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

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Game Genre Evolution for Educational Games

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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

Games, Simulations and Simulation Games : theoretical underpinnings

Date created: 
2005-04-15
Abstract: 

The "Simulation and Gaming Environments (SAGE) for Learning" Project, funded by the SSHRC-INE program, has assembled a network of research teams from across Canada to undertake projects in three applied research domains and three foundation research domains. The application domains are: • Games: activities in artificial settings that do not mimic reality, in which players compete to "win" using rules; • Simulation games: activities in simplified dynamic models of reality, in which players compete to win using rules; • Simulations: activities in simplified, dynamic but accurate models of reality, in which players explore and practice but do not compete. The foundation domains, which support all application domains, are: • Conceptual Foundations: systematic review of the literature on of the evolving terminology, concepts, and understanding of SAGE impacts on learning, as well as development of conceptual models to guide research in other domains; • Methodologies and Tools: identification, development, application, testing, and application of new research and evaluation methodologies and tools for technology-intensive SAGEs in all application domains; • Technologies: identification, development, application and evaluation of technologies that support learning in all SAGE application domains. These research projects are documenting current levels of knowledge and means for evaluating simulations and gaming environments for learning. In this paper which focuses on the Conceptual Foundations project, the research team initiated work based on the hypothesis that the reason research results on the impact of games and simulations on learning are generally vague and inconclusive is due to the absence of clear-cut definitions for these concepts. To correct this methodological weakness, an extensive literature review was undertaken covering the last five years which isolated the essential attributes of games, simulation and simulation games. This paper will present the research objectives, the documentary databases analyzed, the text analysis methodology used, the obtained results and the essential attributes of games, simulation and simulation games. A period for questions and answers will conclude this presentation.

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

Consumer Driven Computer Game Design

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

The Critical Incident Techniques (CIT) is widely used to study customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction in the service industry. CIT provides questionnaire respondents with an open format to describe in their own words incidents that create lasting impressions. The purpose of this research is to develop a methodology for computer game design with the goal and intent of creating games that increase the consumer’s satisfaction through play. Too often game designers, either with or without intent, create games that satisfy their own perceptions of a good game without considering the needs of the consumers that will play the games. Previous research has shown that retail products and services offered internationally are often incongruent with the expectations of the target customer. Global retailers that push products without consideration of the target needs and wants too frequently lose market share and the opportunity to build lasting brand loyalty. Customer driven computer game design applies the critical incident technique as a means to define the elements of good and bad game design using a proven tool to build customer satisfaction. A methodology is described whereby game designers establish the goal and intentions of the game by listening to the voice of the consumer. The methodology was tested by distributing CIT surveys to active game players who each wrote two stories about their game playing behavior and experiences. The first story described the respondent’s best experience playing games and the second story described their worst experience. The stories were archived and content analyzed using Gremler’s best-practice methods for identifying categories and critical incidents. A summary sheet describing the frequency of good and bad incidents was derived by three coders. The respondents’ original game playing stories were further abstracted into key good and bad descriptions and appended to the summary CIT frequency data sheet to create a consumer game report. Creative artists were asked to review the consumer reports on the elements of good and bad game design. After reviewing the data, the artists were asked to design a new game that they felt would most likely satisfy the customer’s view of a good game. The creative artists were then assigned the task of creating a new game and were evaluated on their ability to satisfy the customer driven game criteria. Upon completion of the concept design process, each artist submitted a one page story describing the game and supplemented the story with concept drawings that represented the game and the game protagonist. The game concepts were field tested using focus groups of consumers that matched the target demographics of the new game. This paper reports the methodology for customer driven computer game design and provides details of the game concepts selected by teenagers and young adults in Taiwan.

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Cinematic Camera as Videogame Cliché: Analysis and Software Demonstration

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

"Only with effort can the camera be forced to lie: basically it is an honest medium: so the photographer is much more likely to approach nature in a spirit of inquiry, of communion, instead of with the saucy swagger of self-dubbed ‘artists’" -Edward Weston, "On Photography" by Susan Sontag Of all the fictions presented in the videogame medium, perhaps none is more prevalent and less recognized that the notion of the camera. The central lie told to the videogame player by the camera is that it exists at all. Although referred to widely in the critical and game development literature, the peculiar nature of the videogame camera is that it is not there, at least not as an optical camera. If a camera is best described as "an optical system for recording light," a videogame camera is properly described as "a computational system for producing light." While this difference is apparent and self-evident, the ongoing collusion of the optical and videogame cameras has resulted in a number of unique, and perhaps avoidable, conceptual and methodological moves. Confusions arise as the conceptualization of the videogame camera merges with the optical camera, forcing a reading of videogames as form of photography or, more often, as cinema. The consequences of these conceptual and methodological missteps include the following key issues: First, the videogame medium is rich in examples of non-optical, non-cinematic camera perspectives. Games such as Pac-Man and Asteroids provide clearly non-Euclidian spaces rendered in the service of the symbolic needs of the game rather than any effort to mimic cinema. Even a contemporary game such as SimCity 4 forgoes possible optical (and therefore cinematic) perspectives to present the word in an impossible isometric perspective. The contemporary development of 3-D technologies and hardware has meshed with and fueled the aesthetic recapitulation of Renaissance impulse toward realism in art, leading game development efforts away from classic, non-optical perspectives and toward the scientific perspective of the cinematic, optical camera. This move has unnecessarily disadvantaged "classic" game designs and winnowed the design vocabulary for contemporary game developers. In short, we have more Doom and less Spacewar. This consequence can be described as "the cinematic camera as videogame cliché’" A second issue mirrors the first as theorists attempt to merge cinematic theory with videogame theory based on assumptions about apparent structural similarities in the media. However, this theoretical position does not account for the conventional merging of the videogame and optical camera concepts. Even if, as Lev Manovich argues, "Rather than being merely one cultural language among others, cinema is now becoming the cultural interface, this is a transient phenomenon. Even though games may have absorbed cinema has their primary interface, this is a not a necessary arrangement. Instead, it becomes clear that the cinematic interface only remains necessary until indigenous videogame interfaces develop further and reach full cultural adoption. The colloquial evolution and encoding of the cinematic, optical camera perspective as the primary player perspective in games is not a necessary configuration of the interface. Games do not require a cinematic interface and therefore are not bound to a cinematic theoretical model. Moving beyond a strict reading of the videogame camera as an optical camera returns valuable design options to the game development library, provides a platform for recontextualizing film theory vis-à-vis games and establishes a theoretical platform for considering games as sui generis and not simply an extension of other modern media. To reach this perspective, this paper describes the evolution of the optical, cinematic camera perspective in games, describes how the cinematic camera became the preferred videogame interface, develops a theory of consequences described as the "cinematic camera as videogame cliché", outlines competing perspectival urges in the videogame medium and, finally, proposes solutions. To illustrate and illuminate how the optical cinematic camera perspective limits expression and creation in the form, this paper is paired with a software project that provides several non-optical, non-cinematic camera perspectives. This real-time, 3-D software allows the player to experience radical, non-optical camera perspectives as described in the paper.

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