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

Receive updates for this collection

Designing Puzzles for Collaborative Gaming Experience – CASE: eScape

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

Digital games are essentially about fun, challenge and entertainment. With the increasing number of games-literate people, society is slowly learning to harness this technology for other than mainstream market exploitation, thus, driving game design into unexplored territories. Nevertheless, when observing the selection of contemporary commercial games, there seems to be little diversity in the type and forms of gameplay. There is an oversupply of competition, destruction, solo-heroism and personal sandboxes. One of the less ventured areas is games that are designed for collaboration. This paper examines the issues of puzzle or challenge design (Rollings & Adams, 2003) in the context of collaborative gaming. Questions like ‘How to create meaningful puzzles requiring collaboration?’, ‘Is there life beyond trial and error?’, and "How far game developers can go with collaboration design?’ are of relevance. The questions are approached from the game design point-of-view, while the application domain is within the thematic setting of learning and group dynamics. Games are intrinsically instruments for learning, which can be, and have been, adopted for collaboration. In many computer games players learn lessons that can be applied to other aspects of their life. Many players thrive on and long for the challenges games provide, and are enriched by the learning that follows (Rouse, 2000). Games do not just entail having participants in virtual surroundings. Instead, they offer meaningful and motivated actions for the players, which, in turn, enhance the potential for collaboration (Baker et al., 2002). The case study illustrated in this paper includes an experimental game design, eScape (2003), which has been constructed as a total conversion modification for Unreal Tournament 2003. In order to harness the potential of multi-disciplinary expertise, the design of eScape was supported by collaboration between the Universities of Oulu (LudoCraft Game Design and Research Unit and Educational Technology Research Unit) and Jyväskylä (Institute for Educational Research). Educational experts provided a set of pedagogical concepts, such as, negotiation, conflict, shared understanding, common goals, and group forming. These acted as objective phenomena to be pursued by game design. Game design and development knowledge was applied into learning context without compromising either the factor of fun or the requirement for purposeful learning. Traditional pitfalls of edutainment were avoided by finding a fruitful combination of a game system and a learning environment. eScape is a 4-player collaborative game, which can be defined as social action adventure especially targeted for novice players. The high concept of the game is an escape story where the group of players has to solve a set of problems, or puzzles, in order to flee from the ancient prison colony. The puzzles are designed in a way that the effort, commitment and actions of every participant are required for successful completion. In addition to visual and non-verbal in-game interaction, the player-to-player communication is supported by voice-over-IP speech system, which allows free dialogue. Rich interaction is enabled in a way which is as intuitive and non-intrusive for the players as possible. The choices, manoeuvres and other interaction features are simple enough to be used by non-gaming community. A special laboratory environment was constructed so as to capture all the required data during the experimental game sessions. The multiplayer nature of eScape required extensive data collection arrangements because every player’s actions had to be recorded. In order not to compromise the research setting, the players were physically isolated from each other by wall sections. These cubicles were arranged in a way that the players were not disturbed from outside the game world. This made it possible to have a multitude of data recording devices and personnel within the set, while the players were experiencing realistic computer-mediated collaboration. The eScape empirical experiment was organised with the participation of six groups of four test players chosen from the non-gaming community. On the first day the players were given a brief training session in the game tutorial. On the second day they played the game, immediately followed by a stimulated recall interview. Data were gathered using several methods: background information questionnaires, video feed from each of the players (over-the-shoulder view), combined views from all the four players (over-the-shoulder views), video feed from a virtual camera (in-game), audio recording of spoken dialogue, demo recording within the game platform (enables free camera movements during playback), stimulated recall interviews, and the players’ personal notes. The analysis of player collaboration in puzzle solving was conducted by studying the perceivable interaction forms (Manninen, 2003) that were evident in dialogue transcripts and in-game video recordings. Based on this analysis the implications for puzzle design were further evaluated against the proposed puzzle design framework. The main challenge was the design of motivationally guided, logical and challenging puzzles that would require true collaboration. In order to avoid ending up with trivial, non-motivational and/or frustrating activities, the theoretical and practical expertise of game design was utilised. However, since there are relatively few occurrences of truly collaborative games in the entertainment sector, the theories behind eScape involved a combination of game design, virtual environments, collaborative work and education. The study revealed encouraging results on the possibilities of designing puzzles for collaboration but some dangers were also identified. The design produced relatively simplistic and secure puzzles, which enabled safe trial-and-error procedures. Higher level of collaboration could be supported by increasing the pressure, risk levels and/or creativity in the design for collaboration. When players acquire a concrete feel for beneficial, or purely enjoyable, collaboration, they will naturally engage such strategies. The main limitation of the eScape, and one possible reason for the lack of higher level collaboration, was the shortage of supported collaborative construction. The explicit construction process provides endless representational variations for the participants to express themselves. Combined with collaborative challenge, the participants can creatively enrich each other's experiences. For example, the findings indicate that the participants found highly innovative ways in overcoming the obstacles – sometimes even exceeding the boundaries set by the designers. In comparison to destructive features evident in contemporary games, the constructive features, while difficult to design, offer a higher range of possibilities. Sample References Baker, K., Greenberg, S. and Gutwin, C. (2002). Empirical development of a heuristic evaluation methodology for shared workspace groupware. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, ACM Press. eScape – Electronically Shared Collaborative and Pedagogical Experiment (2003). LudoCraft Game Design and Research Unit, University of Oulu. [online] [cited 30 November 2004]. Available from: http://ludocraft.oulu.fi/escape/ Manninen, T. (2003). Interaction Forms and Communicative Actions in Multiplayer Games. In Game Studies, The International Journal of Computer Game Research 3(1). Rollings, Andrew & Adams, Ernest (2003) Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. New Riders, p. 500 Rouse, R. (2000). Game Design: Theory & Practice. Wordware Publishing, Inc., Plano, Texas. Salem K. & Zimmerman E. (2004). Rules of Play – Game Design Fundamentals. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Configuring the player - subversive behaviour in Project Entropia

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

Configuring the player –subversive behaviour in Project Entropia Peter Jakobsson, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden Daniel Pargman, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden This paper presents a theoretical framework from the field of Science & Technology Studies (STS) as a way of studying virtual worlds and employs the framework to study one such world, Project Entropia. In doing so, we explore the social and cultural implications of technology through the users’ reactions to what some of them may experience as an unfair or even oppressive system. Using the metaphor of the game as a text or script highlights the interpretative flexibility of technology. This gives the user a part in the co-construction of the game. The market for Massively Multiplayer online games has grown rapidly over the last years. Most games employ a subscription-based business model where players pay a monthly fee, usually between 10 and 15 US$. A Swedish company, MindArk, has however set out with a completely different business strategy. Their software is free to download and usage does not incur any monthly costs. But, you are probably better off if you load up with some local currency – PEDs – before you start to play. MindArk is not in the charity business and they aim for your wallet, only they have another way of going at it. For the average player, a visit to Project Entropia’s virtual world Calypso is bound to set them back in terms of PEDs (Project Entropia Dollars) but they can always acquire more. The price is however what MindArk charges for their very own homemade currency – currently 1 US$ for 10 PEDs. Project Entropia in a sense works the same way a lottery or a casino does – dollars are redistributed among the players but some of those dollars are skimmed off and stay with the bank (MindArk). Instead of the thrill at the casino table, a Project Entropia player can experience the thrill of a virtual world that to a certain extent (at least in terms of economic consequences) is for real. Lurking in the background is the promise (e.g. possibility) of getting rich for real. If you manage to make money in Project Entropia, you are free to transfer your surplus PEDs back into US$. This set-up is practically guaranteed to have interesting (and controversial) consequences. This far and in contrast to many other online games such as for example Everquest (Castronova 2001, Jakobsson & Taylor 2003, Delwiche 2003), not much has been written about Project Entropia beyond a Master’s thesis about the legal implications of the game (Damgaard 2002). This paper is the result of an ethnographic study conducted among the inhabitants of planet Calypso. The study has been complemented by also looking at Calypso’s surroundings, e.g. fan sites and various web forums on the Internet. Following the work of Bruno Latour (1992), Project Entropia is not viewed primarily as a game but as an open-ended setting containing both human and non-human actors. That is, the study is not limited to the players but also includes Calypso’s large population of bots (Leonard 1997) and non-human actors (at an analytical level we do here not discriminate between these types of actors). The paper is more specifically concerned with two questions; 1) what strategies do MindArk use to get the players to subscribe to their notion of what the game is and how it should be played and 2) to what degree and how do players subscribe to or resist/subvert that notion? The first question makes use of Akrich and Latour’s (1992) terminology where they categorize users’ responses to a setting as either subscription or de-inscription. The result of the process through which the designer, or the author of the setting prescribes/allows certain usages and discourages/disallows other usages is called a script. The Project Entropia script can be studied in many different ways such as looking at the games manuals, marketing material, software interface, gameplay, version updates and game world (see also Oudshoorn and Pinch 2003, Sumerton 2004, Woolgar 1991). It is crucial that the players subscribe to MindArk’s basic notions of "what the game is about" for their business model to work. As to the second question, it is through the players’ actions, and particularly through their resistance to the values expressed in the setting that the taken-for-granted inscriptions, or biases (Friedman and Nissenbaum 1997) of the setting are revealed. We will therefore describe different strategies that players deploy to negotiate the meaning, or de-inscribe the setting of the game. Some of these strategies take place within the game (e.g. exploring, exploiting and scamming) and some take place outside (e.g. on web pages, forums). These two questions can be seen as an example of O’Day et. al.’s (1996) social-technical design circle but with the added complexity of a layer of political implications (as noted by Curtis (1998) in relation to text-based worlds and by Taylor (2004) in relation to graphical online worlds). Although most players subscribe to MindArk’s notion of what the game is and how it should be played, some players clearly operate as "cultural terrorists" who through their deeds resist/subvert the harsh economic reality of this virtual reality. Within the game they have to make-do with the restricted set of tools (de Certeau 1984) that the world lends them. Outside of the game they have a larger collection of tools. Both sets are often used in ingenious ways. That is, while being a nuisance to MindArk, such players show a considerable degree of creativity as they borrow aspects of Lévi-Strauss’ bricoleur (1966) or tinkerer who "make do with ‘whatever is at hand’ " (p.16) and who engage in "reflective manipulation of a set of resources accumulated through experience" (Orr 1990, p.184). As MindArk ultimately control all in-game space, any successful in-game tactic of resistance/subversion can be successful only until MindArk changes the fundamental conditions of the game (typically through the monthly software updates but also with the help of web-pages and through alliances with different player groups). Players can however use strategies that promise to be more successful outside the game (outside of MindArk’s direct jurisdiction). These are further described in the full paper. References: Akrich, M, and Latour, B, (1992). A summary of a convenient vocabulary for the semiotics of human and nonhuman assemblies in W. E. Bijker and J. Law (eds.) Shaping technology/building society: Studies in socio-technical change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Castronova, E (2001), Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier. CESifo Working Paper Series No. 618. Curtis, P (1998). Not just a game, How LambdaMoo came to exist and what it did to get back at me in Haynes, C, Holmevik, J. R (eds.), High wired: on the design, use, and theory of educational MOOs. University of Michigan Press. Damgaard, I (2002). Legal Implications of the Project Entropia: Conducting Business in Virtual Worlds. Master’s thesis, Gothenburg School of economics and commercial law. Delwiche, A (2003). MMORPG’s in the College Classroom. The State of Play: Law, Games and Virtual Worlds. New York Law School. de Certeau , M (1984). The practice of everyday life. Berkeley, University of California Press. Friedman, B. and Nissenbaum, H. (1997). Bias in computer systems in B. Friedman (ed), Human values and the design of computer technology, Cambridge University Press, New York. Jakobsson, M. and T. L. Taylor (2003). The Sopranos Meets EverQuest: Social Networking in Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Digital Arts and Culture Conference Proceedings. Melbourne, Australia. http://www.fineartforum.org/Backissues/Vol_17/faf_v17_n08/reviews/jakobs... Latour, B (1992). Where are the missing masses? The sociology of a few mundane artifacts in W. E. Bijker and J. Law (eds.) Shaping technology/building society: Studies in socio-technical change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Lévi-Strauss, C (1966). The savage mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Leonard, A (1997). Bots: the origin of new species. Penguin Books, New York. O´day, V. L, et al. (1996). The Social-Technical Design Circle. Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work ´96, Cambridge MA USA. Orr, J (1990). Sharing knowledge, celebrating identity: Community memory in a service culture. In D. Middleton and D. Edwards (eds.), Collective remembering. London: Sage. Oudshoorn, N., and T. Pinch, 2003. How users and non-users matter in N. Oudshoorn and T. Pinch (eds.) How users matter: The co-construction of users and technology, 1-29. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Sumerton, J (2004). Do Electrons Have Politics? Constructing User Identities in Swedish Electricity in Science, Technology & Human Values, Vol. 29, No. 4, 486-511. Taylor, T.L (2004). The social design of virtual worlds: constructing the user and community through code in Consalvo, M, et. al. (eds.), Internet research annual volume 1: selected papers from the association of Internet researchers conferences 2000-2002. New York: Peter Lang. Woolgar, S (1991). Configuring the user: the case of usability trials in Law, John (ed.), A sociology of monsters: Essays on power, technology and domination, Routledge, London.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Narrative Structure in Trans-Reality Role-Playing Games: Integrating Story Construction from Live Action, Table Top and Computer-Based Role-Playing Games

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

Thematic Areas: Under Development, Theoretical Perspectives, History and Typology of Games, Design and Game Architectures, Game Aesthetics and Storytelling 1000 Word Abstract: Trans-reality games are games combining virtual gaming with game experiences staged and played in physical environments. Mobile, ubiquitous and pervasive gaming technologies provide a facilitating infrastructure for trans-reality games. The technical infrastructure must integrate physical game elements with virtual game elements, ideally allowing game play and components to move as "seamlessly" as possible through these spaces as parts of a single coherent game world. This means the preservation of the sense of identity of game objects through their manifestation in different physical and virtual realities, the propagation of the significance of game actions and events through these realities, and game mechanics that weave those events into a coherent game concept. The development of design principles and methodologies for trans-reality games requires a model of the relationships between the functional roles of players and technologies, how these vary with different game staging and scenarios, and how these variations can be integrated within games that involve different modes of physical, virtual and mixed reality game play. In the case of trans-reality role-playing games (TRRPGs) these questions extend to issues of characterization and story construction. The concept of a TRRPG extends and evolves existing role-playing game (RPG) forms including table-top (TTRPG), live-action (LARP), computer-based, and especially massively multiplayer on-line (MMORPG), RPGs. A game system consisting of core rules and basic models for such things as characters and objects, their features and capabilities, combat, economics and trading, can often be used across all of these different contexts. However, despite this trans-mediality of the game system, the experience of characterization and narrative depth among different RPG forms is fundamentally different, largely due to radically different modes of story construction among the different forms. Previous work has analysed the relationships between simulation, game play and narrativity in computer games (see Aarseth, 1997, Frasca, 2001, and Lindley, 2003). These distinctions can be generalized into a model of the structure of all RPG forms, including table-top and live-action RPGs. The simulation level generalizes to a simulation/realization level providing a world within which game and story experiences take place. The game world may be realized with a literal representation (the game space stands for itself), synthetic or fictional representation (the world is realized symbolically), or some hybrid of literal and synthetic elements. The simulation level also includes foundations for realizing a range of possible literal or symbolic actions. This is the lowest level of temporal design in a ludic system upon which is superimposed a game level that includes rules specifying actions constituting valid game moves together with objectives for players to achieve by the performance of game moves. The time structure of each move requires a higher level of design than the simulation/realization level. However, the potential for players to choose moves results in a very loosely predefined time structure above the level of moves within the design of a game. Above the level of game moves, narrative is perceived when an experience in time has an overall shape conforming to a specific narrative pattern, such as the three-act restorative structure. This is the highest level of predefined time structure. In general a narrative is a representation of events. In computer games this often has the form of a filmic story told by cut scenes and framing the play experience (performance of moves) at a high level. Structural theories of textual and verbal narrative posit a generative substrate (a cultural space of possible stories) underlying the diegesis or specific objects and events of a particular narrative. The diegesis and its events constitute a story. The selection and presentation of elements of the story, with expressive variations of emphasis, constitute a plot. The plot is expressed in an act of telling, ie. a particular narrative. The available text is the narrative, while the other layers of meaning are inferred from the text and its relationship with other texts. Considering narrative construction and encoding within RPGs reveals very different relationships to this model. A TTRPG may be based upon published game worlds, scenarios and systems including elements of classic textual narrative. This provides the foundation for a game master and group of players to improvise a new (primarily verbal) narrative through the unfolding play sessions of a TTRPG campaign. Improvisation involves assembling sequences of fictive blocks, basic fragments or units of fictional/narrative significance that may be strung together to form a higher level narrative (Mackay, 2001). The fictive blocks include moves and text provided by the game system together with those drawn from the players’ imaginations and experiences. A computer-based MMORPG, however, provides players with a finite and fixed set of possible moves, together with the media foundation for realising moves as audiovisual and simulation events. Hence the MMORPG player generally chooses from predefined fictive blocks, supplemented by textual interaction with other players via chat facilities. This is a severely constrained improvisational freedom compared with the other RPG forms; the computer RPG removes much of the space for individual interpretation and imaginative elaboration by providing very explicit visualisations together with very limited options for improvisation. Collaborative story formation in LARPs is different again. While a TTRPG collaboratively produces a collective text upon which individual acts of imagination build, a LARP consists of a kind of performative multitext; there is no central social representation (or narrative), and there is a different story for each player, none occupying a privileged position as keeper of a primary story. The LARP setting may vary in its diegetic freedom between that of a MMORPG and that of a TTRPG, depending upon the literalness of representation of its setting, costumes, props and performances. LARP performances have the full advantage of all avenues of direct, face-to-face human communication, leading to the possibility of the highest levels of immersive and emotional experience. A trans-reality RPG (TRRPG) must integrate the different narrative modalities of RPG forms into a coherent overall system. This requires a careful mapping of player roles and technical mechanisms onto narrative functions in ways that preserve or enhance the strengths of the different play modalities involved, and ideally feed the results of play from their strong modalities into the other modes to enrich the overall TRRPG experience. REFERENCES Aarseth E. J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, The Johns Hoplins University Press, 1997. Frasca G. Videogames of the Oppressed – Videogames as a Means for Critical Thinking and Debate, Masters Thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2001. Lindley C. A. 2003 "Game Taxonomies: A High Level Framework for Game Analysis and Design", Gamasutra feature article, 3 October 2003, http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20031003/lindley_01.shtml. Mackay D. 2001 The Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A New Performing Art, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Who owns my avatar? - Rights in virtual property

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

This paper presents a framework for discussing issues of ownership in connection to virtual worlds. We explore how divergent interests in virtual property can be mediated by applying a constructivist perspective to ownership. Virtual property is an important area of study for at least two reasons: First, the virtual trade has far-reaching consequences in the real world, including extensive economical consequences. Second, there is no agreement and no established practice regarding rights to virtual objects. Virtual worlds, where hundreds of thousands of people engage in thrilling scenarios, are a relatively new arena for social intercourse. To a large and increasing group of people virtual worlds are an important source of emotional and social well-being. The average player spends almost 20 hours a week in these environments. (Castronova, 2001) The trade with virtual property is constantly in progress and involves astonishing amounts of money. During a two week period in april 2004 the value of the trade on Ebay for the game Ultima Online reached 156 857 US$, have in mind that these is merely one game at one auction site under a short period of time. (Dibbell, 2004) The extensive trade shows that many players treat their virtual property as if it were their real private property. Meanwhile many license agreements explicitly state that all rights belong to the game developers. For instance, before playing Star Wars Galaxies, you must grant Sony Online Entertainment "a universal, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicenseable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise all rights of any kind or nature associated with your Content". (Sony Online Entertainment, 2003) Evidently, there is a serious conflict of interest. This question of virtual ownership may at first seem quite abstract, yet sooner or later one of the game-companies will start to lose money and shut down their virtual world. When this happens, virtual property worth millions of dollars will instantaneously vanish. A player who has spent several years in the game and has had the option of selling his virtual assets for hundreds of dollars will face a considerable financial loss. (Thompson, 2004) Maybe the best known conflict of interest in the area so far is BlackSnow Interactive v. Mythic Entertainment, Inc. BlackSnow Interactive was a company in California who hired unskilled mexican labourers to develop high-level characters by regular gaming. BlackSnow later sold these characters for a decent profit. Mythic, the producer of the game played by BlackSnow’s labourers, found out about the enterprise and shut down all BlackSnow-related accounts, claiming infringement of the license agreement. BlackSnow, on the other hand, sued Mythic for unfair business practises. The opportunity to try the relevant rights and interests in a court of law unfortunately vanished when BlackSnow found itself unable to continue the process due to economical and legal problems unrelated to the lawsuit. At the moment there is no guidance at all concerning how conflicts of this sort should be solved. This paper continue the work in Laws of Virtual Worlds (Lastowka & Hunter, 2003) where the authors established that virtual property interests are indistinguishable from real world property interests, yet left the question of how these interests should be weighed unanswered. Richard Bartle has also considered the issue and concluded that legislators sooner or later will have to decide how to deal with virtual trade and that when they do so it should be in favour of the game-producers. (Bartle, 2004) Within the utilitarian tradition, it is a well established practice to view property rights as social and legal conventions that should be evaluated according to how well they contribute to the general welfare. (Bentham 1843) This instrumental approach to property has led to the development of theories about ownership as a bundle of rights. One need not endorse the normative claim about the general welfare in order to accept the bundle analysis of property. Henry Sidgwicks provides one early analysis of property as composed of three rights: a right to excluxive use, a right to destroy and a right to alienate. (Sigdwick 1891) Sidgwicks account has been followed by numerous alternative accounts, the most influental of which is Tony Honoré’s list of eleven components of ownership: The right to possess, the right to use, the right to manage, the right to income, the right to the capital, the right to security, the incident of transmissibility, the incident of absence of term, the duty to prevent harm, liability to execution, and a residuary character. (Honoré, 1961) Sidwick and Honoré attempt to account for the content of a full or complete or maximally extensive ownership. But in practice (as they are aware) not all cases of what we call ownership include all of the listed rights. Depending on the local legislation, you may not be allowed to decorate or refurbish your house the way you like, you may not be allowed to destroy the bills in your wallet, and you may not be allowed to bequeth your belongings the way you want. Still we call these things ours. Other things that we have some component rights to, such as a flat we rent, do not qualify as ownership in the common language. Though Honoré settles for a Wittgensteinian interpretation of family resemblence between different instances of ownership, with no core component, the right to sell (by Honoré included in the right to capital) is what often draws the line between ownership and rights without ownership. The division of bundles into ownership and simply legal rights is, however, but a terminological question. Bundles of rights can be legally construed in many different ways and new bundles are continousely created to handle new challenges resulting from technological change or innovative economical solutions. Thus such immaterial pieces of property as shares, options, patents and copyrights have become common to law and practice. By adopting a constructivist perspective on ownership, the property interests in virtual worlds can be analyzed in their own right, without relaying too heavily on inadequate notions of ownership. Whether gamers should have a right to sell their virtual belongings or not might determine whether or not we should call their interest in these belongings ownership. But regardless of how this matter is dealt with, there are other interests that are separable from those in trading that might deserve legal protection. An interest analyzis of the area will prepare the ground for future solutions to conflicts of interest that are bound to demand attention from court rooms and legislators sooner or later. References Bartle, Richard (2004), "Pitfalls Of Virtual Property", Themis Group Bentham, Jeremy (1843), "Principles of the civil code". The Works, published under the superintendence of John Bowring. UK, Edingburgh. Castronova, Edward (2001), "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier". CESifo Working Paper Series No. 618. http://ssrn.com/abstract=294828 Dibbell, Julian (2003), "Play Money", http://www.juliandibbell.com/playmoney/index.html Honoré, A M (1961), "Ownership", ss 107-147 in AG Guest, Oxford Essays in Jurisprudence. Lastowka, F. Gregory and Hunter, Dan (2003), "The Laws of the Virtual Worlds". California Law Review, Forthcoming http://ssrn.com/abstract=402860 Sigwick, Henry (1891), "The Elements of Politics", London. Thompson, Clive (2004), "Game Theories", Walrus Magazine, http://www.sophists.org/article290.html Sony Online Entertainment (2003), "End User License Agreement", http://starwarsgalxies.station.sony.com/tos.jsp

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Immersion in Game Atmospheres for the Video Game Heritage Preservation

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

The video game market is now bigger than the cinema market. This economic fact is the result of a continuous development. Indeed, while video games attract the kids, the number of adult players constantly increases. Thus, video games are taking part in our culture. The video game industry is now more than 30 years old and its cultural heritage is being preserved following two main approaches. On the one hand, there are a lot of virtual museums on the Web, and on the other hand, there are exhibits, but they are very rare. For example, there is only one permanent exhibit (in Berlin). The video game exhibits are very hard to set up because the hardware and the software can be too rare and can be broken down . This is why is it easier to do it virtually. On the Web, we can find information about every game: comments, screenshots, sounds, videos, etc. We can also find game copies and emulators to run them on new computers. This raises two main problems. 1. In most cases, it is illegal. 2. Emulation can reproduce the playing experience, but we loose the feelings and the game athmosphere. I previously dealt with the first problem in a book in 2001 (in French: Emulation et jeux vidéo) and in an article presented at the ICHIM 04 conference (http://www.utc.fr/~nesposit/publications/esposito2004.pdf). Here, I will focus on the athmosphere reproduction. The game athmospheres is one of the strongest souvenirs in the players' memory: the place, its arrangement, the light, the other players, etc. So the question is: how can we add this kind of athmospheres to virtual museums and real world exhibits? Our answer is to propose a virtual reality approach. Following the travelog method to record athmospheres, we have asked numerous players about their game experiences. We did it by using Web forums to take advantage of the discussion between players (some players add elements to other players' descriptions). Then, we have been able to identify typical elements of athmospheres. We have included these elements in a prototype that allows an immersion in game athmospheres. Our first two athmospheres are: a bedroom (in the mid nineties) and a game room (at the end of the eighties). This approach allows: immersion, manipulation, and information acquisition. Indeed, for example inside the bedroom, the user can catch a game cartridge, put it into the Super Nintendo, and get information about the game on the TV screen. Thanks to the technology we use (Virtools), these athmospheres can be accessed on the Web. This is a new way to access information about games. This is not like a fast database access; it is much more like a walk through game athmospheres that brings you to games you did not look for at the beginning. This project is also a new way to access the games of an exhibit. Information that you get can contain a map of the exhibit and where to find the game. * Pictures of this project can be seen here: http://www.utc.fr/~nesposit/tmp/rv01/ * Note: this project is part the Inspiration project (http://www.utc.fr/inspiration/)

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Online Gaming as a Virtual Forum

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

Due to concerns over its perceived ills, especially to children, most social science research on video gaming has focused on behavioral effects and content analysis. Meanwhile, surprisingly little qualitative research has been conducted on the social aspects of videogame culture. In their article, "Television as a Cultural Forum," Horace Newcomb and Paul Hirsch argue that television raises more questions than its narratives’ conclusions answer. In doing so, television becomes a cultural site for discussing contemporary social issues. Likewise, multiplayer online games (e.g., MMORPGs) attract thousands of gamers, thus constituting sizable virtual communities. By adapting Newcomb and Hirsch’s framework for online gaming communities, researchers may begin to explore how games are virtual forums in which "expression" thrives. The inter-game communication, the sharing of fan fiction, and the variety of videogame modifications testify to the ways in which gamers speak about, and through, their media.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Girls Creating Games: Challenging Existing Assumptions about Game Content

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

In a reinforcing cycle, few females create games, and fewer girls than boys play games. According to the Interactive Digital Software Association’s 2003 survey, 72% of all video game players are male. This is unfortunate, as early game playing not only fosters specific cognitive and motor skills (Subrahmanyam, Kraut, Greenfield, & Gross, 2000), it is also a gateway to shaping the future of technology. How can we better attract, engage, and sustain the interests of girls in gaming? One strategy is to increase the range of games available (Jenson and de Castell, 2002). In this paper, we aim to increase our understanding of what girls like about games and gaming by describing 35 games created by middle school students. The most popular console games on the market today have distinct qualities. They provide spaces for players to take initiative, are competitive, and give players the opportunity to save the world or have personal triumphs. The most popular games typically have larger-than-life settings, and the goal is to win, rather than to experience new cultures or relationships. Success comes from eliminating competitors, not making friends. Games allow players to become successful football players in the NFL, professional skateboarders, and to test their bravery as soldiers fighting an invisible enemy or in a one-on-one duel. What would games look like if they were designed by girls? Kafai (1995) found that elementary school boys designed games with violent feedback, where players "get" something (i.e. win), whereas girls were more likely to describe activities. Others have suggested that females prefer games that are not competitive, have a narrative and characters they can relate to, little meaningless violence, have puzzles, rich audio and images, and have different ways to win (Children Now, 2001; Gorriz & Medina, 2000; Laurel, 1999; Rubin et al., 1997). In her book on gender-inclusive game design, Ray (2003) argues that we need more games that do not have a zero-sum outcome where conflicts are resolved by one person winning and everyone else losing. The games that are most popular with girls and women have positive female characters, allow them to explore relationships and roles, and take place in realistic worlds, such as the Sims and 102 Dalmatians (Children Now, 2001). In this paper, we describe 35 games created by ninety 10-13 year old girls in the U.S. The girls were participants in an after school program where they obtained the skills and resources to design and program their own games using Macromedia’s Flash MX software. They created "choose your own adventure" games, in which the player must choose a path at key points in a story. Two researchers reviewed the games and identified nine coding categories, building on the research of Kafai (1995). The following is a summary of our findings. Note that a game can be coded into multiple categories. Percent of games that have: Players confronting fears: 97% A realistic world: 74% Opportunities to win and lose: 71% Social issues: 54% Allow player to choose the character’s sex: 51% Events that challenge social taboos: 34% Teach a lesson: 31% Female characters: 26% Opportunities for personal triumph: 20% Violent feedback: 14% The findings suggest that many features of the girls’ games were very different than the most popular games on the market. Few used violence to provide feedback to the player, and only one game had an opportunity for the player to die. One fifth included opportunities for personal triumph, such as saving the world or other people. Most games took place in a realistic (as opposed to a fantasy) world. Over half the games focused on social issues that are on the minds of preteen girls, such as babysitting, boys, the school dance, and difficult principals. One third of the games had scenes that challenge social taboos, such as throwing a pie in someone’s face, peeing one’s pants, bathroom scenes, and talking back to a teacher. The data suggest that the most prominent theme in girls’ games was the way they expressed and worked through fears in their stories. This included getting eaten by a shark or Bigfoot, being grounded, getting detention, being gagged and blind folded by an evil scientist. Some fears occurred in realistic settings, such as "The Bad Babysitter" where the child gets lost and a fire occurs, and "Getting Lost," which includes being chased by a bear. Many of the games addressed fears of social exclusion and judgment resulting from peer pressure to skip school ("The New Brighton Singer"), sneaking out of the house, or listening to certain kinds of music ("Music Mania"). Other fears were grounded in fantasy, such as "A Horrifying Alienistic Experience," where aliens invade the school, and "Ski Trip or Disaster," in which Bigfoot appears. Our research suggests that when given the opportunity, girls design games that challenge the current thematic trends in the gaming industry. The girls have shown us new ways to make games, and new ways to play. The games address the issues and problems that affect girls’ lives and what they think about. We can use this information to engage girls in game playing. In our presentation, we will show scenes from some games, and discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the intersection of gender and computer gaming. We will use our research to demonstrate the ways that game production can be a site of resisting and transforming traditional gender stereotypes. Consistent with previous research, the games suggest that girls want opportunities to experiment with different notions of femininity (Brunner, Bennett, & Honey, 1999) and experiment with fears, as well as different identities in realistic rather than fantasy settings (Jenkins, 1999). Our findings suggest a clear opportunity to use games to transform gender stereotypes and transform the face of technology. Our presentation will also address whether it is even possible to design gender-neutral games that appeal to both males and females. Finally, we suggest that in order to engage and sustain females’ interest in technology, the gaming industry needs to create software to "highlight the human, social, and cultural dimensions and applications of computers rather than the technical advances, the speed of the machines or the entrepreneurial culture surrounding them" (AAUW 2000, page 10). References American Association of University Women (2000). Tech savvy: Educating girls in the new computer age. Washington DC: AAUW Educational Foundation. Children Now (2001). Fair play: Violence, gender and race in video games. Oakland, CA. Gorriz, C.M. & Medina, C. (2000). Engaging girls with computers through software games. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, 43, 42-49. Jenkins, H. (1999). "Complete freedom of movement": Video games as gendered play spaces. In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.) From Barbie to mortal kombat: Gender and computer games. (pp. 262-297). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Jenson, J. & de Castell, S. (2002). Serious play: Challenges of educational game design. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Kafai, Y. (1995). Minds in play: Computer game design as a context for children’s learning. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Laurel, B. (1999). An interview with Brenda Laurel. In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.) From Barbie to mortal kombat: Gender and computer games. (pp. 118-135). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Ray, S. G. (2003). Gender inclusive game design: Expanding the market. Hingham, MA: Charles River Media, Inc. Rubin, A., Murray, M., O’Neil, K., & Ashley, J. (1997). What kind of educational computer games would girls like? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Subrahmanyam, K., Kraut, R. E., Greenfield, P. M., & Gross, E. F. (2000). The impact of home computer use on children’s activities and development. In R. E. Behrman (Ed.), The Future of Children: Children and Computer Technology, 10(2), 123-144.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

The Ethics of Computer Game Design

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

Return Power Shift Control: Design Ethics in Computer Games Miguel Sicart Ph.D. Student Department of Digital Aesthetics and Communication IT University of Copenhagen – Denmark miguel@itu.dk Abstract This paper addresses the question of the Ethics of computer games’ design. Applying a philosophical methodology, this research intends to analyze the ways computer games enforce ethical discourses via (conscious) design decisions. Ultimately, this paper will ground the rhetoric needed to formalize the morality of computer games. In order to answer the question of the morality of games, three philosophical traditions will be used: Don Ihde’s postphenomenology (Ihde: 1993), Michel Foucault’s analyses of power (Foucault: 1980, 2000), and Luciano Floridi’s Information Ethics (Floridi & Sanders: 1999, 2004a, 2004b). Other theoretical frameworks used will be the legal approach to the nature of Code by Lawrence Lessig (Lessig: 1999) and game design theories (Rollings & Morton: 2003, Zimmerman & Salen: 2003). The basic premise of this paper is that computer games enforce their ethical discourses also through their design. The morality of computer games lies not only in what they tell, but also in how it is told. In order to understand this shift of perspective, games will be defined as agent systems in which ethical values are softwired in the design. This power-agency also affects the experience of the game by the players. Computer games imply an active role of the user/player in their configuration as experience and as cultural object. This active role is determined by a specific design of the system, oriented to create gameplay. In order to play the game, users have to understand and accept that design. Thus, design becomes a power institution in the field of the game, prohibiting and allowing certain activities and not others. Games are designed objects. And design is power. Agents uphold power and Ethical actions. This paper will argue for the definition of games as agents with a rather large autonomy. Thus, computer games become accountable for the moral values their designs promote, as they are agents of those values. Almost all games, including RPGs, operate with a certain notion of winning condition. In single player games, the system puts obstacles to the player who attempt to achieve the winning condition. The game will be designed for those means, and the player has to accept the regulations of the game’s architecture to achieve success. On the other hand, multiplayer games are different. They are not designed as an obstacle to a player, but as set of boundaries the players cannot trespass in their attempt to achieve the winning condition before or better than the other players. In the case of multiplayer games, it is also necessary to take into account that the power structure of the game permeates to the social structures built surrounding the game. That is, players that do not follow or exploit the designed routes to achieve the winning condition are seen as unlawful players. In other words, the ethics of the design are implemented to the ethics of the group of players. Given this framework, this paper will argue for computer games being conveyors of ethical discourses that are implemented via design. A game will be defined as a moral agent, ethically accountable for the values its architecture enforces. Design in computer games implies power and control. By imposing a power structure over the users’ choices and strategies, restraining them of free choice and conditioning them to a certain success condition, design in computer games becomes morally accountable. It becomes a moral object as well as a moral agent. As a summary, this paper will argue for the moral accountability of computer game design as an ethical object and as an ethical agent. The design architecture of the game is an active power structure in which ethical discourses and moral values are embedded. This paper will use three games as examples: in XIII (Dargaud/UbiSoft: 2003), the design architecture does not allow the player to kill certain NPCs, namely policemen. The main character of the game is amnesic, but his moral standards are defined with a design limitation: a dead cop means game over. More complex is the case of Manhunt (RockStar North: 2003). Even though the game has raised discussions due to its content, this paper will focus on the way the game is designed, and how that design is used to enhance a certain experience by the player: namely, that of a hunted man that has to kill to survive in a hostile environment. Finally, Battlefield 1942 (Digital Illusions: 2002) will be the multiplayer example, especially for the freedom its architecture gives to the players, which has contributed to a rich ethical code of conduct in may BF 1942 servers. Other examples taken from games that actually take into account ethical values in their game design, such as Knights of the Old Republic (BioWare: 2003), will be taken into consideration as a symptom of the awareness designers have of their power over players. Games like Fable (BigBlueBox Studios/Lionhead Studios: 2004) and The Sims 2 (Maxis: 2004) suggest that computer games are becoming more and more aware on the ways they can convey ethical values, and how their players experience them. Are computer games moral objects? Can game design enhance ethical discourses? If so, how? These two are the main questions of this paper. The topic of Ethics brings forth many controversial issues concerning computer games. This paper intends to provide a theoretically solid, well-grounded perspective on the question of ethics in computer games. Games are often blamed for evil as if they had some magic, totemic power. Games pervert the youth and turn them into malicious sociopaths, some say. My goal with this research is no other than to prove that there is no such "dark magic" in games, even though they are definitely morally accountable objects. My goal is to allow a scientific approach to the morality of games to contribute to the academic and media understanding of the complexity of the ethical construction in computer game design. References Aarseth, Espen. Cybertext. Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1997. ———. "Genre Trouble: Narrativism and the Art of Simulation." In First Person. New Media as Story, Performace, and Game, edited by Noah and Pat Harrigan Wardrip-Fruin, 45 - 55. London & Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003. Anderson, Craig A. & Karen E. Dill. "Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78, no. 4 (2000): 772-90. Audi, Robert (ed.). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Second ed. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1999. Crawford, Chris. On Game Design. Indianapolis: New Riders, 2003. Floridi, Luciano & J.W. Sanders. "Entropy as Evil in Information Ethics." Etica & Politica I, no. 2 (1999). ———. "Artificial Evil and the Foundation of Computer Ethics." Ethics an Information Technology 3, no. 1 (2001): 55-66. Floridi, Luciano and J.W. Sanders. "Internet Ethics: The Constructionist Values of Homo Poieticus." In The Impact of the Internet in Our Moral Lives, edited by R. Cavalier. New York: SUNY, 2003. Floridi, Luciano. "Informational Realism." Paper presented at the Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology 2004. Floridi, Luciano & J.W. Sanders. "On the Morality of Artificial Agents." Minds and Machines (2004). Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977. Edited by Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. ———. Discipline and Punish. Translated by Alan Sheridan. London: Penguin, 1991. ———. Ethics. Subjectivity and Truth. 4 vols. Vol. 1, Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984. London: Penguin, 1997. ———. Power. Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984. Edited by James D. Faubion. London: Penguin, 2000. Ihde, Don. Postphenomenology. Essays in the Postmodern Context, Northwestern Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1993. Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading. A Theory of the Aesthetic Response. London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1978. Juul, Jesper. "Introduction to Game Time." In First Person. New Media as Story, Performace, and Game, edited by Noah and Pat Harrigan Wardrip-Fruin, 131 - 42. London & Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003. ———. Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Copenhagen: IT University of Copenhagen, 2004. Lessig, Lawrence. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. New York: Basic Books, 1999. Ondrejka, Cory. Living on the Edge: Digital Worlds Which Embrace the Real World 2004 [cited June 5 2004]. Available from http://ssrn.com/abstract=555661. Reynolds, Ren. Playing a "Good" Game: A Philosophical Approach to Understanding the Morality of Games 2002 [cited 3/2 2004]. Available from http://www.igda.org/articles/rreynoldsethics.php. Winner, L. "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" In The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, 13-39. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Zimmerman, Eric and Katie Salen. Rules of Play - Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003. Zimmerman, Eric. "Narrative Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four Naughty Concepts in Need of Discipline." In First Person. New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, edited by Noah and Pat Harrigan Wardrip-Fruin, 154 - 64. London & Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Connecting Worlds. Fantasy Role-Playing Games, Ritual Acts and the Magic Circle

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-06-03
Abstract: 

Categories Theoretical Perspectives: game definitions and the construction of the magical circle. Research Methodologies and Case Studies: Role Playing Games and the Fantasy subculture in the Netherlands. Abstract As I demonstrated in my article ‘The Other Game Researcher’ (presented at Level Up DiGRA gamesconference 2003), on the development of gamestudies and a game research methodology, I’m fascinated by the construction and workings of borders. Herein I discussed how game researchers are busy doing game studies: researching, writing and publishing articles, organizing conferences and creating a curriculum. I argued that creating a new autonomous discipline such as game studies mainly involves constructing boundaries on different levels. In this paper I will take the ideas as presented in ‘The Other Game Researcher’ a step further. Here I will focus on the construction of borders and spaces in games and play. Specifically the borders of play and space/time as they are constructed in my object of research: (Fantasy) Role Playing Games (RPG). In this analysis I will not only focus on digital RPGs (Multi User Dungeons and Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) but also on ‘analogue’ RPGs such as the table-top ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ game and Live Action Role Playing (LARP). I will argue that these games are quite literally ‘worlds of play’, which tend to exist in a mixed reality. RPGs are not only constructed in the fantasy world of the game but also in the daily life of the players. Therefore the fantasy subculture surrounding these games, existing in the daily life of the players, is crucial in this analysis. I will focus on the construction of borders and space/ time in these games and the Fantasy subculture in the Netherlands from various perspectives/ levels. I would like to discuss how RPGs are at the same time included but also excluded from definitions of (digital) games and play. It will be argued why this ‘being on the border’ of RPGs is exactly what makes them interesting and useful to research. Secondly, I will discuss how the game space or the magical circle as the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga called it, works in RPGs. I will discuss how in analogue and digital RPGs this is not an already existing and closed framework but a space that is being constructed in time. This theoretical analysis will be embedded in examples from the fieldwork I conducted at the yearly Elf Fantasy Fair in the Netherlands (2003 and 2004, http://www.elffantasy.nl/) . This festival is important in the Dutch Fantasy subculture as it attracts more than 20.000 participants, who are interested in fantasy and RPGs. To contextualize the Dutch Fantasy Role Playing scene in an international perspective I will refer to US (Fine and Mackay) and Scandinavian (Nordic role-playing convention publications) theoretical research and fieldwork on RPGs. By using this information I will discuss how the magical circle is being constructed with diffuse borders. In Fantasy Role Playing games the magical circle is constructed and performed as a ritual space, in which players create identities and meaning because they are performing the game between worlds. References Aarseth, Espen, "Allegories of Space: The Question of Spatiality in Computer games" (1998). As LARP Grows Up –Theory and Methods in LARP (2003). Copier, Marinka, "The Other Game Researcher - Participating in and watching the construction of boundaries in game studies" in: Level Up Conference Proceedings (2003). Fine, Gary Allen, Shared Fantasy: Role Playing Games as Social Worlds (1983). Huizinga, Johan, Homo Ludens (1938). Juul, Jesper, Half-Real. Videogames between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (Copenhagen, 2003). Mackay, Daniel, The Fantasy Role-Playing Game. A New Performing Art (2001). Montola, Markus and Jaakko Stenros ed., Beyond Role and Play. Tools, Toys and Theory for Harnessing the Imagination (2004). Salen, Katie and Eric Zimmerman, Rules of Play. Game Design Fundamentals (2003).

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Frame and Metaphor in Political Games

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

This paper offers an approach to analyzing political rhetoric in videogames, and on designing videogames intended to carry ideological bias, based cognitive linguist George Lakoff’s notion of metaphor and frame in political discourse. I argue for two important ways games function in relation to ideological frames, reinforcement and exposition, through examples of art games, political games, and commercial games. Finally, I argue that an explicit design of ideological frames in games is crucial to the next generation of political games. The 2004 US Presidential election renewed world citizens’ recognition of a deep divide in US politics (Schifferes 2004a). In the aftermath of their loss, Democrats are now scrambling to develop new strategies. Ideas are plentiful: avoid candidates from the northeast (Wallsten & Anderson 2004); focus more strongly on domestic issues (Schifferes 2004b); seek better management (Marinucci 2004). But some researchers have suggested that political success draws less from reality than from representation. Cognitive linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson suggested metaphor is central to human understanding (Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Lakoff 1990). Lakoff and Johnson argue that our conceptual systems are fundamentally shaped by cultural constructions; metaphor is not for them a fanciful language reserved for poets, but an active, conceptual framework that is central to how we understand the world. Lakoff argues that the most important consideration in political discourse is not how politicians respond to the "facts" of the external world, but how they conceptualize, or "frame" that world in their discourse about it. Lakoff argues that political frames in the US reflect metaphors of family management — conservatives frame political issues as "strict fathers" while liberals frame them as "nurturant parents" (Lakoff 1996). In addition to becoming the year of an American political divide, 2004 was also the year of political videogames. While there are precedents for games with political messages (Crawford 1985, Crawford 1990, Barbu 1991, On 2001, Frasca 2003), 2004 was the first year that candidates and party groups created officially endorsed games to bolster their campaigns (Bogost & Frasca 2003, Republican National Committee 2004, Bogost 2004a, Bogost 2004b, Frasca 2004). As the worlds of political message strategy and political videogames gain momentum, an opportunity arises for each to inform the other. Some games simply recreate verbal rhetoric. The GOP’s Tax Invaders is a replica of the classic arcade game Space Invaders (Taito 1978) in which players fire projectiles at John Kerry tax plans. The game itself is crude, but text within it expertly reflects a conservative frame: tax increases are harmful enemies and must be stopped. The game’s opening screen announces, "only you can stop the tax invader" and invites the player to "Save the USA form John Kerry’s Tax Ideas." Lakoff would argue that such language reflects a fundamental logic in conservative politics, that the people know what’s best for themselves and that success shouldn’t be punished. These points are made clear in the language used to frame the game experience. However, Lakoff’s arguments focus on spoken or written political rhetoric. Games are fundamentally procedural systems rather than narratives. To understand the function of frame and metaphor in communicating ideological bias in videogames, we must look at how the interactions of rules create similar frames for political expression. Even a game as simple as Tax Invaders frames the metaphors of its rhetoric; Bush fires projectiles at the tax cuts, representing the metaphor of tax hikes as a violence that one has to defend against. Thus while Tax Invaders does little to represent actual tax policy, it frames tax policy in a metaphor that reinforces a conservative position. I submit that Tax Invaders is an example of a game reinforcing an existing ideological frame. Other political games do use rules as the basis for their bias. For example, in Vigilance 1.0 (Le Chevallier 2000), players seek out deviants on surveillance screen sections of an urban environment. The more that pass by unnoticed, the more depraved the society becomes. Of course, if the player is truly successful, the game challenges him to efface himself, an example of the perversion of total control and surveillance. By forcing the player to see the consequences of the metaphor of vigilance, the game exposes the ideological frame of "panoptical vigilance as perversion." It is this exposition of the frame that forms the game’s political commentary — and makes its rhetoric more powerful. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar Games 2004), players enact the life of an early 90’s LA gangbanger. Unlike previous iterations of the GTA series, GTA:SA takes on a cultural moment steeped in racial and economic politics. In the game, rule interactions underscore opportunity biases. For example, your character must eat to maintain his stamina and strength, but the only food available is fast food, which makes you fat. More meaningfully, the game’s renowned open-ended space also frames a discourse about crime and criminals. GTA:SA intricately recreates three huge cities and spaces in-between, but the game’s NPC’s respond identically to your semiautomatic-toting, face-rag wearing black gangsta character in every part of town. While major technology challenges underlie the development of credible large-scale character interactions (see Mateas & Stern 2002), the game makes no effort to alter the interactions of characters based on racial response. Even if the designers did not intend it, this decision creates a frame in which the player’s sociopathic behavior is not mediated by any economic, racial, or social disadvantage. Despite its famous open-endedness and free agency, GTA:SA privileges a classic conservative position: that there is no social foundation for crime, but only a character-based foundation. GTA:SA can be said to expose an ideological frame, perhaps without intention. Designers and critics must consider the ways ideology gets framed in a new generation of games. For those explicitly designed to carry political bias, exposition of ideological frames better advances a game’s arguments. For those that inevitably carry ideological bias, like commercial games, it is crucial to understand a game’s ideological frames for the purposes of criticism and public reception. References Barbu, L. 1991. Crisis in the Kremlin. Spectrum Holobyte. Bogost, I. 2004a. Take Back Illinois. Illinois House Republicans. ———. 2004b. Activism: The Public Policy Game. Persuasive Games. Bogost, I. & G. Frasca. 2003. The Howard Dean for Iowa Game. Dean for America. Booth, W. 2001. "For Norton, a Party Mission." Washington Post, January 8 2001. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A29810-2001Jan7?language=printer. Cart, J. 2003. "Bush Opens Way for Counties and States to Claim Wilderness Roads." Los Angeles Times, January 21 2003. Available at http://www.propertyrightsresearch.org/bush_opens_way_for_counties_and_.htm. Cook, K. 2003. "It’s ‘exploring’ not ‘drilling’." Environmental Working Group Report. Available at http://www.ewg.org/issues/MTBE/20031117/LuntzMemo_Energy.php. Crawford, C. 1985. Balance of Power. Mindscape. ———. 1990. Balance of the Planet. Self-published. Frasca, G. 2003. September 12. Newsgaming.com. ———. 2004. Cambiemos. Frente Amplio Nueva Mayoria. Lakoff, G. 1990. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 1996. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 2004. Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate — The Esssential Guide for Progressives. New York: Chelsea Green. Lakoff, G. & M. Johnson. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Le Chevallier, M. 2000. Vigilance 1.0. Dial 33 then 1 exhibition, Kiasma Museum, Helsinki. Luntz, F.I. 2003. "The Environment: A Cleaner, Safer, Healthier America." Luntz Research Companies report. ———. 2004. "The Best and Worst Language of 2004: Key Debate Phrases." Luntz Research Companies report. Marinucci, C. 2004. "In postmortem on Kerry bid, Dems seek clues to new life." San Francisco Chronicle, November 7 2004. Available at http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/11/07/MNGQO9NJOC1.DTL. Mateas, M. & A. Stern. 2002. A Behavior Language for Story-Based Believable Agents. In Ken Forbus and Magy El-Nasr Seif (Eds.), Working notes of Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Entertainment. Menlo Park, CA: AAAI Press. On, J. 2001. Antiwargame. Futurefarmers. Republican National Committee. 2004. Tax Invaders. Republican National Committee/gop.com. Rockstar Games. 2004. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Take Two Interactive. Schifferes, S. 2004a. "Election reveals divided nation." BBC News, November 3 2004. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3973197.stm. ———. 2004b. "What next for the Democrats?" BBC News, November 3 2004. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3978689.stm. Taito. 1978. Space Invaders. Taito. Wallsten, P. & N. Anderson. 2004. "Democrats Map Out a Different Strategy." Los Angeles Times, November 6,2004. Available at http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/2004/la-na-dems6nov06,0,680680.stor....

Document type: 
Conference presentation