December 1, 2005

DAC 2005 Session 3b

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 9:32 am

In the third session of DAC we went to two parallel tracks of short papers. I’m in the second set, where the presentations are:

– Laura Ermi & Frans Mayra: Players’ Emotional Experiences with Digital Games
– Cynthia Haynes: DisArmageddon Army: Of Gods, Mods, and God Mode Rhetorics
– Lorna Macdonald: Designing for Location-Dependence

Players’ Emotional Experiences with Digital Games

They asked players to report their emotional experiences with games. Joy and fear were the most strongly felt emotions. Strategy/simulation games and RPGs provided pleasant relaxation, while sports and and action games elicited anger and fear. They write:

Both strategy/simulation games (Civilization III, The Sims 2, and Rome: Total War) and role-playing/adventure games (World of Warcraft, KOTOR II: Sith Lords, and Neverwinter Nights) provided the most pleasantly relaxing gameplay experiences. Fear was most related to action games(Half-Life 2, Nethack, and Halo 2) and anger to sports games (Pro Evolution Soccer 4 and NHL 2005).

The players were mostly male (apart from The Sims 2).

During the question period, someone asks, “Isn’t joy irrelevant?” People are reporting on games they enjoy playing, so joy is completely expected. Aren’t the “negative” emotions more interesting? Laura Ermi, the presenter, points out that it’s joy and fear that most correlated with the games people liked – not just joy.

Markku Eskelinen asks how we can figure out things about the emotions that players may not be ready to admit (to the researchers, or even to themselves) that they are feeling? We’d have to move beyond surveys. Can you imagine how we might address this? The speaker points out that there are people doing physiometrical studies of game players, but the question of how to map that info onto emotions is unanswered.

Another person asks, given that the most highly-rated games are also very popular (e.g., Half-Life 2, World of Warcraft) maybe some of the positive feelings come from being part of large communities that play and discuss these games. Speaker says that’s possible.

Next question: Did you find out why they were having these emotions? Did the anger, for example, come from frustration with the game design, emotional attachment to characters that died, etc? Speaker: no.

Cynthia Haynes: DisArmageddon Army: Of Gods, Mods, and God Mode Rhetorics

Cynthia Haynes has three disclaimers: I’m a Christian, I’m not a programmer, and I’m a writer performing a piece of writing.

She gives an amazing tour through the intersection of the Christian right and hardcore gaming (and game modding) subcultures.

What game would Jesus play? A stunning answer from a Christian gamer’s forum.

A game designed around the idea of brining about the apocalypse.

A discussion of a “true christian” Half-Life mod full of anti-semitism segues into more mainstream propaganda: America’s Army. And from there to the war in Iraq.

What do academics do with this now? With the confluence of games, politics, and religion? How do we read both rhetorically and ludologically in the context of our culture now? “Ludology must redraw the line between war and play.” We must reverse-engineer the god mode game of the Christian right, US military, and game industry.

A taxonomy of god mode modalities.

(See Jill’s Notes for some better coverage and important disclaimer about how this is a very hard text to take notes on. Much better to read it.)

Question: Will you print this somewhere else?
A: A shorter version will appear in the first issue of Games and Culture.
Questioner responds: How about somewhere like the Chronicle of Higher Ed? This needs to get out in a more mainstream one.

Question: Has anyone tried to mod America’s Army?
A: I don’t think the available tools are good enough.

Question: I think it’s fine to target the rhetoric of America’s Army, but what about all the other squad based shooters? America’s Army is the most honest. It’s propaganda and it’s free. The others aren’t free, and they’re just as much propaganda.
A different audience member: But doesn’t America’s Army send information about the player’s skills and statistics back to a central server?
Original questioner: But I would expect that from this honest game.
Cynthia: America’s Army holds challenge events in low income areas, but some folks are trying to subvert the physical manifestation as well.

Lorna Macdonald: Designing for Location-Dependence

What is “location dependence”? It can include games for mobile devices, interactive experiences/installations, pervasive computing, etc. Anything that requires a specific location.

She presents a framework for this sort of work. A toolkit for design and development, hands on, approach from different perspectives — no doubt all in her paper.

It certainly seems like a sensible approach, but I’d like to see a real substantial example. It’s her first conference presentation!

Question: I wish you were in the same session with Markus Montala, who is presenting a similar approach titled “Exploring the Edge of the Magic Circle” in the other auditorium.

Question: Scott Rettberg asks if she’s using this framework as a basis for creating actual games?
A: Yes, we’re using it right now to develop a game like experience for the orientation of new university students, and next year [something I didn’t understand].
Scott says: I notice you tend to use the term “experience” more than “game” or “narrative.”
A: Yes, I don’t want to get caught up in definitional debates, so experience seems sufficient.

Question: This idea of thinking about what makes an experience playable seems quite interesting.
A: Yes, it’s something that came out of Noah’s presentation at the workshop yesterday.