Theory as Game: Designing the Gamegame

Järvinen Aki
2005 DiGRA '05 - Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play

Is there a way to analyze games by the means of a game? Is there a way to brainstorm game ideas and design solutions through theory? Finnish scholar and game designer Aki Järvinen presents an approach where a card game meets design meets game studies. The approach presented in the paper is similar to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: a theory of comics in the form of a comic book. Respectively, the ‘Gamegame’ is a card game where the players design games by collecting elements that make up a design for a game. This paper introduces the theoretical premises of the case study and situates it into the contexts of game studies and design. In addition, the paper summarises some aspects of the design process and the dilemmas it has presented, and analyses their subsequent solutions. Experiences form play-testing and using the game in industry contexts are also discussed briefly.


Gran Stylissimo: The Audiovisual Elements and Styles in Computer and Video Games

Järvinen Aki
2002 Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings

The audiovisual appearance of computer and video games is varied. Still, the interplay of sounds and images in games has not been studied in any rigorous way. In this paper the concept of audiovisual style is introduced to grasp these variations, and categorize existing games into three styles. They are called photorealism, caricaturism, and abstractionism. Moreover, elements that make up the audiovisual appearance of an individual game are defined: dimensionality, point of perception, visual outlook and soundscape. Naming and analysing different styles and elements helps us to understand both what kind of audiovisual techniques persist and what has changed in the developing fi eld of computer and video games. A continuum is sketched that ranges from the caricaturistic Pongs and Space Invaders of the 1970s to 'the year of Doom' (1993). The rise of three-dimensionality and photorealism during the 1990s is explored, up to recent developments where new stylistic directions have began to emerge.


Making and breaking games: a typology of rules

Järvinen Aki
2003 DiGRA '03 - Proceedings of the 2003 DiGRA International Conference: Level Up

The paper introduces a particular approach to the study of rules. Different aspects of rules are studied: what are their functions, what do rules govern, what is a ruleset, and what are the elements in a game that rules govern. Five elements are discussed: components (pieces/ player characters/etc.), procedures associated with components (moving them or manipulating them in other ways), environments that define the physical boundaries of a game, theme that gives the game a subject matter, and interface which is used to access the game. The author introduces five types of rules, each type relating to a game element. The typology provides a better understanding of rules as a fundamental structure of games, and it can also be applied as a tool for analysing individual games’ structure and ruleset.


Introducing Applied Ludology: Hands-on Methods for Game Studies

Järvinen Aki
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

The author calls for a more systematic methodology for game studies. The paper introduces a set of methods for 'applied ludology', a practical hands-on analysis and design methodology. It complements theories of games as systems with psychological theories of cognition and emotions. A sample of casual games is used to highlight the use of the methods. In conclusion, the author presents a model that enables analysing the eliciting conditions for game-related emotions, such as suspense.