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

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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

Augmented Board Games - Using Electronics to Enhance Gameplay in Board Games

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-04-15
Abstract: 

This paper examines how computer technology and sensors and actuators controlled by computers can enhance traditional board games and allow for novel game mechanics. Categorizing these games as Augmented Board Games, board games where electronics are used to expand functionality and gameplay, we argue that these provide an unexplored and under-considered area for game design and that exploration of this area can provide insight for pervasive and mobile games as well as gameplay in general. In the paper we explore the design space of augmented board games through three different perspectives: game design, technology, and users. We describe the design process and the implementation of several prototype games to chart the design space through examples and concretely illustrate how electronics can enhance the gameplay of board games. The research goal was to understand how electronics and information technology can enhance the social interaction and gameplay in board games. The underlying goal was to gain understanding of the potential of mobile and ubiquitous computer technology regarding game design in general. Besides electronic chess boards and a few exceptions such as ‘Stop Thief’ and ‘Dark Tower’, the field of augmented board games has had few commercial examples. Noting augmented board games not as a basically void subspace of the greater game design space due to inherent gameplay problem but rather an area requiring a joint technology and gameplay focus, an experimental design approach was adopted to research the design space. This lead the research goal to be requirements for design work and the creation of three design goals; minimize those activities that are not perceived as empowering or emotionally captivating for players; show the inherent value of this subspace of game design by showing game mechanics that without technology would have been impossible, required an umpire, or ruined gameplay due to the effort required by the players; and to create augmented board games that provide at least the same social environment as non-augmented versions. The design goals were addressed by a number of methods that resulted in the creations of several prototypes. For the first design goal this consisted of examining existing games to reduce activities in them to common atomic actions in a fashion similar to task analysis within interaction design. This allowed all aspects of player interaction to be considered individually for the merits of empowerment and emotional captivity as well as identifying specific technologies that were feasible for automating those actions. For example the technically easy challenge of replacing die rolling by random number generator is deemed affecting gameplay negatively. The second design goal was explored by using game design patterns as a design tool to create game design in a structured fashion with focus upon gameplay mechanics. The third design goal was ensured by making play testing events to involving both augmented and non-augmented board games, with one of the augmented board games being an augmentation of an already existing commercial game, the Settlers of Catan.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Shadowplay: Simulated Illumination in Game Worlds

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-04-14
Abstract: 

It has long been a commonplace in gaming communities that "good graphics does not equal good gameplay." This sentiment is amplified in the title of a Game Developers Conference 2003 presentation "Great game graphics . . . Who cares?" Originally growing partly out of resistance to hardware industry agendas, this platitude has, in extreme expressions, ossified into a simple and ultimately less-than-useful dichotomy. But given the capacity to dynamically engage the senses that is inherent in interactive media, a better question for us to pose is "what sort of visual experiences best support gameplay?" One way to approach this rather large question is to focus upon our experience of simulated illumination in gaming environments. For, despite skepticism towards game graphics, the fact is that there are currently a number of very enjoyable games in which light plays a key role. In "Thief 2"and ""Silent Hill 3"," categorized as "first person sneaker" and "survival/horror" games, respectively, a consideration of light can be found not only in the way in which the game spaces are illuminated, but also in the sensorium that is encoded into the game’s AI. In this sense, both players and non-playing characters respond to illumination decisions made by game designers and the gamers themselves. But before we investigate illumination decisions further, it is necessary to create a framework for analyzing the contribution of simulated illumination to the gaming experience. Quite clearly, we lack a vocabulary with which to speak and think about light in games and the effect upon the player. This paper will argue that a foundational understanding for studying lighting design in game environments can be forged by first surveying existing illumination practices. Pre-rendered 3d computer animation is created using similar digital tools, and the field has begun to develop it own form of cinematography. But the free navigation afforded by games requires us to look to other practices outside of filmic media, such as architectural lighting. Finally, games as interactive experiences must be examined for their own unique potentials. After all, in a game the player sees and is seen, illuminates and is illuminated in turn. The possibilities to manipulate light both as media convention and as sensory phenomenon, within an interactive environment of growing visual richness, makes game lighting one of the most intriguing areas of future design practice. I will begin by contending that it makes sense, from both a game development and research perspective, to consider simulated illumination as an independent element of the gaming experience. Whether one is a programmer or digital artist working at a game company, or a gamer using a level editor to produce something for their own enjoyment, there is a cluster of design decisions around the problem of light that can be made well or poorly. Light contributes powerfully to the "gameplay gestalt," defined by Craig Lindley as "a particular way of thinking about the game state from the perspective of a player, together with a pattern of repetitive perceptual, cognitive, and motor operations." (Lindley, 2002) Finally, if we hope that games might touch the same profound places that dreams do, I believe that illumination has an important role to play. We must, however, consider digital games not just as a repository for existing lighting practices, but also as a forum from which unique contributions to aesthetic expression can emerge. One of the most interesting experiences I have had in "Thief" 2" is the development of a kind of self-reflexive awareness about illumination. The degree to which one is present in light or darkness in a scene strongly affects one’s fortunes in the game, and is fed back to the player through the "glowing crystal" in the interface. This dynamic awareness is radically different from watching a movie, and even has the capacity to alter one’s sensitivity to illumination after one leaves the game. The contribution from the interface engages the player in the sort of "double consciousness" of the game as both mediated and directly felt that is, according to Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, one of the most promising areas of future game development. (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004). Illumination decisions in games take many forms, are made by both designers and players, and have strategic and tactical consequences for the game experience. But whether one is seeking to evoke a world or set up the conditions for perception and interaction, light allows us to advance our goals for the felt game experience, be they the evocation of suspense, dread, comfort or ecstatic abandon. Light engages us through our bodies, our nervous systems. Digital games, in which light is made present through a combination of media conventions, computer graphics algorithms and sensory phenomena, thus represent an arena in which the aesthetics of light and the mechanics of perception are open for exploration and redefinition by designers and players alike. References: Lindley, Craig (2002). "The Gameplay Gestalt" in CGDC Conference Proceedings, Tampere, Finland. Salen, K. and Eric Zimmerman (2004) Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. MIT Press, Cambridge MA.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Sex in Games: Representing and Desiring the Virtual

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

No sooner is a visual medium invented than it is used for pornographic representation - videogames are no exception. This paper will chronicle the presence of pornographic imagery and depictions of sexual intercourse within videogames whilst attempting to examine the motivations for its inclusion and use. Unlike historical accounts of the stimulating effects of other art forms, such as mens’ arousal at the realism of Sansorino’s nude Venus, or Pliny’s account of a man’s infatuation with the sculpture of Aphrodite of Caridos, ‘graphic sex’ in videogames exist within a cyber-culture where a broad range of explicit and specialized pornographic materials are freely available on the world wide web. The existence of sex in videogames in a modern networked culture is therefore interpreted as an example of the increasing authenticity of digitally mediated experiences – or assemblages of the social and technological. It is argued that videogame aesthetics are contributing to a broader trend in the alteration of gender categories that allow for wider patterns of variation in erotic cultures. Although this paper will draw on representations that remain focused upon, and constructed around phallocentric fantasies and desires, it is the substance and nature of the object that fascinates as it shifts in significance and function. The paper chronicles how the articulation and presentation of sexual themes in videogames has altered with technological progress. This issue has relevance today with gamers’ now having the opportunity to experience interactive photo-realistic bodies performing sexual acts in videogames like Singles (Eidos) or Great Oyaji: The Acrobatics of Sex (Studio Kinky). Prior to videogames being rendered with increasing sophistication, sexual-conquest games like Leisure Suit Larry (Sierra Quest) and Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode (Vic Tokai) relied more on suggestion and humor, using sexual degradation and humiliation rather than physical representation. The inability to achieve photorealistic representation at the beginning of videogame history also produced ‘adult/erotic games’ that simply served as a conduit for presenting photographical pornographic material. Videogames designed for the Commodore 64 such as Cover Girl Strip Poker (Emotional Pictures), Curse of Ra (Trans X), Harry der Fensterputzer (Brilliant Software), Erotica (Cybertech) and Girltris (Reliance), use gameplay as a means of revealing static soft-porn imagery recycled from the sex industry itself. This technique has surprisingly survived the test of time in the 3-D adult-oriented virtual environment of Red Light World that simulates Amsterdam’s infamous district. A significant contribution to the increasing inclusion of adult themed content in videogames can be traced to the participatory cultures of gaming and the modding community who have pushed the demand for adult-oriented content with ‘nude patches’ for games like The Sims, extending its representational and experiential boundaries. By infiltrating gaming culture, the patch has contributed to the formation of new configurations of game characters, game spaces and game play (Schleiner, 1998). Nude patches used for Tomb Raider, Quake and Morrowind also illustrate gamers’ desire to de-robe virtual heroines and characters, raising the status of the act to something comparable to the tabloid exposure of celebrities. The validity of the ‘cyber-celebrity’ appears to be tied to increasing levels of digital and physical manipulation of the human body for presentation in male-culture publications, soft-core and hard-core pornography. ‘Fakers’ that superimpose celebrity heads on naked bodies, advertisers that use composites of several models and the general high levels of digital retouching in the media consistently erode the line between reality and artifice, contributing to the cyborgian nature of desires. Digital fabrication has contributed to the rise of, and infatuation with, virtual models (e.g. Webbie Tookey) and actresses (e.g. S1mOne) as well as game characters. In some of the cases, the interactive nature of the virtual often overshadows the real, as in the case of a patched Julie (Heavy Metal) who was originally based upon ‘Penthouse Pet’ Julie Strain and Lara Croft who has always existed as both virtual (Tomb Raider) and real forms (Natalie Cook, Rhona Mitra). Yet, it was the polygon pin-up version of Lara that made the front cover of Playboy Magazine and beat ‘real’ glamour models to top a poll for the woman men would most like to date (Game Stars Live)! With adult oriented games drawing heavily on the visual codes of pornography and sex industry economy (e.g. Playboy: The Mansion) the paper asks whether there is a cultural distinction to be made between sex in games and pornography in terms of cultural consumption? Is game sex aiming to elicit a physical response akin to pornography? Like advertising and propaganda, pornography is often characterized by a single intention to "move us in the direction of action" (Marcus, 1966) and gratification. Eidos the makers of Singles: flirt up your life, a reality simulation of single life that contains full-fontal nudity and sexual intercourse, argue that this is not the case: "I don’t really think someone is going to get the same feeling of attraction in seeing full frontal digital game character as they would from seeing that in an actor or actress". These comments fail to explain the rise in the number of games where game characters are not just presented as sexual objects, but are now sexually active and fully interactive. Playskins, a recent online anime noir role-playing game focused game-play around flirtation and foreplay with the object of achieving game-sex. However, games such as SomaVision and 3-D Slut Virtual Sex go even further as they are designed simply to fulfill a players’ desire to undress, fondle and have intercourse with 3-D rendered women. Thus, are ‘bodies without flesh’ achieving a representational or aesthetic status capable of evoking bodily intensities comparable to real-world encounters? Are 3-D pixel bodies able to directly hack into the central nervous system to actualize their virtual affects for erotic pleasure?

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Her Own Boss: Gender and the Pursuit of Incompetent Play

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-04-13
Abstract: 

This paper examines gender and computer game playing, in particular questions of identity, access and playful engagement with these technologies. Because computer-based media are not only central tools for learning and work, and because games are increasingly being recruited as educational and instructional genres, it is likewise exceedingly important, from an educational equity standpoint to examine the ways in which rapidly evolving computer game-based learning initiatives threaten to compound and intensify girls’ computer disadvantage, a cumulative dis-entitlement from computer-based educational and occupational opportunities. The video game industry, as so many have noted, is one of the largest entertainment industries in the world, last year (2003) making more money than the Hollywood film industry, $7 billion USD (http://theesa.com/pressroom.html). In the field of education, that video games have the capacity to capture and hold the attention of players of many different ages, and to "teach" new players the functions and controls of a new game with far greater alacrity, and to greater functional effect than schools teach comparably, and even far less complex, skills and knowledge, has not gone un-noticed. Working as we both do in faculties of education, our own studies of gender and computer game playing, examine questions of identity, access, and playful engagement with these technologies from the following premises: (1) As Henry Jenkins and others have argued for some time, far more boys than girls play computer/video games, and boys’ early and sustained exposure to and experience with gaming places them at an advantage with respect to computer competence and confidence when they enter and as they continue their schooling. (2) There is a tendency in the literature on girls/women and computer game playing to construct their gaming choices and play styles as distinctly, and essentially "female," characterizing those who choose to play as "liking collaboration," "non-violent" and "easy" computer games. Its worth noticing that the stranglehold these kinds of stereotypical and essentializing identifications and characterizations have had and continue to have on received wisdom, both popular and academic about gender and play interests, styles and preferences by no means originates with video game playing, but is indigenous to the culture of computing more generally, and that this gendered computer culture always already mediates girls’ interactions with those technologies, among which game playing is only the most recent subject of attention. Because computer-based media are now central tools for learning and work, and because games and simulations are increasingly being recruited as educational and instructional genres, it is likewise exceedingly important, from an educational equity standpoint to examine the ways in which rapidly evolving computer game-based learning initiatives threaten to compound and intensify girls’ computer disadvantage, a cumulative disentitlement from computer-based educational and occupational opportunities. In educational settings, the tendency has been to presume that technologies are "neutral" tools deployed by educators for ameliorative ends. Video and computer games, however, are far from neutral and we have seen little evidence of new educational gaming work being informed by attention to girls’ perspectives on gaming, their participation in and exclusion from game cultures, and an absence of theoretically adequate and empirically grounded studies of the kinds of games, characters, and overall approaches to ‘play’ that might better engage and involve girls. A case in point is Jim Gee’s recent book on learning in video games, in which he summarily dismisses "gender" from his own consideration of video games and learning. This dismissal is typically justified by reference to the recent proliferation of data from large-scale quantative research "studies" reporting that women are playing and buying at least as many computer and video games as men are, and in some cases, reporting that they play more often, not less. A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, for instance reported that 57 percent of female U.S. teenagers play on line, while another study on college gaming finds that "Surprising, slightly more women than men reported playing computer and online games (approximately 60% women compared to 40% men), with about the same number of men and women playing video games". This study goes on to explain that, "Part of the reason more women than men play computer games may be that video games are generally focused on action and adventure (often violent in nature), while computer games are typically traditional games (e.g. solitaire, board games)." In both of these studies, and indeed in all of the studies we’ve examined thus far, statistics like these are used to dismiss the question of gender and computer game playing from the outset (it is no longer a "problem" since so many more women are indicating that they are playing). Once gender has been excised as statistically in-significant, there is typically no further gender-based dis-aggregation of data, even when it might seem that statistically relevant distinctions should be made with respect to game preferences and time on the game (c.f. http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/research_documents/studi...), silencing in turn any follow-up research questions about whether and what women/girls are actually playing, and whether or how their engagement with game play is actually playful at all. In the initial empirical work that we will discuss in this paper, a study of girls and boys after-school video game playing clubs, we find no reason to believe, and in fact, many reasons to disbelieve the ways in which these large studies are reporting on game play, and good reasons for concern about what of significance is being actively obscured by them.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Presence experience in mobile gaming

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

Wireless mobile gaming is becoming more popular. A growing number of people play computer games with small-screen mobile devices such as handheld computers, mobile phones and handheld game consoles. One reason to the success of these devices is that they provide the opportunity to play games nearly everywhere. However, despite of the popularity of mobile gaming, quite little is known about the game experience when people use mobile devices. For example, it could be hypothesized that the game world is experienced as less engaging in mobile gaming. One important aspect of game experience is whether people feel themselves present in the game world. Presence is a psychological state in which the illusion of nonmediation is perceived, even though the person always knows that the experience is mediated. When a person feels present in the mediated environment, at some level, the person has the illusion that he/she is situated within the mediated environment, at some level, he/she knows that the experience is not real. In the present study participants played a rally game (Colin McRae RallyTM or V-RallyTM) either on a large or small screen. In the first case, the PC keyboard was used as an input device; in the latter case, the game was played on a handheld device. Fifty participants volunteered. The game session lasted for about ten minutes. After the session the participants filled out a couple of questionnaires. Presence was measured by the Independent Television Commission Sense of Presence Inventory (ITC-SOPI), which has been widely applied in presence research. The questionnaire consists of 43 items, and it measures three aspects of presence experience, spatial presence, attentional engagement and naturalness. Spatial presence means the degree to which the user feels that he/she is physically present in a mediated world. Engagement is related to the degree of physical involvement and to the degree of enjoyment people experience, for example, when playing a game. Naturalness means the tendency to perceive the mediated world as lifelike and real. Our results showed that spatial presence and naturalness scores were significantly higher for the large-screen condition at the significance level of 0.01. The effect of engagement, however, was only marginally significant. It was also found that younger participants experienced higher levels of presence than older ones. Also, those who had played the game earlier reported somewhat higher levels of presence. It is not very surprising that the participants experienced a higher sense of presence when the game was displayed on a large screen. What is more interesting is the fact that experiences of engagement differed to a lesser degree. It seems to be that playing on a mobile device can be quite engaging. Since there is not much possibility to increase the size of small screens, designers should think of alternative ways to make the game experience more immersive. One possibility is to develop multimodal interfaces for next-generation mobile game devices and improve their ability to present high-quality sound.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Legal and Organizational Issues in Collaborative User-Created Content

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

Introduction In this paper we look into issues that arise when people collaboratively create digital content and want to publicly distribute it. We identify and analyze the issues based on four case studies on amateur content production. In our analysis we discuss the issues both from the amateurs’ point of view, and also, from the game brand owners’ perspective. User-created content (UCC) in games has become popular as demonstrated by game-related skins, mods and extensions, screenshots, gameplay videos, game narratives, walk-throughs, websites, articles, fan art, as well as tools for creating the content. Often UCC is a collaborative activity where people share their expertise and skills, and the organization of groups into larger communities can even more advance the quality and distribution of the created material. Communities of amateur content creators can create an identity and a virtual location around their activity (e.g., a website), which can act as a publicity and distribution channel for the content, as well as a discussion forum, knowledge pool, and a place for socializing. However, as the collaborative work starts to gain popularity and move towards more professional production, legal and organizational issues arise that even amateur content creators should address. These issues include decisions on commercialization of the content creation activity, intellectual property rights within the content creators, the brand image of the content or the group, and managing the liability risks in content production. These issues can be critical for the existence of the content creation community, and are often largely ignored until they manifest themselves with negative consequences. Case Studies Two of the four cases in our study are computer game related: user-created fan websites for Habbo Hotel, and user-created game worlds for Neverwinter Nights. The other two cases are not directly game-related: a micro-movie producer community Blauereiter, and an electronic publication The Melrose Mirror. The last two examples were chosen to illustrate aspects arising from amateur media content production that may become more relevant for game-related UCC in the future. Habbo Hotel is a virtual meeting place on the Internet where the gamers can create their own characters, and a hotel room for their character where other characters can visit. Habbo Hotel is owned and developed by Sulake Inc, and it has 2,3 million users worldwide. Habbo Hotel has a devoted fan community that publishes their own fan web pages that are graphically and thematically similar to the Habbo Hotel. Currently Sulake is strongly controlling the contents of the fan sites by forcing the closing of unwanted fansites because of game brand and IPR issues. Neverwinter Nights is a commercial multi-player adventure game developed by BioWare Inc. The game includes a set of tools for gamers to create their own characters, adventures, and worlds. These user-created worlds are hosted by the creators themselves. For other people to play these worlds they must have the Neverwinter Nights game installed on their PC. BioWare has announced their plan to sell user-created game modules, hence opening questions about the commercialization of UCC. Blauereiter is community for discussing and distributing micromovies. Micromovies are short movies made especially for handheld devices with small screens. The community was established in Finland in 2002 to promote students’ micromovies and to have a knowledge sharing website. The website also has the community rules, where it is stated that the community manages the rights, marketing, and distribution of its members’ movies and potential profits. According to the rules the community makes decisions and changes relating to the rules. However, the rules or the website do not explicitly state what or who are the community, how can members affect the community decision making, or how potential revenues are distributed within the community. The Melrose Mirror is an electronic newspaper collaboratively published by a group of senior citizens in Massachusetts, USA. The community has been active since 1996, and has over the years collaboratively produced several thousands of articles and images about the history and current life in Melrose, as well as personal opinions and stories of the authors. The editorial staff, which consists of a sub-group of all contributors, selects the articles and pictures for publication. However, the group has not decided to formally organize their own activity. The members have decided that the opinions in the publication strictly reflect the views of the individual creators, and the copyrights to the material belong to the individual contributors. The decisions regarding issues such as advertising on the website, usage of computers, and opinions about the website content are debated in the group meetings. Conclusions From the case studies we identified and analyzed the issues these particular examples had in creating and publishing user-created content. Two of the communities had a direct relation to commercial stakeholders and their brands and technology. In the other two communities the media was created independent of direct third party connections. Based on these cases we argue that the main legal issues and concerns in collaborative creation of content are decision making and liability. The decision making issues can be further identified as the distribution of potential revenues, deciding on a licensing policy for the content, and the re-publication of content. The liability issues can be specified as infringement of intellectual property rights (i.e., copyrights, patents, and trademarks), publication of illegal material (i.e., defamatory or racist material, child pornography), and the distribution of technically damaging content (i.e., computer viruses). The liability issues are relevant irrespective whether the act is intentional or not. These issues are especially significant if the created content has commercial value, but the issues must be addressed also in non-profit creation and distribution. Based on the identification and analysis we discuss the solutions that legal systems provide to these issues. Mainly, we look into traditional forms of organization, such as corporation, association, and trust, and discuss how these different legal forms of organizations could be applied to collaborative content creation. We also discuss what further issues arise in applying these legal forms of organization into a novel way of global collaboration using digital technology.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Research as Design-Design as Research

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

This paper details a research methodology which enables inquiry into the activity of game design. The methodology, Research as Design-Design as Research (RADDAR) was successfully developed, legitimated, applied and ultimately evaluated, through thesis examination, as part of my doctoral study where I investigated relationships between game design and learning. The structure of the paper essentially follows the sequential progression of the methodology as it emerged during my inquiry. Issues such as legitimation, implementation, judgment criteria, and possible implications of the methodology for design are discussed. It is my view that presenting the methodology in terms of its progression, could assist others in developing a sense of the genesis and evolution of the methodology, recognize its evaluation criteria, and ultimately adopt RADDAR, as a form of interpretive inquiry, as a means for their own investigations into game design practice. The paper begins by first exploring notions of design and game design. In particular, I present a view of design that focuses on the activity of designing, rather than on the product. As a result, the methodology being sought is one which aims at inquiring into human action, rather than a means for analyzing products. By outlining the nature of design, a particular context for inquiry is defined, one which suggests particular types of data and knowledge that need to be included within design inquiry. The question, then, is to determine what form of inquiry best suits investigation into design practice. By drawing from a paper by Swann (1999), I present action research–a form of interpretive research–as being an appropriate methodology for inquiry into design practice. Further, by comparing the activity of designing with action research, I outline how design itself can be understood as a form of action research, along with the key features of such research. Fourth Generation Evaluation (Guba and Lincoln 1989), the methodology of constructivist inquiry, is presented as an appropriate research methodology that could enable inquiry into the activity of game design. Although it can be regarded as a ‘ready-to-use’ methodology in itself, I explain how I reconceptualized and modified fourth generation evaluation to become more sympathetic to the context of design activity. Further, I outline the evaluation criteria used to measure the quality of inquiry. A key moment in the evolution of the methodology was that of synthesis when the whole–the combination of the notion of design as research and fourth generation evaluation–became greater than the sum of the parts. During this time I came to understand design and research as entwined and inseparable, where research process has emergent design and the design process is one of research. This ultimately led to the term research as design-design as research and the acronym RADDAR. RADDAR, as a qualitative research methodology, is effectively an ‘open-source’ methodology as it allows for the inclusion of a variety of research methods, both qualitative and quantitative. Further, the methodology offers particular epistemological and ontological implications for design practice.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

CameraBots: Cinematography for Games with Non-Player Characters as Camera Operators

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

Cinematography can be defined as the art of film making [1]. Among other things, it describes principles and techniques pertaining to the effective use of cameras to film live action. The correct application of these principles and techniques produces filmed content that is more engaging, compelling and absorbing for the viewer. 3D computer games employ virtual cameras in order to provide the player with an appropriate view of the game world. These virtual cameras can simulate all of the functionality of their real-world counterparts yet little effort is usually made to incorporate cinematographic techniques and principles into their operation. Typically, severe constraints are placed on the positioning of these cameras: for example a third-person camera is positioned at a fixed distance behind the player’s avatar (the character that the player controls), and a first person camera directly simulates the avatar’s viewpoint. The exception to this is the case of non-interactive cut-scenes where more sophisticated camera work is common. In this paper we describe our work on enabling the virtual camera in a 3D computer game to employ principles from cinematography throughout the game play. The successful employment of this approach can result in a more dramatic and compelling experience as the full arsenal of cinematic camera operations, such as close-ups, pans, tilts, zooms and so on, are potentially available. Cinematography provides guidelines as to how these can be used in order to make the viewer more engrossed in the action [5], and also advises how to employ consistent camera work to prevent the viewer from becoming disoriented, a common occurrence with current configurations in games. Certain camera angles or movements can be used to inform the viewer about imminent events (e.g. the camera may focus on a door when a person is about to walk through it) or to help them interpret the events on the screen. Conversely, for dramatic effect, certain events or parts of a scene can be hidden from view until the appropriate time. Cinematography achieves much of its effect by making appropriate cuts between different camera positions at the correct instances [1]. This presents an immediate problem as games typically rely on a single virtual camera and therefore it is not possible to make cuts. We solve this problem by introducing multiple cameras controlled by CameraBots, autonomous agents within a game whose role it is to film the action in much the same way that real camera operators do on a film set. These CameraBots are closely modelled on the existing Non-Player Characters (NPCs) [2, 3, 4, 6] found in most game engines. They can navigate around the game world but do not participate in the action, and hence are not rendered onscreen. Multiple CameraBots will typically be active at any instant during the gameplay, and the system can thus cut between the views that they provide. We describe five classes of CameraBot, each of which employs guidelines from cinematography in order to orient and position itself to accomplish a particular type of shot. The EstablishingCBot is designed to provide establishing shots for a particular scene. This involves filming from a sufficient distance and appropriate angle such that a good proportion of it and the characters in it are visible [5]. It is often used when the action moves to a new setting. The CharacterCBot shoots character shots which frame one or more characters. The CloseUpCBot shoots closer and more dramatic shots of a single character. The FirstPersonCBot films through the avatar’s eyes, as employed in first-person shooter games, and is used when the player requires close control and accuracy. The OTSCBot provides over-the-shoulder shots that follow the avatar when moving. In practice this means the bot is positioned directly behind the avatar and gives a good general view of what’s ahead and where the avatar is positioned in the setting. The CameraBots have various parameters which can be used to specify which events to film (or for the CharacterCBot and CloseUpCBot which characters to film) and what style, e.g. steady or hand-held, to use. In our implementation we are using the existing code that drives NPCs in the Quake II game engine to create our CameraBots. This provides us with an established method of adding artificially intelligent characters to a game and so we can harness functionality already present. In order to coordinate the CameraBots such that guidelines for shooting different types of scenes may be employed, we introduce two additional entities, the Director module and the Cinematographer module. The Director continually examines the game and uses criteria informed by cinematography to decide what action is to be filmed. These include whether or not the action being examined relates to the avatar (the protagonist from a cinematic point-of-view) and how much character interaction is occurring relative to that in other parts of the game. The Cinematographer examines the selected action and chooses a suitable method to use to film it. The Director may provide input into the choice of method. The role of the Cinematographer then involves introducing and removing CameraBots, telling them what to film, and cutting between the resultant views at the appropriate time. Of great importance is that the camera work produced does not prevent the game player from carrying out required tasks. We incorporate task specific information into our camera system to ensure this does not occur. We also consider providing views to game spectators in addition to players. In this instance it is possible to employ more concepts from cinematography since task-relevant views are not required. References 1. Brown, B. (2002). Cinematography: Image Making for Cinematographers, Directors and Videographers. Oxford: Focal. 2. Fairclough, C., Fagan, M., Mac Namee, B. and Cunningham, P. (2001). Research Directions for AI in Computer Games. Proceedings of the Twelfth Irish Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science pp. 333 – 344, 2001. 3. Laird, J.E. and Duchi, J.C. (2000). Creating Human-Like Synthetic Characters with Multiple Skill Levels: A Case Study Using the Soar Quakebot. AAAI tech. report, SS-00-03, AAAI Press, Menlo Park, Calif., 2000. 4. Laird, J. E. (2000). It Knows What You’re Going To Do: Adding anticipation to a QuakeBot. AAAI 2000 Spring Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Entertainment. AAAI Technical Report SS00–02. Menlo Park, CA: AAAI Press. 5. Mascelli, J. V. (1965). The Five C’s of Cinematography. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press. 6. Reynolds, C. (1999). Steering Behaviors For Autonomous Characters. Game Developers Conference 1999.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Enhancing player experience in MMORPGs with mobile features

Date created: 
2005-04-15
Abstract: 

In this paper, we explore how current MMORPGs (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games) can use mobile phones in order to enhance player experience. We identify five different categories of how this can be done, and review our findings with MMORPG developers. This is continuing research, and we are working in IPERG [1] (Integrated Project of Pervasive Games) project with our partners on creating prototypes that will demonstrate some of these issues. There are several signs that in the near future the virtual worlds of MMORPGs can be accessed in ways other than with a PC or console platform. Currently, some MMORPGs have been ported to mobile phones, but mobile players and PC players have not yet shared a common game world and there has been no possible interaction between players who are playing on different platforms. Some MMORPGs have enabled accessing in-game chat with a mobile or separate web browser client and even enabled alerts for certain game events. Gordon Walton of Sony Online Entertainment argued in his speech in Game Developers Conference 2004 that one of the requirements for the future MMORPGs is that they need to support mobility [2]. When mobile phones are used for enhancing MMORPGs that are normally played on a PC, we need to consider what makes the mobile phone a good device for doing this: First of all, the mobile phone is a device that people use for communicating and socializing with each other; Secondly, the mobile phone is always with the player and it is always connected to the wireless network so it can be used for increasing pervasiveness of a game; And lastly, the real-life context, for instance location, of a mobile player can be used for creating interesting gameplay. There are also several challenges [3], of which latency and problems with inputting and outputting text or graphical information are the most important ones when considering game design. Our categorization is based on how the player can interact with or influence the virtual game world, and other players, by using his mobile phone. The categories we have identified are: Communication, Management and setting-up, Synchronous player-to-player interaction in MMORPG world, Server push, and Passive participation. These categories are explained in the following text. Enabling communication in the same game world is rather easy to implement since it does not necessarily require any changes to game mechanics or story. Players of Anarchy Online and Dark Age of Camelot can access in-game chat when not logged into the game with the PC game client. Communication does not need to be limited to chat only: things like enabling players to view game forums or getting news or community messages from the game to their mobile phones would allow the players to participate in community even when they cannot access their PC. It can be argued though if this is necessarily a good thing for a player, and players definitely need to have tools for controlling when they can be contacted. In some cases, using voice rather than text on mobile platform makes sense since mobile phone is not ideal for typing or reading text. Also, if the player is on move and needs his eyes for viewing his real-life environment, using voice instead of text can be a better option. Enabling management and set-up tasks on the mobile phone allows players to access their MMORPG game world in a way that does not require real-time communication with the game server. However, these tasks need to be implemented in a way that the client application is never trusted [4] in order to prevent exploiting the game. These tasks can range from setting up one’s equipment to adding new items for sale in one’s in-game shop. Synchronous player-to-player interaction in MMORPG world is the most difficult one of these categories to implement since it often requires changing the game mechanics or story. Players who use different platforms for playing the same game need also to be equal, and this means that the gameplay cannot be the same on a mobile platform and a typical PC MMORPG that requires real-time actions. Latency in the mobile networks is simply too high and irregular and it continues to be so in third generation mobile networks [5]. However, we show in our paper that there are several ways of enabling interaction between mobile players and PC players. For instance, mobile players can control autonomous intelligent agents with indirect control, play the game with their persistent game character in a different kind of game mode, player’s location can be used for creating events or objects in the game world. By Server push we mean that player can be contacted by the game anywhere and anytime. For instance, the game can send an alert to the player if there is a certain kind of change in the game state or NPCs (Non-Player Characters) can contact the player when he is not playing the game. To some players, this can feel too intrusive, and players need to be able to control their availability. However, MMORPGs are to many players more like a life style than just a game – average players are reported to play these games 10-40 hours in week [6] – and for these kinds of players increased pervasiveness can be beneficial. If it really is, is an important topic for further research. Our last category is Passive participation. By this we mean that the player can observe the game world or influence the game by voting or rating with his mobile phone. Allowing observation can be also used for promoting the game if people who are not yet players of that game are allowed to observe. The identified strengths of the mobile phone are used in all of these categories. Communication and socialization features are used mostly in our Communication category. The pervasiveness of the mobile phone is used in especially in Server Push category but also in all of the other categories. Context sensitivity of the mobile phone is utilized in Synchronous player-to-player interaction in MMORPG world category. Footnotes: [1] http://iperg.sics.se/ [2] http://www.gdconf.com/archives/2004/walton_gordon.ppt [3] e.g. http://www.gamasutra.com/resource_guide/20030916/palm_01.shtml [4] Jessica Mulligan and Bridgette Patrovsky: Developing Online Games. New Riders 2003. [5] e.g. http://www.cs.tut.fi/~lina/palm_koivisto.pdf [6] http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/000758.php

Document type: 
Conference presentation