper will draw in particular on theoretical positions developed within the Sociology of Science and Technology and Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to explore how social constructivism might be challenged by the consideration of what Bruno Latour calls ‘the missing masses’ - the mass of non-human devices and objects that, he asserts, make up the 'dark matter' of society. These masses are unobservable using established sociological lenses, but are theoretically necessary to the existence of human relationships and activities (Latour 1991). Whilst actor-network theory is concerned with artefacts, agents and networks from transport and health systems to road furniture and allergies, this paper will argue that digital game play – given its centrality to the development and dissemination of popular computer hardware, software and cultural practices - is a privileged, paradigmatic instance of an emergent digital popular technoculture (Turkle 1984). In these terms digital game play is a vivid instantiation of Donna Haraway’s figurative cyborg: an ambiguous and monstrous intimacy between the human and organic and the technological and inorganic (Haraway 1990). Digital games aestheticise this cyborg world, but they also realise it: this is an aesthetics of control and agency (or the loss of these) through immersive, embodied pleasures and anxieties; rather than (just) of dramatic scenarios and screen-presented action (Friedman 1999, Lahti 2003). The common experience of digital game play as characterised by the loss of distinction between game, software, machine and player, resonates with the ANT critique of the ‘object hypothesis’ (that entities are bounded, and discrete from other entities and their environment) (Woolgar 1991). Of the boundaries under threat, perhaps the most significant is that between subject and object – precisely the boundary that digital game play transgresses. The playing of the GameBoy Advance game Advance Wars 2 will be analysed, identifying the diverse agencies and valencies of elements or nodes in its circuit – player, console, and software. The latter will also be analysed as itself an actor-network – of algorithms, simulation and cellular automata. The implications for established analytical terms and boundaries in the study of the consumption of popular media will be addressed. Firstly: how is the user/player ‘configured’ (Woolgar 1991). Secondly: what are the subjects and objects of this simulation-conflict between cellular automata? Digital game studies has yet to engage with a sustained debate on the implications of its fundamentally technologically based foundation – i.e. the ‘digitality’ of digital games. This paper calls for such a debate and offers some initial thoughts on issues and directions. References Friedman, Ted (1999) ‘Civilisation and its Discontents: Simulation, Subjectivity, and Space’, in Greg Smith (ed.) On a Silver Platter: CD-ROMs and the Promises of a New Technology, New York: New York University Press: 132-150. Haraway, Donna (1990) ‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s’, in Linda J. Nicholson (ed.) Feminism / Postmodernism, London: Routledge Kember, Sarah (2003) Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life, London: Routledge Lahti, Marti (2003) ‘As we become machines: corporealized pleasures in video games’, in Mark JP Wolf & Bernard Perron (eds) The Video Game Theory Reader, London: Routledge: 157-170 Latour, Bruno (1991) "Technology is society made durable"

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Designing Goals for Online Role-Players

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Date created: 
2005-05-30
Abstract: 

The increasing popularity of massively multi-player online role-playing and the rise of the role-playing-related pervasive gaming create a new challenge for the digital gaming industry. The role-player audience is growing in addition to the digital gamer audience. Catering to the both crowds requires re-thinking in the game design. In this paper I propose that one of the most fundamental differences is the difference in goal structures and the idea of "meaningful" play between the two gaming mindsets. Björk and Holopainen (2003) divide goals (and rules) into endogenous and exogenous goals - the goals made explicit in the rules and the goals brought to the game activity by players to give it meaning, respectively. For role-players, who pretend to be their characters and pretend to perceive the game world from the character perspective [1] the only meaningful goals are the goals set by the characters for themselves - i.e. goals not chosen by the players as players, nor goals endogenous to the game system, but goals chosen by players through the character constructs they pretend to be. The voluntary and emergent nature of these diegetic goals means that it's problematic if game design or game master tries to enforce [2] them. Creating quest hooks luring the characters voluntarily on interesting adventures is a classical challenge of pen'n'paper role-playing. In this paper I use three-layered model of role-playing (modified from Fine 1983, 185-187, with Montola 2003), where the players [3] participating a game to pursue exogenous goals form the primary layer, the gamers pursuing endogenous goals form the secondary layer, and the characters pursuing diegetic goals form the third, diegetic layer. Every role-player constructs her own diegesis [4] subjectively, and these diegeses constitute the diegetic layer. Only role-players construct diegeses in this sense. Traditional role-playing games have no endogenous goals. In the formal sense, dying is not losing and character survival is (only) a diegetic goal (compare to Costikyan 2002, 11-14) - though sometimes death may be a diegetic goal as well. Accomplishing diegetic goals is not endogenous goal either - often accomplishing them is not even the intention of the player. Maybe player wants her character to fall in tragic love with a girl, where the exogenously desirable tragedy is accomplished by consistently failing in achieving the goal. Looking formally, Salen and Zimmerman (2004, 353-355) see that meaningful gameplay arises from the relationship of actions and their outcomes, pleasure emerging from players understanding how their accumulating actions move the game forward, towards the [endogenous] [5] goals of the game. Even role-players need goals for their characters to keep the game interesting, although accomplishing them is not necessary. Goals produce conflicts, which produce emotions (see Lankoski 2004, 140-141) sought by role-players. Salen and Zimmerman's definition has to be seen from the angle where the players' pleasure emerges from the playing characters having goals and experiencing their emotions whether they succeed or fail. For a role-player the process leading to success or failure is more interesting than the accomplishment itself. Providing diegetic goals for MMORPG characters is a tricky business where endogenous goals need to be successfully translated into diegetic goals. Having played Star Wars Galaxies for less than a week, the galactic emperor gave me a mission of escorting a guest to him from a forest a couple of kilometres away from his secret retire. In ten minutes the mission was completed, and his majesty gave me half a dozen more, one by one. This kind of situation breaks the coherence of diegesis built on the expectations on the genre and logics of Star Wars fiction [6]. The contradiction of expectations [7] used in constructing role-playing diegeses and the virtual game world has lead many MMORPG role-playing associations to implement their own rules to provide meaningful consistency to the game. For instance ECRA [8] has denied one of the most critical elements of the game from it's members: ECRA members are not allowed to resurrect their characters by cloning them, as they feel that their community makes no sense if characters can't be killed permanently. They don't want to diegetically cope with the inconsistency brought to the system by cloning technology. In the point where the players create their own rules systems (another endogenous layer) counteracting the meaning-killing structures of the games, the certain thing is that there is a player group not served by the game. In the case of groups like ECRA, the players seek to use their environment to role-play despite its failings. Providing Diegetic Goals The problem with providing diegetic goals is that the players must voluntarily adopt them for their characters. In traditional role-playing games, the goals are usually implicitly or explicitly negotiated between players and game masters via the player characters and the non-player characters, making the players committed to the characters' goals. In the article I will focus on creating guidelines on how to create goals that players would adopt. Basically there are two ways for this; creating goals within the diegetic level, and creating endogenous goals to be adopted by the players. To create quests that players would really adopt as their characters' diegetic goals, they should fill criteria such as: plausibility in the world context and the diegetic genre, allowing solutions for different characters, allowing avoiding actions unfit for character, avoiding identical quests or narratives for different players, connecting the quests to earlier actions of character, rewarding social play and teamwork et cetera. In practice, generating enough meaningful quests randomly may be not possible. Hence, we may be forced to look for the diegetic goals from the more-traditional role-playing end. This means quests created by game masters, and quests created by and emerging from the social systems in the play -- both being diegetic methods. The economical methods of game master based content creation involve volunteer game master networks, and game mastering player communities instead of individuals or teams. Diegetic goal-creation methods tend to create goals that are also accepted on the diegetic level. All in all, catering to the role-players is a huge challenge for the MMORPGs. However, as the player base gets more experience and matures, the increase in role-playing can be predicted. And according to Mulligan and Patrovsky (2003, 219-220), the realistically playing role-players both encourage the others to follow the suit, and keep other players in the game longer. Referred Games Sony Online (2003): Star Wars Galaxies. An Empire Divided. References Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2003): Describing Games. An Interaction-Centric Structural Framework. www.playresearch.com/publications/2003/structuralframework.pdf (ref. 25.10.2004). Originally in Copier, M. & Raessens, J. (eds.) (2003): Level Up - CD-ROM Proceedings of Digital Games Research Conference 2003. Costikyan, G. (2002): I Have No Words & I Must Design: Toward a Critical Vocabulary for Games. In Mäyrä, F. (ed) (2002): CGDC Proceedings 9-33. Tampere, Tampere University Press. Fine, G. (1983): Shared Fantasy. Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. Heliö, S. (2004): Role-Playing: A Narrative Experience and a Mindset. In Montola, M. & Stenros, J. (eds.) (2004): Beyond Role and Play. Tools, Toys and Theory for Harnessing the Imagination. 65-74. The book for Solmukohta 2004. Vantaa, Ropecon. www.ropecon.fi/brap Lankoski, P. (2004): Character Design Fundamentals for Role-Playing Games. In Montola, M. & Stenros, J. (eds.) (2004): Beyond Role and Play. Tools, Toys and Theory for Harnessing the Imagination 139-148. The book for Solmukohta 2004. Vantaa, Ropecon. www.ropecon.fi/brap Loponen, M. & Montola, M. (2004): A Semiotic View on Diegesis Construction. In Montola, M. & Stenros, J. (eds.) (2004): Beyond Role and Play. Tools, Toys and Theory for Harnessing the Imagination 39-51. The book for Solmukohta 2004. Vantaa, Ropecon. www.ropecon.fi/brap Mackay, D. (2001): The Fantasy Role-Playing Game. A New Performing Art. London, McFarland. Montola, M. (2003): Role-Playing as Interactive Construction of Subjective Diegeses. In Gade, M., Thorup, L. & Sander, M. (eds.) (2003): As Larp Grows Up. Theory and Methods in Larp 82-89. The book for Knudepunkt 2003. www.laivforum.dk/kp03_book Mulligan, J. & Patrovsky, B. (2003): Developing Online Games. An Insider's Guide. Indianapolis, New Riders Publishing. Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E. (2004): Rules of Play. Game Design Fundamentals. Massachusetts, The MIT Press. Footnotes 1 I see role-playing as a mindset of game playing (Heliö 2004, 70-71). Theoretically any game could be role-played, but practically the three subgenres of role-playing games are pen'n'paper role-playing, larping and virtual role-playing (Montola 2003, 82-89, compare to Mackay 182-183). 2 The designer can enforce the gamers' avatars to perform actions on the endogenous level, but they have hard time forcing the players to accept these things into their diegeses. 3 Fine uses people/players/characters. I use players/gamers/characters, respectively. 4 Diegeses are constructed subjectively based on virtual (MMORPG) or physical (LARP) reality as well as arbitrated consensus of the players. See Montola 2003, Loponen & Montola 2004. 5 Salen & Zimmerman 2004, 258. 6 Mackayan "imaginary-entertainment environment" (Mackay 2001, 26-33). 7 See Montola 2003 and Loponen & Montola 2004 for more about the importance of communicating the genre of the diegeses to players. 8 Europe-Chimaera Roleplayers Association is active on Europe-Chimaera server of Star Wars Galaxies (www.mosentha.com (ref. 29.11.2004)).

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Playing Audio-only Games: A compendium of interacting with virtual, auditory Worlds

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-03-16
Abstract: 

When thinking about playing computer games, most people envision young persons addictively enjoying audiovisual games like Quake, Doom or Counter Strike. The commonality in these games is that the majority of information is provided visually. The interaction with such virtual environments is, with slight modifications, straightforwardly derived from our real world actions and own experiences. Opposed to these games, a small niche of audio-only computer games has evolved. These games are often developed by and for the visually impaired community, but can also be played by sighted users. The advantage, as well as the challenge, is that these games can only be played trough sound. Every game related information is sonified acoustically and several techniques have been developed to aid in the navigation, orientation and interaction with the virtual, auditory world. Several games can be found and a nice collection is compiled on the audiogames.net website. Our work, as well as this paper, are motivated by our current research in this area and the development of an audio-game framework. This framework not only allows the development and play of audio-only games, using several intuitive methods for sonification and interaction, but also includes an authoring environment and a simple story engine. The foundations are laid out, and we are currently working on the development of several games to exemplify the results. One of the main benefits of audio-only games is their excellent suitability for mobile gaming, as no visual information and hence, no screens are necessary. This allows to even play these games with the attention distracted to other activities. Technologically, audio-only games are relatively easy to build and, besides some additional hardware, which would allow a deeper immersion into the virtual environment, the equipment needed is simple, affordable and small in size. Another advantage is a, similar to reading books or listening to audiobooks, increased level of immersion with a much higher stimulation of the participants phantasy apposed to visual gaming. This results from the lack of information that is presented and causes the player to imagine the missing pieces and to "shape" the virtual environment through own experiences. For story based game genres, one could envision audio-only games as the unification of entertaining computer games and audiobooks. So far, several genres for playing audio-only games have been developed. The most suitable ones are strong content and story based games, like adventures and puzzle games, but the concept of audio gaming can also be applied to certain action style games. Examples include adventures like "Der Tag wird zur Nacht" and "Terraformers" and action games as "Audio Formula 1" and "Drive". One of the very interesting aspects is, that audio games, as they are not only played, but also perceived in a different manner, may offer a complete new type of game genre. Audio-only games are more focused on auditory cues and perception. By combining this with alternative techniques of interaction, suited to auditory environments, new ways of interfering with virtual worlds and stories can be explored. The convenience that no visual information is necessary for the play of these game, is on the other side also the biggest challenge. Most of our environmental information is acquired through visual perception. On the contrary, our ears often tell us where to search for it, if we move our head into the direction of the sounds origin. One of the largest drawbacks of auditory displays is their insufficiency of being able to provide a general and simple overview of a scene like a picture. Therefore, we have to employ additional techniques, that are able to deliver this extra information in a different manner. In our framework we employ several methods to compensate for this deficiency. These techniques allow for an easier navigation and orientation within these virtual, auditory worlds. In our work, we will give a complete overview of playing audio-only games, ranging from techniques for actually playing these games, to methods to author and design auditory environments. We also provide details about the diversity of audio-visual perception and discuss which genres are most suitable for playing audio-only games. The final paper will consist of mainly three sections: The first is an introduction to audio-only gaming and games and will motivate for the development, as well as for the play of such games. Here, we focus particularly on the benefits of audio games and existing work. The second section analyzes audio-only games and has a closer look on available game genres and the structure and design of audio-only games. As these games tend to be strong story dependant, this section will also include a paragraph on storytelling for audio-only games, mainly centered around auditory adventure games. The last section examines the techniques which are used to actually play such games. This covers a very brief review of 3D sound and room acoustics and is mostly centered around sonification and interaction techniques that support navigation, orientation and object interaction. In this section, we will also discuss details regarding the modelling, the design and the authoring of auditory environments and audio-only games. The paper will conclude with the presentation of a framework, that is currently developed along this project, and which can be used to create, author and play audio-only games. More information can be found on our website at isgwww.cs.uni-magdeburg.de/games/audio.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

The GameCreator: Self-Created Mobile Games on the Internet

Date created: 
2005-05-30
Abstract: 

Mobile gaming in general is gaining popularity among youth. This year, world wide sales exceeded the one billion dollar limit. Currently, mobile games are either designed by professional game firms like Elkware, Davilex, and Gameloft, or by highly skilled java programmers, often organized in sponsored developers communities such as Forum Nokia Pro, and Siemens Developers Village. In contrast, in this paper we introduce the GameCreator (see Figure 1), an Internet portal that enables consumers to create and download their own mobile java games on the Internet without any programming skills totally from scratch or by adjusting a preconfigured ready made top game. The GameCreator provides users with the opportunity to customize and develop game components via a graphical user interface, which requires no programming expertise. Every consumer gets its personal game according to its individual needs. Hence, not only playing but also the construction of characters and storylines even new game logics may be a rewarding experience. As shown in innovation research, even if consumers are motivated and know what they want, often, they are not capable to express their ideas and requirements for their individual product (e.g. von Hippel 1998). What is missing is a toolkit that allows consumers to transfer their knowledge into real products in an easy and fast way. According to von Hippel and Katz (2002), such a toolkit must allow user friendly operation, offer module libraries, provide "trial and error" functionality, and define a possible solution space. The introduced GameCreator concept adopted the toolkit approach in the field of mobile phone games. The basic principles and functionalities of toolkits were translated into a technical software concept that facilitates the creation of mobile games on the Internet. In line with the open source concept (e.g. Butler et al. 2002; Lerner and Tirole 2000; von Krogh 2003), but as an extending feature to the toolkit approach, the GameCreator is embedded in an own online community. Thus, contributions by innovative gamers can be stored in a library leading to a continuously growing pool of available components. Games and components can be passed on easily between users, facilitating the adoption of other users’ contributions as well as collaborative development between users, organized in clans. The community feature of the toolkit does not only provide the common toolset of online communities allowing for user-to-user communication, e.g. chats and bulletin boards, or text based contributions, e.g. recommendations, product evaluations and voting tools, but it also enables users to exchange and jointly develop actual product prototypes. The phenomenon that consumers are motivated to create and proud of their own products can be observed in several areas of youth culture. For example, teenagers customize their shoes or paint their bags. They modify their skateboards or bikes. In addition, computer games like "The Sims" are successful because they offer heavy customization tools and allow users to share their created components with others (Jeppesen and Molin 2003; Koivisto 2003; Prügl et al. 2004; Sicart 2003). In this paper we show that self-created mobile games add value to gamers through the creation experience it-self (e.g. fun of creation, build up and dive in a fantasy world, being in control, challenge), the game tailored to individual needs (personalization, being different, pride of authorship), and the interaction with other peer-group-members (e.g. recognition, publicity, game sharing , intensive collaboration and interaction). According to the flow concept (Csikszentmihalyi 2002; Csikszentmihalyi 1997; Ghani and Desphande 1994), a compelling experience may be neither too easy nor too difficult, but must exactly correspond to the skills of the participants. As the GameCreator addresses different user groups with different levels of skills and expectations, it is impossible to design one single toolkit that fits all. For one group it may be too complex - leading to confusion and frustration, while too easy for the other – leading to boredom and apathy. To satisfy the needs of the heterogeneous user structure, the GameCreator offers three different modes – easy, advanced, and master mode. The definition of these modes results from a first user test run at the Klagenfurt university, Austria. The easy mode is tailored to mobile-internet-crossover (M-I-X) users, which so far did not download mobile games. These users may occasionally play pre-configured games like snake, are open-minded towards new technologies, curious about new offerings and looking for entertainment. M-I-X users want their game within 5 clicks, and are not willing to spend time on learning how to navigate the GameCreator. Nevertheless, they are interested in customized games, using them as personal gift or message. The advanced mode addresses regular mobile gamers (e.g. approximately 15-19% of the 10 million teenagers in Germany(BWCS 2002).) They identify themselves with mobile gaming and possess the newest handhelds and games. For them, creating their own game means being different but at the same time belonging to a strong community. They derive fun from determining the game logic (e.g. shoot-’em-up, jump and run, or puzzle), choosing and designing different characters (e.g. race cars, heroes, villains or fantasy creatures, integrating a digital-photo of themselves or their friends), and adjusting the number of lives, difficulty and screens according to the individual gusto. These gamers are enabled to create their own games without any programming expertise. The master mode intends to attract real freaks. They possess java-programming skills and are interested in game design. For them, the GameCreator offers an easy-to-learn and easy-to-use scripting language, so freaks encounter challenging tasks and can demonstrate their know-how, without being a real java-expert. This by far smallest group of enthusiasts is able to contribute top games. Similar to open-source projects, such freaks have the possibility to become famous within their community, and receive recognition and admiration for their creations. In this paper we introduce the GameCreator concept, shed light on the motivational aspects of self-creation, and discuss the challenge of toolkit design for heterogeneous consumer groups. As first user-acceptance-tests confirmed the market appeal of self-created mobile games, we discuss some possible business models. Critical issues that might come up when running GameCreator are: how to deal with property rights, as well as with copyright and protection of minor for user generated games (Chung and Grimes 2005). Self-created games are very special and an expression of oneself, therefore, they will be sent and shown to friends and relatives, and may be used as personal gift, invitation, or personal message. Hence, an extended group of mobile phone users may become attracted to gaming. Maybe, a new genre of games - "Game Messaging" - will arise (cf. Smedstad et al. 2003). By the time of the conference we will be able to present the results of a large friendly-user test, providing more information about who will use the GameCreator platform and why. Proposed Track: Under Development References Butler, Brian, Lee Sproull, and Sara Kiesler (2002), "Community Effort in Online Groups: Who Does The Work and Why?," in Forthcomming in: Leadership at a Distance, S. Weisband and L. Atwater, Eds. Chung, Grace and Sara M. Grimes (2005), "Cool Hunting the Kids' Digital Playground: Datamining and the Privacy Debates in Children's Online Entertainment Sites," in Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, HICSS-38. Big Island, Hawaii: IEEE. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2002), Creativity: flow and the psychology of discovery and invention (1 ed.). New York, NY: HarperPerennial. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1997), Finding flow: the psychology of engagement with everyday life (1 ed.). New York, NY: Basic Books. Ghani, Jawaid and Sathish Desphande (1994), "Task characteristics and the experience of optimal flow in human-computer interaction," Journal of Psychology, 128 (4), 381-91. Jeppesen, Lars Bo and Mans J. Molin (2003), "Consumers as Co-developers: Learning and Innovation Outside the Firm," Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 15 (3), 363-83. Koivisto, Elina M. I. (2003), "Supporting communities in massively mulitplayer online role-playing games by game deisgn," in Digital Games Research Conference, Marinka Copier and Joost Faessens (Eds.): Utrecht University. Lerner, Josh and Jean Tirole (2000), "The Simple Economics of Open Source," NBER Working Paper. Prügl, R., P. Harrer, and Nikolaus Franke (2004), "Die "Sims": eine Fallstudie zum gemeinsamen Einsatz von "Toolkits for User Innovation" und virtuellen Commnities," in Produktentwicklung mit virtuellen Communities, Kundenwünsche erfahren und Innovationen realisieren, C. Herstatt and J. Sander, Eds. Wiesbaden: Gabler. Sicart, Miguel (2003), "Family values: ideology, computer games & The Sims," in Digital Games Research Conference, Marinka Copier and Joost Faessens (Eds.): Utrecht University. Smedstad, Solveig, Lise Sunnana, Espen Aarseth, and Jane McGongal (2003), "A typology of mobile games," in Digital Games Research Conference, Marinka Copier and Joost Faessens (Eds.): Utrecht University. von Hippel, E. (1998), "Economics of product development by users: The impact of "sticky" local information," Management Science, 44 (5), 629-44. von Hippel, E. and Ralph Katz (2002), "Shifting Innovation to Users via Toolkits," Management Science, 48 (7), 821-33. von Krogh, Georg (2003), "Open-Source Software Development," MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring, 14-18.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Authentic Learning Experiences Through Play: Games, Simulations and the Construction of Knowledge

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

Games and simulations have become the learning resource du jour in e-learning circles, suggested as the solution to a wide range of learning objectives. However, the results of previous endeavours in this arena have been mixed, causing many educators to approach games with some trepidation. Coupled with the overly-hyped and only marginally effective ‘edutainment’ market in the 1990s, many educators and trainers have been left with a sceptical view of what is popularly regarded as another attempt to merge learning and fun. Yet there is an important consideration that is often overlooked as we lump learning games and simulations into one general category of learning resource, though we may refer to them by a wide range of monikers. Games and simulations are only as effective as the pedagogical approach that is employed. Furthermore, their effectiveness must be measured against the learning objectives and methods selected vis a vis the needs of the resource’s learners. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Many learning games from both the ‘edutainment’ era and today offer only traditional didactic methods in disguise, a practice described by game designer and writer Brenda Laurel as serving ‘chocolate-covered broccoli’ (Laurel, 2001). In these cases, the content and teaching method are entirely unchanged from their non-game origins, so only the presentation style differs. Linear content is repurposed into an open-ended game context, a bit like shoving a square peg into a round hole. But this is not to say that these sorts of learning games have no place. They can often provide the motivation to learn in cases where the learners have no motivation to engage with the materials. Wrapping "boring" content in a trivia or shoot-em-up game format might make material that just needs to memorised a bit easier to "swallow". Repeated engagement with interactive drill-and-practice environments provides the repetition that may be needed for learners to memorise and retain the content. However to truly leverage the potential of games and simulations, one must look at what they do best, and at what they can do better than any other type of learning resource. In the past, we have tended to focus primarily on games’ ability to motivate and engage. While certainly an important component of the learning experience, to say that games simply motivate does them a tremendous disservice. So while part of the motivation may stem from novelty effects or competitive enjoyment, the best types of engagement stem from the learner’s enjoyment of a more effective learning experience, one that puts them in control and encourages active participation, exploration, reflection and the individual construction of meaning. It might be fun, or it might be the phenomenon that Seymour Papert refers to as ‘hard fun’ (Papert, 2002), enjoyment derived from a challenging but meaningful learning experience. This idea of a more effective learning experience is in no way new. Many theorists and educators have come to believe that we learn most readily from experience. From Dewey to Bruner, Rogers and beyond, great learning theorists have maintained that human beings learn from a process involving the personal construction of knowledge via the experience of ‘authentic’ situations that build on current or past knowledge. Over the decade, this perspective has been refined as constructivist learning. Interestingly, constructivist principles are particularly applicable to adult learners. Andragogical principles stipulate that adult learners learn best in environments where they control the learning experience and can understand its context, relevancy and applicability. Constructivist approaches appeal to the adult learner because they place the learner firmly at the centre of their experience and assume an active role in the construction of knowledge. Games and simulations can be incredibly effective when employed using constructivist principles. In this regard, they are especially good for: · Allowing learners to practise skills in a safe, private environment. · Offering a unique opportunity to engage learners who have may have struggled in traditional education/training environments, i.e. lower literacy or kinaesthetically-oriented students. · Allowing learners to access and repeat learning on their own terms and at their own pace, as many times as they need to. This is not a process of memorisation, however, so much as internalising systems, steps or processes. · Facilitating social learning by fostering ongoing collaboration and relationships between learners. · Providing for a customised environment that takes a learner's skills and context into account. · Supporting active participation through group play, reinforcing important practical skills like group communication, project management, conflict resolution, and group brainstorming. · Accessing the higher order skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy (evaluation, synthesis, analysis, application). · Practicing decision-making, leadership and other performance skills that are achieved through experience. · Shifting perspectives by allowing learners to experience situations from varying points-of-view. · Allowing learners to access experiences that are difficult or impossible in the real world. · Allowing formative assessment to be built-in to the experience, benefiting both learner and instructor. Drawing upon the ideas of Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger, Lev Vygotsky, Clark Aldrich, Marc Prensky, Roger Schank and others, this paper considers various learning theories and case studies that lend support to the idea that virtual environments can provide an authentic constructivist learning experience, when designed with that specific pedagogical approach in mind. The paper will also provide a framework and principles to assist designers in understanding whether the game or simulation they are creating for educational purposes meets its full potential by adhering to constructivist principles. Finally, a selection of educational games and simulations will be presented and evaluated according to their respective pedagogical approaches and demonstrated learning effectiveness. Keywords:, learning, interactive, interaction, games, simulations, collaboration, constructivist, construction, education, learning theory, training, knowledge. (note: also open to short paper or other format)

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Towards an Ontological Language for Game Analysis

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-30
Abstract: 

Game designers have called for a design language (Costikyan 1994; Church 1999; Kreimeier 2002; Kreimeier 2003), noting that designers currently lack a unified vocabulary for describing the design of existing games and thinking through the design of new games. Many of the proposed approaches focus on offering aid to the designer, either in the form of design patterns (Kreimeier 2002; Bjork et al. 2003), which name and describe design elements, or in the closely-related notion of design rules, which offer advice and guidelines for specific design situations. (Fabricatore et al. 2002; Falstein 2004) Other analyses draw methods and terminology from various humanistic disciplines. For example, games have been analyzed in terms of their use of space (Jenkins 2003), as semiotic sign systems (Kücklich 2003), as a narrative form (Murray 1997; Carlquist 2002), in terms of the temporal relationships between actions and events (Eskelinen 2001), or in terms of sets of features in a taxonomic space, using clusters in this space to identify genres. (Aarseth et al. 2003) Our approach is to develop a game ontology, identifying the important structural elements of games and relationships between these elements. Our use of the term ontology is borrowed from computer science, and refers to the identification and (oftentimes formal) description of entities within a domain. Our ontology hierarchically organizes structural elements. The top level consists of five elements: interface, rules, goals, entities, and entity manipulation (described in more detail below). Often, the elements derive from common game terminology (e.g. level and boss), which we refine by organizing them into more abstract concepts or by breaking them into finer, more precise concepts. An ontology is different than a game taxonomy in that, rather than organizing games by their elements, it is the elements themselves that are organized. Our work is distinct from design rule and design pattern approaches in that we don’t offer imperative advice to designers. We don’t intend to describe rules for creating good games, but rather to identify the abstract commonalities and differences in design elements across a wide range of concrete examples, clarifying common terms such as "level", "game world", etc. Our approach is distinct from genre analyses and from related attempts to answer the question "what is a game." Rather than developing definitions that allow us to distinguish between games/non-games or between different types of games, we’re focusing on an analysis of design elements that cut across a wide range of games. Our goal is not to classify games according to their characteristics and/or mechanics (Lundgren and Bjork 2003), but to describe the design space of games. Our ontology purposefully abstracts the representational details of games. Issues of setting (e.g. medieval castle, spaceship), genre (e.g. horror, sci-fi), and the leveraging of representations from other media (e.g. player’s knowledge of the Star Wars universe) are all bracketed by our analysis. Because our goal is to characterize the game design space, such bracketing is necessary in order to achieve broad coverage without having to abstractly characterize notions of setting and genre. Thus, we avoid the Sisyphean task of building an abstract model of the whole of human culture. A deep reading of any one particular game will, of course, require an analysis of its representational conventions, allusions and connotations. Our ontology would help position the more formal or structural elements of the game within the game design space, while other methods and techniques would be required to unpack representational issues. The top level of the ontology consists of five elements: interface, rules, goals, entities, and entity manipulation. The interface is where the player and game meet, the mapping between the embodied reactions of the player and the manipulation of game entities. It refers to both how the player interacts with the game and how the game communicates to the player. The rules of a game define and constrain what can or can’t be done in a game; they lay down the framework, or model, within which the game shall take place. Rules regulate the development of the game and determine the basic interactions that can take place within it. Goals are the objectives or conditions that define success in the game. Entities are the objects within the game that the player manages, modifies or interacts with at some level. This definition is broader than "game tokens" (Costikyan 1994) since it also includes objects that are not controlled by the player. Finally, entity manipulation encompasses the alteration of the game made either by the player or by in-game entities. Entity manipulation thus refers to the actions or verbs that can be performed by the player and by in-game entities. Each ontology entry consists of a title or name, a few paragraphs of text describing the element, a number of strong and weak examples of games that embody the element, a parent element, potentially one or more child elements, and potentially one or more part elements (elements related by the part-of relation). The examples describe how the element is concretely reified in specific games. Because many of the elements capture family-resemblance concepts (Wittgenstein 1963), we include both strong and weak examples; the weak examples describe border cases of games that partially reify the element. The parent/child relationship captures the notion of subtype (subset); child elements are more specific or specialized concepts than the parent element. Finally, the part-of relation captures the notion of compound elements that are constructed out of other elements (parts). In summary, we present an ontology in which we identify abstract elements that each capture a range of concrete designs. Our ontology allows for generalizations across this range of concrete design choices as embodied in specific games. For example, when thinking about the concept of a "level" in a game it is possible to recognize and describe the commonalities and differences that a "level" has with regards to a "bonus level", "boss level", "wave", "mission" or "world". We hope our ontology, which currently consists of more than 150 elements, will be used as a tool to inform and guide the analysis of games as well as provide a framework for the discussion and exploration of the design space of games. References Aarseth, E., S. Smedstad and L. Sunnanå (2003). A multi-dimensional typology of games. Level Up: Digital Games Research Conference 2003, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Bjork, S., S. Lundgren and J. Holopainen (2003). Game Design Patterns. Level-Up: Digital Games Research Conference, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Carlquist, J. (2002). "Playing the Story: Computer Games as a Narrative Genre." Human IT 6(3): 7-53. Church, D. (1999). Formal Abstract Design Tools. Game Developer. Costikyan, G. (1994). I have no words & I must design. Interactive Fantasy. Eskelinen, M. (2001). "Towards Computer Game Studies." Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2001, Art Gallery, Art and Culture Papers: 83-87. Fabricatore, C., M. Nussbaum and R. Rosas (2002). "Playability in Action Videogames: A Qualitative Design Model." Human Computer Interaction 17(4): 311-368. Falstein, N. (2004). "The 400 Project." 2004(Oct 29).http://www.theinspiracy.com/400_project.htm Jenkins, H. (2003). Game Design as Narrative Architecture. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game. N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan. Cambridge MA, The MIT Press. Kreimeier, B. (2002). "The Case for Game Design Patterns." (Oct 29, 2004).http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20020313/kreimeier_01.htm Kreimeier, B. (2003). "Game Design Methods: A 2003 Survey." (Oct 29, 2004).http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20030303/kreimeier_01.shtml Kücklich, J. (2003). "Perspectives of Computer Game Philology." Games Studies: The International Journal fo Computer Games Research 3(1). Lundgren, S. and S. Bjork (2003). Describing Computer-Augmented Games in Terms of Interaction. Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment (TIDSE), Darmstadt, Germany. Murray, J. H. (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York, The Free Press. Salen, K. and E. Zimmerman (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press. Wittgenstein, L. (1963). Philosophical Investigations. New York, The Macmillan Company.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

From Mass Audience to Massive Multiplayer: How Multiplayer Games Create New Media Politics

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-30
Abstract: 

In this article we will propose a framework for massive multiplayer games giving the players a raise of consciousness in understanding politics and society. We will set the mass media politics up against new media politics as they emerge from the use of massive multiplayer games. Starting with a brief history of mass media and their politics we will show parallels between mass media understanding and development on one hand and the development and understanding of massive multiplayer games on the other, showing how a new media politics of multiplayer games is on the rise. We may have to rethink a grand new media politics. We take the opposite approach to Gonzalo Frasca’s arguing that gameplay, virtuality, immersion, and fantasy are contrary to political game-design. Our argument is that the four mentioned topics are necessary for any kind of games. And especially for games which should give rise to a political consciousness. Giving the player the possibility to immerse himself into the game will make it possible for him to experience and work with political issues. The catharsis through immersion shows the player how different political or tactical strategies are working. The problem is how to transfer the ideas of the game to the real world. For us the solution is found in massive multiplayer games because these kinds of games give rise to a new kind of sociability through the gameplay. And gameplay is important, because lack of gameplay will become lack of players. And without other players there will be no transfer of the inherent ideology of the game. On the other hand it is likewise important to stress that these ideologies are not directly transferable and may be used by players in counterproductive ways or as playground for fantastic, thoughtful and artistic experiments. Even so, there will be some kind of transferral, enabling the player to see society with a new understanding. Typically, the transferral of knowledge from game to real world will be found in the social surroundings of the game. A multiplayer game on the Internet will, when successful, start chatrooms (maybe as part of the game itself), discussion-groups, and similar social activities. It is in participating in this social groups, the players can receive and give the knowledge from the game to reality. We will look at the following games in particular, giving an analysis by looking at the gameplay and the political ideologies behind, and the reception of the game in the real world: Nationstates, a multiplayer game based on a book, giving the player the possibility to outlive any ambition concerning ruling a nation. The game is based on a strict rule set, but this can be traversed by the players, giving raise not only to a consciousness on politics and tactics, but on the rules of the game itself. Thus showing how ideology limits the player’s freedom of choice and action. According to David Nieborg, America’s Army shows how games may be seen as both advergame, propagame, edugame, and as test bed ‘n’ tool. This multiplayer game is a new kind of propaganda for the armed forces. Certainly, America’s Army is maybe the best example of how the new multiplayer media politics has already become a part of everyday life – at least in the post-industrialised countries of the world. Civilization, SimCity and The Sims are games of simulation, and these simulations are built on ideology. Civilization and SimCity are both games of totalitarian control. But more than that in Civilization different political ideologies cause different outcomes as regard to game success or failure based on the economic basis of society. This analysis may as well be implied for SimCity too, signifying the importance of game ideology. These norms and values are programmed into the video game system. Likewise, The Sims as a game of life control puts forward an ideology of consumerism, ruling the success criteria in the game as getting a good education in order to get a good job in order to get impressive things in order to get friends and family. The Sims is indirectly telling the player what is meant by a successful life. And even though players may choose counter strategies to this kind of life, while playing with the value system of The Sims, the ethics of a good life still stands unchallenged without any opposition within the game. Simple Internet games like Frasca’s Kabul Kaboom and New York Defender illustrate how political content may be composed in different ways in the political underground. Kabul Kaboom is a game response to the war in Afghanistan, suggesting a no win situation. On the other hand New York Defender uses satire in order to express the tragedy of the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001. We need to understand and compare these dissimilar strategies on how to present political consciousness-raising. Our analysis of these games will show how different games will give raise to different levels of consciousness in transferring ideas from game to reality. And how the complete involvement in video games (aka. immersion) poses new questions and gives new answers for the media politics of the 21st century.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

The “White-Eyed” Player Culture: Grief Play and Construction of Deviance in MMORPGs

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

One popular phenomenon in Taiwan’s massively multiplayer online role-playing gaming world (MMORPG) is the so-called ‘white-eyed’ players. The “white-eyed” refers to players who act in ways similar to that are known as ‘griefers’ in some online gaming communities. Grief players engage in playing that intend to disrupt or distress other players’ gaming experiences, and derives his/her enjoyment from such behavior. Although the ‘white-eyed’ playing in Taiwanese gaming culture seems to include a wider range of activities than that of “grief play”, both terms refer to a popular phenomenon that is at the core to the MMORPGs culture. Grief players are the deviants in gaming societies; they break the law (codes and rules of conduct) of their game worlds, violate the norms and etiquettes of their communities. This study is an attempt to analyze the white-eyed/griefer culture as a deviant subculture and explore its functions and meanings in maintaining the social order of online game world. Current studies on grief play are limited in quantity and scope. Usually, grief play is descriptively discussed from the perspectives of players’ anti-social behavior or alternative ways of bringing satisfaction. In other words, grief play is treated as a phenomenon engaging the griefers only and is relatively independent of other players’ action. However, the making and circulation of the “white-eyed” (or the griefer) as a popular concept and a widely recognizable category among game players suggest that it requires collective recognition and corresponding social reaction by all players, griefers or non-griefers alike. Game management also plays a role in shaping the grief play culture by defining and enforcing specific rules. Bring all players and game management into the focus of research allows us to see a complete deviance-making process in virtual communities and the roles varied agents of social control play in it. Following the issue of social control, the study of grief players can also contribute to our understanding of power emerged in social interaction. In online gaming world, power takes several forms: techno-power that is written in system design and embodied in codes of the game, administrative power held by the game master, and normative power enforced by social discipline from all participating agents. Among the three, the last one is the least explored dimension. Thus, we would like to take a close look on following questions in accordance with the normative power negotiation in online gaming communities: what are the processes involved in identifying certain act as grief play and an avatar as a griefer? What are the consequences of being labeled as a griefer? How players interact with griefers, individually and collectively? And how griefers react to social punishments and disciplines from others? This study explores the social process governing the nature, emergence, application, and consequences of the griefer label of the “white-eyed” players. Although the definitions and key components of grief playing are not without ambiguity and disagreement (Foo & Koivisto 2004), it usually covers a very broad range of disruptive and annoying activities ranging from verbal rudeness, ninja looting, scamming, to player killing (Salen& Zimmerman 2004; Mulligan & Patrovsky 2003). Some of the behaviors are clearly unacceptable by social standards, yet some others are harder to judge. How do players learn to draw the line of acceptable behaviors? And when the line is crossed, what players do to disciple the violator? Calling some avatar “the white-eyed” is not the end of the story. It is often followed by further actions of posting the griefer’s name on related forums, or other means of passing the words so as to make the griefer visible to the public. When a griefer is identified and made well known, further sanctions may follow, such as punishments from the game master, refusal of cooperation, interaction or transaction by other players, even direct retaliation. We believe that the whole process of identifying the griefer as a deviant and applying the rule to him/her serves important functions. First of all, by identifying what are bad and inappropriate behaviors, the norms of good and acceptable behaviors are confirmed and made clear. And thus, reduces the ambiguity of the moral “grey zone” in social interaction of virtual gaming communities. Secondly, by labeling the griefers, the bad players are distinguished from the good players. In so doing a group of “outsiders” is created, which not only makes special treatments upon the deviant legitimate, but also make them visible targets for social sanction. Finally, the grief play culture contributes to the collective knowledge of a community. Constructing, passing and practicing such knowledge help to uphold the order of social life. Besides, the griefer counter-culture serves as a fine illustration of the deviant group. The clans of the griefers develop their own identities and distinctive norms against that of the mainstream game community. Their self-perceptions and group identities offer us rich materials on another side of the deviance formation story. In addition to the griefer and players, the game master is another important agent for social control. How do they perceive the boundary of their administrative power in terms of imposing and reinforcing the rules is crucial to the understanding of a deviant culture in virtual community. To explore the above issues, the two most popular MMORPG games in Taiwan, namely “Lineage” and “Ragnarok Online” (RO), are chosen as our major targets of study. Data used for analysis are collected from several sources, including (1) interviews with griefers and non-grief players of the two games on their attitudes toward, and strategies regarding grief play; (2) interviews with the game masters as well as data of regulation policies and the Rules of Conduct announced in the official websites of the games; (3) website self-representation and the action reports of the griefer clans; (4) grief play related postings from discussion forums of the two games. Reference Foo, Chek Yang, & Koivisto, Elina. (2004). Defining Grief Play in MMORPGs: Player and Developer Perceptions. Paper presented at the International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE) 2004, Jun 3~5, 2004. Singapore. Mulligan, Jessica, & Patrovsky, Bridgette. (2003). Developing Online Games: An Insider’s Guide. Indiana: New Riders. Salen, Katie, & Zimmerman, Eric. (2004). Rules Of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Document type: 
Conference presentation