Aaaand here are the papers from the Nordic Digra 2012 conference.
Visualizing Persuasive Structures in Advergames
Since the publication of Ian Bogost’s two first books (2006, 2007), procedural rhetoric has been the focus of attention of many scholars working on persuasive strategies in digital games (e.g., Heide & Nørholm 2009, Flanagan 2009, Swain 2010, Ferrari 2010). This paper aims to demonstrate that other persuasive dimensions could complement procedural rhetoric to design games with advertising purposes. This paper initially explains the value of use for each one of the persuasive dimensions that could appear in an advergame: narrative persuasion, procedural rhetoric, visual rhetoric, audiovisual rhetoric and textual rhetoric. Then a framework to analyze and visualize the persuasive structure of advergames is proposed, explained and defended. Finally the model is applied to three case studies.
Keywords: advergames, persuasive structures, procedural rhetoric, narrative persuasion
Gambling in Social Networks: Gaming Experiences of Finnish Online Gamblers
Kinnunen Jani, Rautio Erkka, Alha Kati, Paavilainen Janne
Online gambling is often regarded as asocial activity. Previously players could not interact with each other in online environments. The situation has changed as internet, in general, has evolved towards a more social environment. First Finnish online gambling games, eBingo and online poker, which enabled in-game social interaction were opened in the year 2010. This article reports findings from the study which focused on the social interaction connected with these games. Based on the questionnaire data of 409 players 16 players were selected for the thematic interviews. The analysis of the interviews indicates that even if social interaction is not necessary in order to play, it is meaningful in players’ experience of the game. The different levels of sociality before, during and/or after the game have an influence on the construction of gaming experiences and connect gambling as meaningful part of players’ social networks.
Keywords: Online gambling, social networks, bingo, poker
Tackling the Metaphor-Simulation Dilemma
This paper presents a couple of observations on the use of the concept of metaphor in game studies: Firstly, often when authors use the concept of metaphor this appears in conceptual and textual proximity to simulation. Secondly, the concept of metaphor is often applied to signify seemingly abstract games and to form thereby an opposition to mimetic simulations. Thirdly, definitions applied for simulation as well as for metaphor are strikingly similar. As such this paper discusses in a first step respective examples from the field of game studies in order to develop an understanding how the terms metaphor and simulation are used there. In a second step it presents what is here called the “metaphor-simulation dilemma” which shows that the definitions of both concepts are strikingly similar. From these observations I will derive and demonstrate what I call the metaphor-simulation dilemma. Finally, I will argue based on a narrow understanding of metaphor to consider simulations always already as metonyms and thereby challenge the assumption that especially abstract simulations are metaphors. Furthermore, I will challenge the assumption that simulations required a similarity between the simulating and the simulated with Frasca’s sign-based definition of a simulation and comments on this. And finally I will explore a condition which enables us to speak of a metaphoric simulation.
Keywords: Metaphor, simulation, metonymy, synecdoche, game
Player-reported Impediments to Game-based Learning
Harviainen J. Tuomas, Lainema Timo, Saarinen Eeli
This article addresses the question of how games function as learning tools, from the perspective of player-stated problems. It is based on interviews and essays, collected from university students who reported problems dealing with unrealistic trust, competitive play leading to game-based logic of business phenomena instead of their learning or applying real skills, and outright cheating. According to the respondents, the main cause of problems appears to be that by many participants, games are framed as an activity that is to be done competitively. Along with reporting the impediments, the article discusses potential solutions.
Keywords: briefing, learning impediments, simulation/games
flâneur, a walkthrough: Locative literature as participation and play
Løvlie Anders Sundnes
This paper presents an experiment in facilitating public contributions to an experimental system for locative literature called textopia. Discussing approaches to collaborative writing and the relationship between games and art, the paper presents the development and the testing of a game designed to foster participation in the system. The game is based on the recombination of found texts into literary compositions, integrating the act of exploring the urban environment into the act of writing, as well as into the medium that is studied. The resulting texts are read as a form of situated, poetic documentary reports on the urban textual environment. The experiment also draws attention to the importance of live events in building a literary community.
Keywords: locative literature, pervasive games, ubiquitous games, design
Digital games as experiment stimulus
Järvelä Simo, Ekman Inger, Kivikangas J. Matias, Ravaja Niklas
Digital games offer rich media content and engaging action, accessible individually or in groups collaborating or competing against each other. This makes them promising for use as stimulus in research settings. This paper examines the advantages and challenges of using games in experimental research with particular focus on strict stimulus control through the following four areas: (1) matching and regulating task type, (2) data segmentation and event coding, (3) compatibility between participants and (4) planning and conducting data collection. This contribution provides a breakdown of the steps necessary for using a digital game in experimental studies, along with a checklist for researchers illustrating variables that potentially affect the reliability and validity of experiments. We also offer a practical study example. Ideally, the identification of the methodological and practical considerations of employing games in empirical research will also provide useful in interpreting and evaluating experimental work utilizing games as stimulus.
Keywords: digital games, stimulus, experimental psychology, methodology
Game design tools: Time to evaluate
The art form of the video game has a very idiosyncratic reliance on the process and practice of its designers. We work with creative and computational problems that form a web of deep complexity. And yet, as I have noticed in my professional practice as a game designer, we do not use tools to support our design process. For more than a decade, designers and researchers have argued for the development and use of both conceptual and concrete tools. To this end, formal and semi-formal game design models have been proposed and, more recently, experimental software-based tools have been developed by the research community. To date, however, none of these tools or models have been adopted into mainstream practice within the game design community. In this paper I argue that it is difficult, if not methodologically flawed, to assess the work in the field of game design support without more qualitative data on how such tools fare in actual game design practice. Evaluation research would be an essential contribution towards answering the question of whether – and if so, how – these experimental formal models and tools can support and improve the game design process.
Keywords: Game design, design tools, ludocore, machinations, game atoms, game diagramming
In Defence of a Magic Circle: The Social and Mental Boundaries of Play
This article reviews the history of the concept of the magic circle, its criticism and the numerous other metaphors that have been used to capture the zone of play or the border that surrounds it, such as world, frame, bubble, net, screen, reality, membrane, zone, environment, or attitude. The various conceptions of social and mental borders are reviewed and separated from the sites where cultural residue of such borders is encountered. Finally, a model is forwarded where the psychological bubble of playfulness, the social contract of the magic circle and the spatial, temporal or product- based arena are separated.
Keywords: magic circle, psychological bubble, arena, play, game, boundary of play, safety
Meta-synthesis of player typologies
Tuunanen Janne, Hamari Juho
This paper investigates different ways in which players have been categorized in game research literature in order to distinguish relevant customer segments for designing and marketing of game’s value offerings. This paper adopts segmentation and marketing theory as its bases of analysis. The goal is to synthesize the results of various studies and to find the prevailing concepts, combine them, and draw implications to further studies and segmentation of the player base. The research process for this study proceeded from large literature search, to author-centric (Webster & Watson 2002) identification and categorization of previous works based on the established factors of segmentation (demographic, psychographic, and behavioral variables) in marketing theory. The previous works on player typologies were further analyzed using concept-centric approach and synthesized according to common and repeating factors in the previous studies. The results indicate that player typologies in previous literature can be synthesized into seven key dimensions: Skill, Achievement, Exploration, Sociability, Killer, Immersion and In-game demographics. The paper highlights for further studies the self-fulfilling and self-validating nature of the current player typologies because their relatively high use in game design practices as well as discusses the role of game design in segmentation of players.
Keywords: game design, marketing, player typology, segmentation
The Early Micro User: Games writing, hardware hacking, and the will to mod
Historical perspectives are largely absent from contemporary debates about user-making. In this paper, I approach the question of user and player making, historically. I consider what microcomputer users and players did in the 1980s, when digital games first became available to play. Excavating the practices of early users through historical research into game coding, hardware building and hacking places not only places practices such as game modification into a longer arc of cultural history of user activity. Exploring what early users did with computers also provides new perspectives on contemporary debates about users’ productivity. The high degree of interest that contemporary users’ productivity is generating in academic circles provides a wider context for such inquiries.
Keywords: Microcomputers, Users, Use, Coding, Programming, Hacking, Electronics, User-generated content, History, Australia, New Zealand
Main(s) and Alts: Multiple Character Management in World of Warcraft
Hsu Sheng-Yi, Huang Yu-Han, Sun Chuen-Tsai
Most online games let players create multiple characters, and during avatar creation and gameplay, the relationships between players and their game playing goals are revealed. As multiple characters are developed, player behaviors become more complex. Yet a major characteristic of avatars is that they cannot act at the same time—since gameplay is usually continuous and players alternate between or among avatars, time patterns tend to emerge. For this project we employed a user interface to collect real and continuous data on World of Warcraft players, and developed an algorithm for grouping avatars owned by specific players into sets. We then attempted to identify goals for individual characters, types of set management, and relationships within avatar sets.
Keywords: multiple characters, alternative avatars, online games, avatars, player user interface
Age-Restriction: Re-examining the interactive experience of ‘harmful’ game content
van Vught Jasper, Schott Gareth, Marczak Raphaël
Similar to the classification rating of films, screen depictions of violence within digital games are issued with an age restriction rating. Such approaches still fail to adequately incorporate players’ experience of the screen, confounded by the medium’s interactive nature, in their assessments. The current failure to account for, or describe subsequent interactions between player and game text leaves the classification process largely inferential. This paper presents a framework that forms the basis for an empirical assessment of the interactive experience of games. In it, we aim to account for the processes and outcomes of play and the extent to which play relates to the design of the game text. By operationalizing game studies’ extensive theorization of the distinct quality of games, a new model of media ‘usage’ is sought to enhance regulation processes and better inform the public’s perception of games (specifically within New Zealand). In this paper we draw specifically on data produced from one part of a mixed methodology research design (Schott & Van Vught 2011). A structured diary method was employed to allow game players to chronicle different elements of their gameplay experience with a single text as they progressed through it. By demonstrating the applied value of game studies’ contribution to knowledge, the research project aims to contribute to a new paradigm that is capable of accounting for the ‘actual’ experience of play and the ways game texts are activated under the agency of players once they enter everyday life and culture.
Keywords: Gameplay analysis, classification, diary study, player experience, game legislation
PWNED: Motivation of South Koreans Who Engage in Person vs. Person Gameplay in World of Warcraft
Sheard Adam, Won Young-Shin
This research explores the two most prominent theories regarding the motivations for South Koreans to engage in player vs. player gameplay in Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. The data collection process consisted of an ethnographic approach with the researcher immersing himself in World of Warcraft player vs. player gameplay to observe and interview gamers over the course of a year. Results showed that while interviewees displayed motivations that could be considered as psychopathic, the majority of player vs. player motivation stemmed from the innate need of players to validate their masculinity through violence.
Keywords: South Korea, Player vs. Player, Motivation, Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, Violence, Masculinity
Rating Logic Puzzle Difficulty Automatically in a Human Perspective
Wang Hao, Wang Yu-Wen, Sun Chuen-Tsai
Logic puzzle games like Sudoku are getting popular for they are flexible in playing time and space and are useful in education. For puzzles, difficulty is arguably one of the most important factors in problem design. A problem too easy is boring, yet a problem too hard is frustrating. Providing problems with adequate difficulty to avoid boredom or anxiety is thus an important issue. In this paper we rate difficulty level of Sudoku problems with human oriented, general difficulty criteria so that the method can be used to evaluate problems of most logic puzzles. Only few previous Sudoku difficulty research are based on real playing data and the rating methods are limited to Sudoku or at most, constraint satisfaction problems (CSP). We found that the proposed method, despite of its simplicity and generality, can sort Sudoku problems in an order similar to average player solving time, the player perceived difficulty.
Keywords: difficulty, dynamic difficulty adjustment, Sudoku, puzzle, automatic content generation
The Stereotype of Online Gamers: New Characterization or Recycled Prototype?
Kowert Rachel, Oldmeadow Julian
The stereotypical online gamer is a socially inept, reclusive, male, with an obsession for gaming. This characterization is shared with a number of other groups too, suggesting it reflects a set of behaviors and concerns common to a range of groups. This study examines the content of the stereotype of online gamers in relation to other similar groups in an attempt to identify the core behaviors or characteristics upon which the stereotype is based. By comparing the similarities and differences in the stereotypes of a range of related groups it is possible to identify the shared and unique features of online gamers that are being reflected in stereotypes about them. Results show similarities in stereotypic content between online gamers and other social groups, including other kinds of gamers. Additionally, the characteristic of social ineptitude, which is a key trait in the stereotype of this group, did not emerge as a distinctive feature for online gamers alone, questioning the unique role that mediated socialization plays in these spaces. Implications for future research within the online gaming population are discussed.
Keywords: online gaming, MMORPG, stereotype, socially inept
In this article, I revisit the everlasting question of what constitutes a game. My purpose is to arrive at a permissive definition that can serve to bridge digital and non-digital game studies. The way I approach the issue is through eliciting the qualities of games for which I believe game studies provides appropriate tools. The article centres on the idea that games are systems, which have been designed to be played or evolved within a play practice. I use previous literature to carefully examine what is required from a game system, as well as what signifies play in relationship to other human activities. The strength of game studies is that it has developed ways to understand how these two aspects are interrelated – how play is shaped by systems, and how systems need to be constructed to support play.
Keywords: Game definitions, re-signification, ludus, paidea, paratelic, telic, rules, game studies
Buy and Share! Social Network Games and Ludic Shopping
de Andrade e Silva Suen
By developing the concept of ludic shopping, this paper explores how the centring of gameplay around the (symbolic) purchase of virtual goods has transformed social network games into a blending of consumerism and playfulness. Although ludic shopping points out the capitalistic logic of consumption embedded on social network games, this concept brings also a positive view about consumption as part of players’ identity construction. I drawn on the player types defined by game theorists Richard Bartle and Espen Aarseth to examine the main forms of enjoyment offered by social network games, and to present a new conceptual dimension linked to consumerism. Through a critical analysis of both game mechanics and players’ motivations, I argue that symbolic consumerism is a central experience for players of social network games.
Keywords: Social network games, consumerism, player types, free-to-play, playful identity
Domesticating Play, Designing Everyday Life: The Practice and Performance of Family Gender, and Gaming
Playing digital games is now a common everyday practice in many homes. This paper deals with the constitution of such practices by taking a closer look at the material objects essential to play and their role in the “design of everyday life” (Shove et al 2007). It uses ethnographic method and anthropological practice theory to attend to the domestic spaces of leisure and play, the home environments, in which the large part of today’s practices of playing digital games takes place. It focuses on the stagings of material, not virtual, artifacts of gaming: screens, consoles, hand-held-devices essential to play and their locations and movements around the home. It demonstrates how everyday practices, seemingly mundane scenographies and choreographies, practically, aesthetically and technologically determined, order everyday space-time and artifacts, domesticate play and condition performances of family, gender and gaming. In the process, a history of the domestication of play unfolds.
Keywords: Play, gender, family, game-time, game-space, performance, practice theory, culture, ethnography, anthropology, everyday life, choreography, scenography, staging-play, material culture, ludotopia, mobility, domestic, design of everyday life, history-of-play
Should I stay or should I go? – Boundary maintaining mechanisms in Left 4 Dead 2
Linderoth Jonas, Björk Staffan, Olsson Camilla
In this paper we report an ethnographic study of Pick Up Groups (PUGs) in the game Left 4 Dead 2. Our aim with the study is to contribute with a deeper understanding of how these new social arenas are constituted by its’ participants and the role game design plays in structuring these encounters. As a deliberate attempt to go beyond the discussion in the game studies field about formalism versus play studies, we use both concepts from micro-sociology as well as concepts from the field of game design as our analytical framework. Our results shows that the dynamics of a PUG can be understood in relation to how players uphold and negotiate the boundary between the their in-game-identity based on their gaming skill and a other social relations outside of the game context.
Keywords: Gameplay design patterns, Goffman, Frame analysis, Pick Up Groups, Ethnography
Feelies: The Lost Art of Immersing the Narrative
This paper discusses the materializations of story world entities that are distributed with game packaging, here referred to as feelies, as props that support narrative elements in story-driven digital games. The narrative support is suggested to function on global and local levels, where the first one refers to the immersive effects concerning the story world, and the latter to the immersive effects concerning the situation in which the player is accommodated to via a player character. Additionally, analog feelies are suggested to possess a tactile aspect that has the potential to enhance their immersive impact at both effective levels. These concepts will be explored through early text adventures Deadline (Infocom 1982) and Witness (Infocom 1983).
Keywords: immersion, feelies, narration, interactive fiction, adventure games
Affordances of Elliptical Learning in Arcade Video Games
Many researchers consider that video games have a unique potential for learning. However, Linderoth (2010) criticizes the way researchers link a successful action in the game and learning, without denying this conclusion. Using Gibson’s affordances (1979), he argues that, in order to study learning in a video game, one must carefully study the game itself. This article attempts to understand how “great video games” (Kunkel, 2003) may take “a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.” As a part of my Ph.D research, I trained for six months to perform a one-credit run on the Alien Vs. Predator (Capcom, 1994) arcade game. This expertise will be used to study affordances of learning and non-learning in this video game in order to introduce the concept of “elliptical learning”.
Keywords: Video game, elliptical learning, affordance, closure, ellipsis
Mario’s legacy and Sonic’s heritage: Replays and refunds of console gaming history
In this paper, I study how three major videogame device manufacturers, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo use gaming history within their popular console products, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PS 3 and Nintendo Wii. These enterprises do not only market new game applications and devices but also recycle classic game themes, game characters as well as classic games themselves. Therefore, these corporations are a part of the phenomenon which can be called retrogaming culture or digital retro economy. The paper introduces the different ways in which the corporations began to use history and how they constructed their digital game market strategies to be compatible with the current retrogaming trend. In addition, the paper introduces a model for different phases of uses of history. The paper is empirically based on literary reviews, recreational computing magazine articles, company websites and other online sources and participatory observation of retrogaming applications and product analyses. Sociological and cultural studies on nostalgia as well as history culture form the theoretical framework of the study.
Keywords: retrogaming, classic games, history management, uses of history, consoles
Angry Birds, Uncommitted Players
Mobile phones have been game-enabled since 1997. However, it seems that mobile phone games are only taking off now, in the 2010s. With mobile phones and, specially, smartphones, reaching critical mass games, in their mobile form are accessible to more and more people, young and old, men and women. Angry Birds, first released for iOS in December 2009, was the best-selling mobile game in 2011 (Reisinger 2011). In order to understand who is playing Angry Birds, how, and why, the author conducted a series of interviews with a group of Angry Birds players. The results of those interviews are here analyzed according to perspectives arisen from those conversations. Two main axis of analysis resulted from the interviews: gender gap and gaming background.
Keywords: Mobile games, Angry Birds, casual, hardcore, gender, computer games