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

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Contexts, pleasures and preferences: girls playing computer games

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Date created: 
2005-05-27
Abstract: 

What kind of computer games do girls like? Games developers, various games theorists, and educators who are keen to exploit the apparent pedagogic potentials of computer games without alienating female students, have all pondered this question. In this paper I address this question via my observation of computer gaming sessions with year 8 girls at a single sex state school in South London. What emerged is that gaming preferences are alterable and site specific. Girls in the mood to exploit the social potentials of the situation choose dual-player ‘pick-up-and-play’ driving or fighting games, and preferred to use the consoles. Girls who wanted to play alone put on headphones and used the PCs to play games that rewarded a deeper investment of time and attention, such as action adventure or simulation games. Some participants would swing between these options from week to week. As this implies, preferences are not static – our choices depend on where we are and what we have had previous access to, they reflect what we know, who we know, what we’ve tried, or tired of, and what we will admit to. The question of ‘preference’ is explored as it relates to a set of commercial games offered to a group of players in a particular context. I am concerned with unpicking the notion of preference itself, by cataloguing the various factors that impinge on users’ choices, rather than merely reiterating that (or if) girls are predisposed towards particular game genres, or with how their level of enthusiasm might compare with their male peers. Preferences are informed by a variety of factors (such as previous exposure, access, peer culture) and these factors are shaped by gender – in other words it is not gender per se that is accountable for any differences in taste between male and female computer game players. Such distinctions reflect patterns in games access and consumption that spring from gendered cultural and social practices. Access and situation shape inclinations, and simply offering these users access to alternative games in new contexts was sufficient to generate changes in their stated preferences. I made a point of including several games with strong female leads, expecting that these games would generate a higher degree of interest than others, if female central characters were of import to these particular users - but this was not the case. What did become apparent is that the girls’ increasing gaming competencies enabled them to identify and access the different potential play experiences offered by specific games, and to selectively actualise these potentials according to circumstance and prerogative. Thus, I argue, it makes sense to investigate games preferences, within a mobile and incremental paradigm: that of games literacy.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Game Genre Evolution for Educational Games

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-03-30
Abstract: 

Game Genre Evolution for Educational Games Introduction Mass media, such as radio and television, are complex combinations of channel and genre. Genres allow us to make distinctions and choices within a given medium largely on the basis of content and form, for example, talk shows, dramas, or sitcoms. Modern digital games have gained the status of mass medium [8] and genre are very evident. From the McLuhan perspective [2], the personal and social consequences of a medium result from the new functionalities that the medium affords the user. McLuhan made the observation that hot media exclude the user from the interpretation and control of the information while cool ones require an engagement of the user in the interpretation of the information. A digital game requires immediate interaction from the user. Digital games are by this definition very cool. Genre have a social role in providing common experiences and landmarks for our role as members of one or more communities, what Miller [3] describes as genre participation. Like other media, digital games have developed to the point of having classes of well described genre [8] and game genre continue to experience transformations often resulting in new genre. This work is part of a three year project, Simulations and Advanced Game Environments (SAGE) [4], to examine this new medium and to explore how games and simulations can be used in the context of learning. Our goal is to develop game architectures that support the development of new game genre that leverage the engagement of entertainment games into educational opportunities. That is, we will examine game genre that move us beyond the edu-entertainment we currently see. These would provide non-trivial environments with significant content and challenge as well as support engagement and collaboration. There is a similarity in the goals of learning objects and digital games that includes engagement, persistence, skill improvement, strategy, community, and collaboration. Can we create new genres of games that are engaging and can be shown to improve learning outcomes? Digital Game Genre In this paper, we describe game genre from the perspective of digital or cybergenre [7] using the triple (content, form, functionality). The content of digital games includes the narrative, scenario, challenge, and characters as well as the rules for engagement. The form of games varies widely from game boards and card decks to 2D and 3D worlds. Game functionality includes player and game interactions, player-to-player interactions, and team interactions, and control of game and player features. Digital games provide an extension for the player that removes many of the restriction of physical games and provides access to new cognitive immersive scenarios and worlds. Digital games have wide popular appeal, well articulated genres, and have become integrated into the social fabric of many cultures. Genre that we recognize in digital games include, first person shooter games, strategy games, sports games, board games, card games, and arcade games. The functionality provided by distributed and collaborative games presents a further opportunity to develop new genre of digital games that combine entertainment and social relevance. Games generate a high degree of motivation and engagement in the players. There is an intensity of the interaction and often a remarkable devotion (compulsion) to the game. If these attributes can be kept in tact throughout a transformation of the purpose of games from entertainment to an application area, such as education, then new genre would emerge that are strikingly familiar to the user but distinctly different in impact. Evolution of Genre for Educational Games Genres evolve by changing content, form, and/or functionality to exploit the new medium. Often entirely novel genre appears that have no counterpart in any previous medium, like the recent rash of "reality" shows on television. Often, however, evolution is more iterative. Educational games differ from entertainment games mainly by purpose. That is, there is a shift from playing the game for social and personal entertainment goals to learning and educational goals. We can expect that there will follow an evolution of genre to reflect this difference in purpose. The challenge then is to develop game genre that, like SimCity [6] "even though it is not a video game, plays like one." The latest version of Internet games, provide players with the autonomy to play against the computer, human players, or form teams of collaborators; basic functionality one also expects from an interactive learning environment. While the current focus of games is entertainment, a move to provide games with a focus on education will require the transformation of game structures and game design patterns into genre that support the educational values of collaboration, community building, skill practice, and complex challenges. Chapman [1] suggests that there should be increasing emphasis on the learner "situating" themselves in the world of study, to explore the possibilities in other worlds, and the view concepts and constructs from other perspectives, even take on multiple roles. Games do this. Early genre of educational games have been largely replications of traditional games genre with learning variations, such as Tic-tac-toe games with question answering interjected into turn taking and more recently quest style games where progress is dependent on progress through the course material. To make real progress educational game genre need to exploit the evolution of entertainment game genre. In the SAGE project we are working on new genre for educational games that are based on design patterns templates [5]. Design patterns provide an opportunity to build modular game instances from classes of general components. We have recently developed with the IWK Children’s hospital a game for 6-10 year olds to reinforce behavioral intervention for children diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). This intervention helps the children learn how to manage the symptoms of their own condition. Our goal was to design a short game with content relevant to IBD but with the form and functionality of a video game. We are in the pilot testing stage of this project and will examine changes in behavior (outcomes) within the group of children who play the game compared to those who only have access to the handbook. Conclusion Digital games support a high degree of interactivity and collaboration. Game genre have evolved and continue to evolve from replications of games in other media, to novel games only found in digital form, and now to complex social and collaborative games. Much can be learned from entertainment game genre that can be used in the development of games and applications used for educational rather than strictly entertainment goals. These games would need to present significant and clear educational challenges without losing the immersive appeal of other games. Digital games have an appeal that goes across a broad demographic and this supports our speculation that understanding games, game genre, and game interaction can be used to our advantage in educational contexts. In this paper we explore the role of genre in supporting that appeal. Acknowledgements. Funding for this work has been provided by SSHRC and NSERC of Canada. References [1] Chapman, M.L. 1999. Situated, Social, Active: Rewriting Genre in the Elementary Classroom. Written Communication. 16(4): 469-490. [2] McLuhan, M. 1995. Essential McLuhan. (Ed) E. McLuhan and F. Zingrone. House of Anansi Press. Concord, Ontario. [3] Miller, C.R. 1984. Genre as Social Action. Quarterly Journal in Speech. 70: 151-167. [4] SAGE. Simulation and Advanced Game Environments. 2004. Online at [www.cs.dal.ca/~sage] [5] Salen, K. and E. Zimmerman. 2004. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. MIT Press, Cambridge. [6] Turkle, S. 1995. Life on the Screen. Simon and Shuster. New York, USA. [7] Watters,C. and M.Shepherd. 1999. Cybergenre and Web Functionality. HICSS'32, Proceedings of the Thirty-second annual Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences. Digital Documents. Maui, Hawaii. 5-10 January. [8] Wolf, M.J.P. (ed) 2001. The Medium of the Video Game. University of Austin Press. Austin, Texas.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Albert Goes Narrative Contracting

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

RPG’s (Role Playing Games) and improvisational theatre have some obvious similarities. Both require the participants to work together in real-time to construct dynamic narrative elements. Seeing communication in terms of ongoing narrative contracts is a well-accepted principle of improvisational theatre (Johnstone 1981). Any time a new narrative element is introduced it is seen as an offer. The respondent can either accept the offer, block it or a make counter-offer. This paper describes a study of subjects engaging in a controlled online ‘encounter’ with RPG elements. The encounter is titled ‘Albert in Africa’ and the study draws on the previously described Fun Unification Model (Newman 2004). In this study subjects’ individual predispositions, and their responses are correlated with the number of acceptances, blocks and counter-offers they make during their encounter. From this emerges a view of the complex interactions that make up the simple universal construct of fun in an RPG environment, and the identification of certain combinations of predisposition and ‘environmental affordances’ which will act as predictors to the subject’s fun response. The fun response is described in the model as the combination of enjoyment, temporal dislocation, focused immersion, innovative play and narrative engagement. Interactive entertainment must be fun for the target audience, and developers of games and RPG communities spend significant time and resources trying to increase the fun factor of their next product. It can be completely hit and miss as to whether their efforts bear fruit. To what extent can fun as a construct be meaningfully measured or is it simply too ill-defined and subjective? This study correlates the individual subjects’ predisposition for fun, their fun response to the encounter, and an analysis of each subject’s narrative contracting activity derived from the session transcripts in order to demonstrate that fun can be defined and measured with some degree of confidence. The Fun Unification Model draws on a range of previous constructs for measuring users’ experience including absorption (Tellegen and Atkinson 1974; Agarwal and Karahanna 2000), immersion (Witmer and M.J.Singer 1998), narrative engagement (McNeil 1996; Newman 2004), playfulness (Webster and Martocchio 1992), emotional useability (Logan 1994; Kim 1997), hedonic quality (Hassenzahl, Platz et al. 2000), foundational elements of experience (Marsh 2003), fun-scale rating (Read and MacFarlane 2000), and humor mechanisms (Meyer 2000). Essentially the model breaks an individual user’s experience into 3 parts; the individual’s predispositions, environmental aspects of their experience, and their responses to their experience. This can be summed up as; 1. he/she is a fun person (predisposition) 2. that’s a fun game (environment/affordances) 3. we had fun doing it (response) Into these three groupings various constructs can be inserted depending on the specifics of the activity being tested. In "Albert in Africa" the subjects are tested for engagement with elements of narrative and role-playing, so the individual predisposition to hearing and telling narrative is of interest as are the individual responses of innovative play and narrative engagement. General expectations: It was expected that, given that it was an online environment most people would be prepared to go along with some of Albert’s various outrageous claims, and that at the very least most people would be content to humour him. Those people who were found to have a significant predisposition to finding and creating narrative were expected to find ways to further the narrative elements of the encounter by making additional references to the narrative elements. The correlations between Predispositions, Responses, and their narrative contracting activity is expected to reveal the following. 1. Subjects with strong narrative tendencies are expected to experience high levels of narrative engagement and innovative play. 2. Subjects with strong narrative tendencies are expected to exhibit a higher incidence of acceptance than blocks. 3. Subjects with strong narrative creating tendencies are expected to exhibit a higher incidence of counter-offers than others. 4. Subjects with strong immersive and narrative tendencies will experience a high level of fun – defined here as the combination of enjoyment, temporal dislocation, focused immersion, innovative play and narrative engagement. The paper describes the methodology of the study, reports on the correlation of the three data inputs and discusses the results.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

The pleasures and practices of virtualised consumption in digital spaces

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

A desire amongst individuals to engage in playful, consumption-like activities can now readily be observed in many digital games, but also other virtual spaces. In this paper we explore the emergence of games of virtual consumption. We identify a range of playful, virtual consumption experiences that are now available to individuals and consider possible reasons why individuals might find these attractive by comparing contemporary theory on consumption with conceptualisations of play. Many digital games allow individuals to ‘buy’ imaginary things. For example, players of Everquest can visit a virtual marketplace and spend money acquired in the game on virtual commodities. However, players may also bid real money for skilled avatars and rare artefacts on eBay; purchase virtual chairs while visiting an online hotel (visit habbohotel.com), and pamper virtual pets with virtual products (visit neopet.com). Companies even gift consumers with virtual commodities – ‘experiential freeware’, to borrow from Falk & Campbell’s (1997) description of shop windows– to play with. Marketers allow consumers to display working virtual copies of luxury goods (see bulgari.com); customise virtual cars (see mini.com); and put aside virtual copies of desirable goods in a personalised virtual space (see amazon.com). Other consumers simply find imaginative ways to play with online representations of goods. They browse at length online catalogues, brand sites, travel sites, or the pages of eBay’s auctions, imagining what it would be like to purchase. All these virtual goods that are enjoyed, occasionally used, and sometimes even bought but not owned in a physical sense appear to have an evocative power, similar to that of tangible commodities. Online browsing also appears to possess an ability to provide pleasures similar to real window shopping – itself a largely playful activity. And even games without direct reference to shopping, may allow for pleasures similar to those experienced by the real-life tourist-shopper (for example the flâneur exploring the exotic city in Grand Theft Auto). Consumer desire for virtual things is such that Castranova (2001) calculates that the area of eBay where people buy and sell virtual items traded $6,400,668 worth of virtual items and avatars. The attractions of virtual goods, makes Everquest’s Norrath, equivalent to the 77th richest nation in the ‘real’ world (Castranova, 2001). In concretising a desire for sought after skills, rare artefacts, or mundane objects to embellish their avatars, consumers have been said to spend from $5.00 on virtual designer outfits (Yoon, 2002) to $2,000 on powerful characters (Morris, 2002). Castranova (2001) argues that virtual worlds may be seen as fully fledged market economies. In order for virtual worlds to produce real economies we must also accept that the basis for these economies is an as yet little understood concept of virtual consumption. And this concept may be observed more widely than the confines of commercial video games. In contrast to those who eagerly spend money on ‘virtual goods’, other consumers are blamed for not buying real goods. They browse aimlessly, dreaming about what is presented on the screen. They eagerly fill shopping baskets with desired goodies only to then abandon them. Since the opening of one of the web’s first virtual mall, Shopping 2000, idlers, voyeurs, window-shoppers galore have done more loitering than purchasing. In 1996, Cyr (1996:1), noticing that substantial numbers of onlookers ventured into Shopping 2000, wrote "but so far, all those numbers represent a lot of window shipping; actual sales have proven elusive." Despite increased number of sales having been reported, the trend to window-shop remains. Over 60 percent of online shoppers abandon their shopping baskets before completing a transaction (Maravilla, 1999; Thumler, 2000; Bizrate, 1999), escalating to a 90 percent consumer etherisation after objects are viewed (Thumler, 2000). It has also been observed that rates of abandonment have increased with the value of the virtual booty; DoubleClick (2004) has reported that while the average shopping order is around $180, the abandoned cart was $352. As an antidote to consumers’ antipathy towards completing their orders, e-marketers have set out to continually improve design, security and customer service issues in an effort to address the ‘problem’. But this seems to be a contradiction. At the same time as there is increasing evidence for consumer demand for virtual consumption in digital games, online retailers convince themselves that behaviour that remains only focussed on the pleasures of virtual goods when visiting online stores is somehow a failure in the online experience. We therefore need to account for the various forms of virtualised consumption, highlighting the pleasures they may bring consumers and their separation from the world of material goods. We attempt this by considering historical developments in consumption practices, suggesting, like Kline, Dyer-Witheford & de Peuter (2003), that virtualised consumption may represent the latest stage in an ongoing, subtle transformation of consumption practices from a Fordist focus on utility to a post-Fordist focus on emotional value, sign value and playful, aesthetic experience. Here we consider the work of Baudrillard (1970), Campbell (1987), Featherstone, (1992) and Lee (1993), drawing parallels between conceptualisations of consumption as a symbolic, aesthetic, imaginary experience and play itself through the work of Caillios (1958), Turner (1982) and Sutton-Smith (1997). Viewed in this way, virtualised consumption no longer constitutes a failure on the part of consumers to continue to fill their lives with material possessions, but rather the ability of the market to stimulate consumers imaginations in new and exciting ways: to provide the individual with a range of compelling digital consumption games. We illustrate these games by considering further examples of playful, virtual consumption from online shopping behaviour to behaviour in commercial digital games. We conclude by speculating on the implications of these playful forms of consumption for individuals and for a consumer society, highlighting the potential for these various liminoid spaces to transform the meaning of consumption for these players and therefore for the broader acceptance of the importance of material versus virtual goods. We suggest that an understanding of virtual consumption is therefore of interest to both marketers in their search for effective communication through ‘adver-games’ and other interactive functions and also for game designs who incorporate elements of consumption in their games. References Baudrillard, J. ([1970] 1998) The Consumer Society, Myths & Structures, UK: London BizRate.com (2000) BizRate Press Release, 23 October 2000, [Path: http://bizrate.com/content/press/release.xpml?rel=88.] (accessed 1 May 2002) Caillois, R. (1958). Les jeux et les homes. Paris: Gallimard. Campbell, C. (1987) The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism, UK: IDEAS Castravona, E. (2001). Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier, California State University at Fullerton - Department of Economics. 2002. Cyr, D. (1996) Marketing on the information superhighway: growing pains, American Demographics, Jan/Feb, 46 Falk, P. & Campbell, C. (1997) Introduction, In: The Shopping Experience, Falk.P. & Campbell, C. (editors), UK: London Featherstone, M. (1991) Consumer culture & postmodernism, UK: Sage Publications Kline, S. ,Dyer-Witheford, N. & de Peuter, G. (2003) Digital Play, The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press Lee. M.J. (1993) Consumer Culture Reborn, London: Routledge Maravilla, N. M. (1999) The case of the abandoned shopping carts, Powerhomebiz.com, [Path: http://www.powerhomebiz.com/vol13/shoppingcarts.htm] Morris, C. (2002) Imaginary worlds. Real Cash, publishers aren’t the only ones profiting from online games, CNNMONEY, January, 16 [Path: http://money.cnn.com/2002/01/16/technology/column_gaming/] Sutton-Smith (1997) The Ambiguity of Play, Cambridge: Harvard University Press Thumlert, K. (2000) Abandoned Shopping Carts: Enigma or Sloppy E-Commerce?, e-commerceguide.com, June 27, 2001, [Path: http://www.ecommerce-guide.com/news/trends/article.php/792581] DoubleClick (2004) DoubleClick Q2 2004 E-Commerce Site Trend Report, [Path: http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:mMxGlMDeVUkJ:emea.doubleclick.net/WEB_ADMIN/documents/dc_q204ecommercetrends_emea_0408.pdf+DoubleClick+rates+of+abandonment+increase+with+value&hl=en] Turner (1982) From Ritual to Theatre, New York: PAJ Publications Yoon, S. (2002) Does my avatar look fat in this? The Age, June 14th#, [Path: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/06/13/1023864322825.html?oneclick=true] (accessed June, 15 2003)

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Towards Emotionally Adapted Games based on User Controlled Emotion Knobs

Author: 
Date created: 
2005-05-27
Abstract: 

In this paper, we present a framework for a gaming personalization system to systematically facilitate user-selected desired emotional states during gameplay with control knobs that regulate the emotional impact of the game. Underlying the framework is a Psychological Customization system. It entails personalization of the way of presenting information (user interface, visual layouts, modalities, narrative structures and other factors) per user or user group to create desired transient psychological effects and states, such as emotion, attention, involvement, presence, persuasion and learning (Saari and Turpeinen, 2004; Turpeinen and Saari, 2004). By varying the form of information presented in a game in an emotionally intelligent way it may be possible to achieve such effects. Theory, key concepts, available empiric evidence and an example of user controlled emotional gaming as well as a basic system design are presented. Psychological Customization includes modeling of individuals, groups, and communities to create psychological profiles and other profiles based on which customization may be conducted. In addition, a database of design rules is needed to define the desired cognitive and emotional effects for different types of profiles. Once these components are in place, content management technologies can be extended to cover variations of form and substance of information based on psychological profiles and design rules to create the desired psychological effects. (Turpeinen and Saari, 2004) Gaming research is often conducted on the basis of game content and genre analysis, typologies of gaming styles or consumption, narrative elements of the game and sales of games. Outside narrative elements of a game, also the factors related to the presentation of the substance of the game or the form of the game, such as visual representations of the gaming events, amount and pace of image motion, audio effects and background music, and the level of interactivity offered to the player, are important from the point of view of emotion. A basic approach to an element to be adapted inside a game is a psychologically validated template that is embedded inside the game to create a particular psychological effect. A broad view of templates may be that the whole game consists of a database of psychologically validated templates that are presented in sequences. A limited view entails that a smaller collection of templates is used. The element of psychological evaluation means that the selected psychological influence (such an emotional response) of the template on a particular type of user is sufficiently well predictable. These psychologically evaluated templates may consist of i) manipulating the substance of a game, such as story line (initiating events, new characters etc.) and manipulating the situations specifically related to the character of the player (such as putting the character into sudden and dangerous situations inside the game) and ii) manipulating the form or way of presentation of the game (such as visual elements, shapes, colours, types of objects, sound effects, background music, level of interactivity and feedback etc.). The difficulty level of the game may also be continuously automatically be adjusted, thereby keeping the skills and challenges in balance, which results in a maintenance of an optimal emotional experience and possibly also a flow-state. (Saari et al, in press) Introducing the element of user-controlled emotional regulation into such a gaming system happens by building a user experience control knob for the system. The user could select between emotions, such as wanting high arousal and positive emotion as much as possible or wanting to be calm and non-aroused while playing. One may also offer content-characteristic emotional regulation, such as less or more violence. This kind of a system could act as a parental control system for controlling the arousal states during childrens´ gameplay. One solution to verify the emotional reactios of the user during gaming is to have the user linked to a psychophysiological measurement system. An important advantage of psychophysiological measurements is that they can be performed continuously during game playing and have a high level of temporal precision. (Saari et al, in press) Several scenarios of using an emotional regulation system for gaming will be presented in the paper. It should be noted that from the point of view of ecological validity it may be stated that the key to a "good" fighting or war game is the optimal division of different types of emotional experiences while gaming, rather than just intensifying for instance excitement and arousal all the time. For instance, fear and hatred may be skillfully interlaced with joy and positive emotion. In other words, some parts of the game contain hatred and fear but there also have to be parts in which these are relieved and moments of victory and joy can be experienced (a terrible enemy has finally been devastated by the player). The value of the basic system design and approach presented in the article to HCI is obvious as a basis of new kind of paradigm for user controlled Human Computer Interaction based on emotional regulation. References Saari, T. and Turpeinen, M. (2004) Towards Psychological Customization of Information for Individuals and Social Groups. In Karat, M-C., Blom, J. and Karat. J. (eds.) Personalization of User Experiences for eCommerce, Kluwer, Germany. Saari, T., Ravaja, N., Laarni, J., Kallinen, K. and Turpeinen, M. (in press) Towards emotionally adapted Games. Accepted to Presence 2004 Turpeinen, M. and Saari, T. (2004) System Architechture for Psychological Customization of Information. Proceedings of HICSS-37- conference, 5.-8.1. 2004, Hawaii.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Game Styles, Innovation, and New Audiences: An Historical View

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

Any observer of games will note that they tend to cluster into recognized styles, such as the first-person shooter (FPS), the real-time strategy game (RTS), the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG), and the platformer. A priori, the natural assumption is that these are similar to the sorts of genres with which we are familiar in other media: science fiction, the film musical, and so on. Yet game styles are defined by modalities of play, rather than thematic elements; perhaps they should be viewed as quite different from conventional notions of genre.Conventionally, genres are viewed as arising out of cultural conditions that make certain themes compelling to contemporaries. This paper argues that game styles, by contrast, arise from the invention of a particular game mechanic or set of mechanics, and that when a game which introduces a new play style that others find compelling is introduced, it quickly spawns a whole category of games that build on and modify the original mechanics. In other words, game design advances by major innovative introduction of new game styles, followed by slow evolutionary changes in such styles. Indeed, this pattern can be viewed again and again from the earliest history of games. Examples include positional games with differentiated pieces (a category deriving from the ancient Indian game of Shaturanga, and including Chess, Shogi, and Stratego); tables games (deriving from the Royal Game of Ur, and including the Roman Tabula and the modern Backgammon); track games (deriving from The Royal Game of Goose, and including most of the popular commercial boardgames of the late 18th and early 19th centuries); the board wargame (deriving from Roberts’s Tactics); the tabletop RPG (Gygax & Arneson’s D&D); the trading card game (TCG) (Garfield’s Magic); the FPS (from id’s Castle Wolfenstein); the RTS (Westwood’s Dune 2); the MMO (from Bartle & Trubshaw’s MUD); etc. The fact that the pattern recurs over the entire history of games implies that this is no mere epiphenomenon of the current industry, but something fundamental about games: unlike other media, particular aspects of gameplay, rather than thematic elements, are what players find important and compelling. Moreover, since the advent of commercial games (in the mid-18th century, possibly with the publication of Jefferys's A Journey Through Europe in 1759), the discovery of a successful game style has invariably been linked to a commercial boom and an expanded audience. Consequently, one can argue that however difficult the development of a whole new game style may be in comparison to development of games of well-understood types, long term commercial success is more likely to be achieved by striving for innovation.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Playing in the Sandbox: Developing games for children with disabilities.

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

Many have suggested that given the right environment, young people’s learning will developed at a faster rate. Archambault (2002) suggests that this is no different for young disabled people. With the appropriate computer interface, it is possible for disabled children to "regain trust in their capacity to learn, to think, to communicate, and finally to improve their own self image" (2002, p171). They add that the use of computers will also allow these children "the feeling of appurtenance to the same world: adults and other children use computers" (2002, p171). Not only do other children use computers, but also they play computer games. They also drive cars and fly planes, something that many disabled children will never be able to do – at least not in the real world. In a press article released by Microsoft, Russ Holland, the program director for the Alliance for Technology Access, suggests that simulated sports games are the most popular game for people with disabilities. He suggests that for children with disabilities "they may not be able to get down in the sandbox, but if we can simulate the sandbox in a game, they can have some of those same experiences" (Microsoft, 2000). He goes on to say that games are the easiest way to teach computer skills, however for the participants in this study, it was not about learning computer skills. These students enjoyed car simulators because it was the nearest that they will ever come to driving a real car. They believed it would help them learn control of their motorised wheelchairs. It also appeared to improve their self-image - they were doing something that the rest of us take for granted. Most of the participants interviewed for this research will never drive a car nor fly a plane, hopefully will never be in a street fight, and will almost certainly never be part of an elite anti-terrorist squad. However, in the three dimensional virtual world of computer games, they can do exactly that. Manly people, including the teachers and staff of the centre involved in this study, view computer games as mindless entertainment. But to these students, computer games provide an opportunity to experience what life may have been like if they did not suffer from cerebral palsy. Unlike most computer games designed for the personal computer, Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation games allow up to four players in the one game, on the same screen – the perfect multi-player environment for these students. However, Xbox and Playstation controllers are designed to be used with two hands, and at least normal dexterity with each hand, something cerebral palsy sufferers often do not have. This paper highlights many of the issues surrounding computer games and disabled children. It suggests areas on further study and opportunities for developments in this area. The also details the ongoing research with Cerebral Palsy students using computer games that help them "feel like real people".

Document type: 
Conference presentation

The Effects of a Consumer-Oriented Multimedia Game on the Reading Disorders of Children with ADHD

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

It is impossible to overstate the importance of effective interventions for addressing two highly prevalent and potentially devastating disorders affecting school-aged children—dyslexia and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Both have been found to increase children’s risk for underachievement, school failure, dropping out, suspension, expulsion, and delinquency (Crawford, 1996; Dickman, 1996; Gregg, 1995a, 1995b, 1996; Lyon, 1996). Furthermore, there is evidence that the disorders often coexist (Lyon, 1996; Willcutt & Pennington, 2000), though the nature of this overlap is still not fully understood. While more and more children with learning deficits are being educated in regular classrooms, many of those teachers lack sufficient training to help them succeed. Moreover, the pressures placed on schools by high-stakes testing and accountability make it imperative to identify interventions that address learning deficits and maximize academic achievement. Certain interventions such as computer programs that ameliorate impairments in reading and attention disorders operate on the physiological level and, therefore, lend themselves to technology-based applications. This study investigates the effects of Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), a consumer-oriented, multimedia game on the reading disorders of sixth-grade students with ADHD. DDR is a pervasive, interactive, multimedia game designed solely for entertainment. As such, it has massive appeal to young people. It was hypothesized that by matching movements to visual and rhythmic auditory cues, DDR may strengthen neural networks involved in reading and attention and thereby improve student outcomes. The pool of potential participants included 74 sixth-grade students who were identified by their parents or guardians as having been diagnosed with ADHD by a medical or psychological professional. Students attended four middle schools during three distinct project periods: Spring 2002, Spring/Summer 2004, and Falll004. For the purposes of the study, the presence of reading impairment in potential participants was determined by a pretest. The Process Assessment of the Learner: Test Battery for Reading and Writing (PAL-RW) is used to identify students at risk for reading/writing problems, monitor students’ progress as they participate in intervention programs, and aid in diagnosis by evaluating the nature of reading/writing-related problems (Berninger, 2001). The pretest yielded 62 students in four locations eligible to participate in the study. Students were sorted by class period availability and assigned to treatment, control, or exclusion groups using a table of random numbers. Eligible students were excluded in one location as dictated by availability (i.e., the number of eligible students exceeded the time available for intervention during their assigned elective class period) Students assigned to the control group did not participate in the intervention activity. Instead, they attended elective courses as normal and completed the posttest at the end of the treatment period. DDR Disney Mix was the intervention used with the treatment group in this study. Along with DDR Disney Mix, two external dance pads, a Sony PlayStation, and a 50" television were used by participants at each location. Game settings were adjusted to minimize background visual stimuli (i.e., background effects "off" and background brightness set to the lowest setting, "25%"). Participants followed onscreen cues to match rhythm and choreography. They stepped on arrows on the dance pad when corresponding arrows on the television screen indicated forward, back, left, and right. Students participated in pairs (matched randomly within their available class period), attending two 25-minute sessions each week for varying treatment periods (i.e., 4 weeks, 8 weeks, or 12 weeks). Sessions were monitored by a trained researcher or research assistant. As researchers anticipated, the number of completed treatment sessions varied by participant within the treatment group due to illness, weather-related school closings, schoolwide events, and the like. Following the treatment period, the PAL-RW was readministered. The experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that students with ADHD who were involved in the intervention would exhibit less reading impairment (as measured by the PAL-RW) and would improve to a greater extent than would comparable students who were not exposed to the intervention. The pretest and posttest scores on the 24 subtests of the PAL-RW were used for comparison. Regression analyses revealed a positive relationship between the number of treatment sessions a student completed and the gains made on Receptive Coding and Finger Sense Recognition subtests. Furthermore, results from the general linear model for repeated measures indicated that the treatment may have had an effect on participants’ ability to perform on the Receptive Coding subtest which measures the child’s ability to "code whole written words into short-term memory and then to segment each word into units of different size" (Berninger, 2001, p. 32). Further research may support the use of recreational games such as DDR to supplement traditional classroom interventions for addressing these disorders, offering educators and families alike a child-focused option that is neither pedagogical nor pharmacological. References Berninger, V. (2001). Process Assessment of the Learner (PAL) Test Battery for Reading and Writing. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation. Crawford, D. (1996). Review of research on learning disabilities and juvenile delinquency. In S. Cramer & W. Ellis (Eds.), Learning disabilities: Lifelong issues (pp. 203–210). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. Dickman, G. E. (1996). The link between learning disabilities and behavior. In S. Cramer & W. Ellis (Eds.), Learning Disabilities (pp. 215–228). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. Gregg, S. (1996). Preventing antisocial behavior in disabled and at-risk students. Policy Briefs. Charleston, WV: AEL. Gregg, S. (1995a). ADHD–Building academic success. Policy Briefs. Charleston, WV: AEL. Gregg, S. (1995b). Understanding and identifying children with ADHD: First steps to effective intervention. Policy Briefs. Charleston, WV: AEL. Lyon, G. R. (1996). The state of research. In S. Cramer & W. Ellis (Eds.), Learning disabilities: Lifelong issues (pp. 3–61). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. Willcutt, E. G., & Pennington, B. F. (2000). Comorbidity of reading disability and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Differences by gender and subtype. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(2), 179–191.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Mise-en-scène Applied to Level Design: Adapting a Holistic Approach to Level Design

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

Mise-en-scène is a term from film studies which means "the use of space within the frame: the placement of actors and props, the relationship of the camera to the space in front of it, camera movement, the use of color or black and white, lighting, the size of the screen frame itself"(Kolker, 1999). It is a French term that literally translates, "put in the scene". The mise-en-scène informs everything about the film and gives filmmakers a rich palette to induce emotions in their audience. By arranging elements on screen in a certain way, directors can create mood, atmosphere, tension and conflict in the filmic space that is not achievable through any other means. Obviously, games are not movies. The difference between games and movies is that a movie projects its images in an immutable sequence, while a game presents a branching tree of sequences and allows the player to develop his/her own story by making choices at each branch point. The audience of a linear story must infer causal relationships from a sequence of facts; the player of a game is encouraged to explore alternatives, contra positives, and inversions. The game player is free to explore the causal relationship from many different angles. Indeed, the player expects to play the game many times, trying different strategies each time (this is the whole point of a game like Fable). A game's representational value increases with each playing until the player has explored a representative subset of all of the branches in the game net. Several game theorists, from Henry Jenkins to Lev Manovich have written on game narratives unfolding through the course of the player navigating through the game space. Game designers don't simply tell stories; they design worlds and sculpt spaces. It is no accident, for example, that game design documents have historically been more interested in issues of level design than plotting or character motivation. A prehistory of video and computer games takes us through the evolution of paper mazes and board games, both preoccupied with the design of spaces, even where they also provided narrative context. When a company adopts a film into a game, the process typically involves translating events in the film into environments within the game. When gamer magazines want to describe the experience of gameplay, they are more likely to reproduce maps of the game world than to recount their narratives. When game designers draw story elements from existing film or literary genres, they are most apt to tap those genres ñ fantasy, adventure, science fiction, horror, war ñ which are most invested in world making and spatial storytelling. Games, in turn, may more fully realize the spatiality of these stories, giving a much more immersive and compelling representation of their narrative worlds. (Jenkins, 2002) In contrast to modern literature, theater, and cinema which are built around the psychological tensions between the characters and the movement in psychological space, these computer games return us to the ancient forms of narrative where the plot is driven by the spatial movement of the main hero, traveling through distant lands to save the princess, to find the treasure, to defeat the dragon, and so on. If we make the assumption that the narrative of the game is revealed through the game characters' traversal of in-game spaces, then it becomes clear that the level designer is the game's key storyteller. Mise-en-scène can be applied equally to games as it can to cinema. Just as the film director controls the mise-en-scène of a movie to immerse his audience in a fictional narrative, the level designer (knowingly or not) controls the mise-en-scène by building game spaces that will immerse the player in an alternate world to be explored. However, the use of mise-en-scène in games is underdeveloped and still in its infancy. There are examples of games where level design is used very effectively to evoke a certain mood in the player. Henry Jenkins and Kurt Squire site the example of Yu Suzuki's Shenmue: "Grey skies and snowy streets contribute to the game's sad, contemplative mood, expressing Ryo's (the game's adolescent protagonist) experience of mourning and loss." Survival horror games particularly tend to use the elements of the level to achieve a sense of immersive horror in the player, such as in the Silent Hill series. In pursuing a more emotional experience in games, level design can be leveraged to reinforce not only emotion, but hint at psychological factors of the computer-controlled characters and reveal the intricacies of the narrative. Studying the techniques of mise-en-scene and taking a holistic approach to level design may help game and level designers tap even deeper into the player and allow for communication at a sub-conscious level. This will lead to more interesting and compelling games that will enrich the game experience for the player. Our paper will explore the connections between mise-en-scène in film and level design in games. We will look at the components that make up mise-en-scène in film and how these components relate to the design of games. We will investigate current uses of mise-en-scène and level design to evoke emotion in their respective media, and finally what techniques of mise-en-scène can be adapted to gaming to grant the player a deeper involvement in the emotions, characters, story and spaces that make up a game world.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Computer games to visualize music: a 270 year-old tradition for digital imaginaries

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

Within the field of game studies, narratological or ludological discourses provide different lights to understand computer games. Yet the digital design space is still young and one might wonder if there are other ways of approaching the design of games? With the purpose of opening a new line of thought, this paper turns to the historic past and examines a 270 year-old tradition called "color-music." Beginning first in 1735 in France, this paper traces color-music through various turns in the 18th, 19th, 20th, and into the 21st century as designers and artists attempted to build machines capable of allowing a user to manipulation visual elements, often in some relationship with music. This paper then uses this tradition to propose a direction for the design of games in which players are given radical control over the graphics engine as they listen to MP3s.

Document type: 
Conference presentation