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

Receive updates for this collection

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

Studying Games in School: learning and teaching about game design, play and culture

Date created: 
2005-04-15
Abstract: 

In this paper, we will present findings from the first twelve months of a research and development project called ‘Making Games’, which is developing a software tool to enable 11-14 year olds create their own 3D computer games using object-oriented programming. The project is a collaboration between the Centre for the Study of Children, Youth and Media (University of London) and Immersive Education, a software development company set up by Elixir Studios and Math Engine. Over a three-year period, Immersive is releasing successive prototypes of a game authoring tool, which researchers are taking into schools and summer camps to research its design, uses and benefits. The research is investigating how game design can be taught and learned, and whether the concept of ‘literacy’ can be extended to the analysis (reading) and production (writing) of computer games. This develops the recent emphasis in education on digital and media literacies (Buckingham 2002, 2003; Kress 2003). In particular, we are interested in the benefits such a literacy might offer girls, as well as young people with print literacy difficulties. The paper will focus on two questions. Firstly, what are the components of ‘game literacy’? The term ‘literacy’ is traditionally used only in relation to print. However, in recent years it has been extended to apply to the different forms of competence that are required by a range of communicational and representational media, including print, visual images and sound among others. Communication has always taken place through these different modes, but in the wake of new information technologies, traditional definitions of literacy have been widened to encompass not only print-based media but also multimodal forms of expression. The notion of ‘game literacy’ extend this, by attempting to identify how meaning is created within the specific medium of games. It includes elements of signification that relate to all or most media, such as aspects of narrative, mode of address and representation; but it also incorporates elements that are specific to games and game systems, such as rules, goals, economies, exploration and conditionality. Our second question relates to how game literacy is taught and learned. Being able to read and write game texts is the result of pedagogic processes. In this paper, we will briefly present the approach we took to teaching game design in three sites: a media studies classroom in a mixed comprehensive school; an after-school club in a girls’ comprehensive school; and a summer camp. In each site, the approach we took to researching and teaching ‘game literacy’ differed. In the classroom, we used an established model within media studies that involves analysing media as social and cultural phenomena. We adapted an approach often taken to the analysis of film and TV in schools and focused on the experiential dimension of gaming, discussing issues relating to representation, identification, narrative structure, genre, marketing, and audience pleasures. In the after-school club, we focused more tightly on game design as a design practice, starting with board games and then moving on to computer games. This pedagogical approach encouraged students to view design as an enjoyable activity, on a par with playing games, and allowed us to develop an understanding of both the kinds of practices and areas of knowledge that might encompass game literacy. In the summer camp, game playing and game design were much more closely intertwined, allowing us to research how production might fit into young people’s wider gaming culture. The paper will comment on the pedagogical strategies that we deployed in each context and offer reflections on the different manifestations which ‘game literacy’ might take. In particular, we will examine the place of gender in learning and teaching game design. The significance of gender differed across our three sites of research as well as across time within each site, emphasising the need to view gender not simply as socially constructed but also as a form of social action intended to achieve certain ends within specific situations. Judith Butler’s notion of gender as grounded in language and enacted as a performance is useful here and particularly relevant to identifying the relation between gender and literacy (Butler, 1999). Our argument is in part constructed as a reflection on and response to Kafai’s research on gender and young people’s game design (Kafai 1996, 2000). The kinds of gaming knowledge which students chose to display in their game designs, and in particular the way they interpret genre conventions, relates not only to their experience of games but also to how they are positioned, and want to position themselves, in relation to the interpersonal context of design as well as the wider gaming culture and fan community. In our research, gender is not associated with a set of stable preferences or competences, but is rather performed to maintain a certain level of authority and a certain kind of relation to others within a specific pedagogic context. The presentation will include a demonstration of the prototype game authoring tool, as well as some of the games that young people have built within it. The authoring environment is based on some of the same principles as a level editor, but allows greater flexibility in terms of design and game play. Users select from a range of objects (such as environments, decorative objects, pick-up objects, triggers, etc), assign properties to them (for example, this key unlocks this door; the inventory has X number of slots; reaching point X earns the player Y number of points) and order them within the game space according to the rules of their game. By the time of the DIGRA conference, we will be half way through the development schedule; the prototype will therefore include only s fraction of the functions we hope to include in the final product. However, it will enable us to illustrate our approach to teaching game design, which aims to allow users design their own rules within certain genres (action, adventure and role-playing) as well as deploy and create a broad range of representations. References Buckingham, D. (2003) Media Education: literacy, learning and contemporary culture. Cambridge: Polity Press. Buckingham, D. (2002) 'The electronic generation? Children and new media' in Lievrouw, L.A. and Livingstone, S. (eds.) Handbook of New Media. London: Sage. Butler, J (1999) Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. London: Routledge Kafai, Y. (1996) 'Gender differences in children's constructions of video games' in Greenfield, P.M. and Cocking, R.R. (eds.) Interacting with video. Norwood NJ: Ablex. Kafai, Y.B. (2000) 'Video game designs by girls and boys: variability and consistency of gender differences' in Cassell, J. and Jenkins, H. (eds.) From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games. Cambridge: MIT press. Kress, G. (2003) Literacy in the New Media Age. London: Routledge.

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

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