Presence at History: Toward an Expression of Authentic Historical Content as Game Rules and Play

Schott Gareth Redder Ben
2018 DiGRA '18 - Proceedings of the 2018 DiGRA International Conference: The Game is the Message

This paper seeks to address the theme of the 2018 conference by examining the significant role game developers now have in mediating our understanding and engagement with history by placing players in historical events/scenarios thick with faithfully rendered artefacts, architecture, styles, and social encounters. In doing so, we argue for a new wave of historical games in which developers are no longer merely translating established scholarly perspectives on the past, but operating as historians through their practice-led research that attempts to bridge representational learning with more direct experience by historicizing the player’s experience, gameplay, and interactions. This paper principally illustrates its argument via a range of contemporary game titles that demonstrate a proclivity for creating authentic living socio-cultural systems, game mechanics, themes, and goals that invite players to learn about the past, distinct from games that employ uchronic times, alternate histories, or simply use history as window-dressing.


That Dragon, Cancer: Contemplating life and death in a medium that has frequently trivialized both

Schott Gareth
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

As a game mechanic, death has primarily been used to punish players for mistakes and failure. Over-reliance on screen-death possibly constitutes one of the most dated aspects of digital games as a contemporary medium. This paper considers why this artefact of historical forms and content persists (Zimmerman, 2007), and in doing so, how it continues to trivialize the otherwise irreversible nature of the cessation of human life, and the sense of loss and grief experienced by those who are close to the deceased. In particular, this paper discusses the game That Dragon, Cancer (Numinous Games, 2016) for the manner in which it contributes towards a redefinition of the relationship between gaming and death. It is argued that the game allows the medium to tackle contemporary Western issues associated with the experience of death, and avoids contributing further to the ‘emotional invigilation’ (Walter et al., 1995) of death via its re-appropriation as an entertainment form. That Dragon, Cancer’s status as a game is also commented on, and defended, in terms of the player experience it offers.


Understanding Player Experience Through the Use of Similarity Matrix

Marczak Raphaël Schott Gareth Hanna Pierre
2015 DiGRA '15 - Proceedings of the 2015 DiGRA International Conference

Analytical accounts chronicling engagement with digital games can always benefit from empirical data outlining the patterns of behavior produced by different players as they engage with the same game, or similar sequence within a game. This paper presents an extension to the novel method previously introduced in Marczak et al. (2013; 2015) and Schott et al. (2014), termed feedback-based game metrics, which exploits the audio and visual output of an activated game to produce accounts of player performance. This paper offers an account of an affiliated method, based on similarity matrix, which is derived from the same measurement process and that has yet been applied to the interests of game studies (over design oriented research) to determine the similarity or diversity within encounters with particular games. This paper introduces the method and illustrates its potential applications in the analysis of performance.


Exploring the Cause of Game (Derived) Arousal: What biometric accounts of player experience revealed

Schott Gareth Marczak Raphaël Neshausen Leanne
2014 DiGRA '14 - Proceedings of the 2014 DiGRA International Conference

In the context of a three-year research study into game violence, designed to query the strong association between policy-oriented effects research and responsive regulation measures, a mixed methodology was employed to examine player experience with ‘violent’ texts (as introduced in Schott et al., 2013a). Guided by the supposition that ‘explor[ing] the extent to which the public’s perception of causal links between game playing and various social ills’ might be ‘moderated or even undermined by [knowledge of] how players actually respond to and negotiate their way through the content and characteristics of the medium’ (OFLC, 2009, p. 24), our study contains a number of data or ‘entry’ points. The aim is to characterize the multi-dimensional nature of players’ experiences. This paper addresses the outcome of utilizing one measure in particular, biometric measures (GSR), as a guide for determining what aspects of Battlefield 3 (Electronic Arts) should be examined in accounts of player experiences. Our method of applying biometric data is outlined and what it was able to reveal in terms of the occurrence and cause of arousal for players is discussed. The paper reflects on what a broader and textually neutral method of accessing game-play experiences in the context of a ‘violent’ game reveals about play. A key outcome of taking this approach to detecting what aspects of a game had the most impact on players, is how GSR led us away from content that is more commonly highlighted and prioritized in the classification of games like Battlefield 3 - as an engagement with ‘violence’.


DeFragging Regulation: From putative effects to ‘researched’ accounts of player experience

Schott Gareth Marczak Raphaël Mäyrä Frans van Vught Jasper
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

In line with the conference theme for 2013, this paper introduces a research project that is seeking to ‘defragment’ research dealing with player experiences. Located at an intersection between humanities, social sciences and computer sciences, our research aims to achieve greater receptiveness for accounts of games that emphasise “the relationship between the structure of a game and the way people engage with that system” (Waern, 2012, p.1) in the context of game regulation. Working specifically within the context of the New Zealand classification system, which possesses a legally enforceable age-restriction system, the project seeks to strengthen regulators capacity to utilize Section 3(4) of the current Classification Act and support the employment of concepts such as ‘dominant effect’, ‘merit’ and ‘purpose’ when classifying games (OFLC, 2012). Extending an established appreciation within game studies for the way games produce polysemic performances and readings, this paper draws on our mixed methods approach in an exploration of the nature of a players’ experience with Max Payne 3 (Rockstar Vancouver). In doing so, we illustrate the different dynamics at play in its expression and use of violence - dynamics that fail to achieve expression when games are considered more generally within political and social realms.


Age-Restriction: Re-examining the interactive experience of ‘harmful’ game content

van Vught Jasper Schott Gareth Marczak Raphaël
2012 DiGRA Nordic '12: Proceedings of 2012 International DiGRA Nordic Conference

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.


Sex in Games: Representing and Desiring the Virtual

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

No sooner is a visual medium invented than it becomes used for pornographic representation - games are no exception. This paper chronicles depictions of sexual intercourse within game content and the presence of pornographic imagery that utilizes the game aesthetic whilst attempting to examine some of the motivation behind its creation and use. Unlike historical accounts of the stimulating effects of art, such as men’s arousal at the realism of Sansorino’s nude Venus, or Pliny’s account of a man’s infatuation with the sculpture of Aphrodite of Caridos, sex in games exists within a cyber-culture that offers access to a broad range of erotic, graphic and specialized pornographic materials. The authenticity of digitally mediated experiences – desire-driven assemblages of the social and technological – is given consideration in terms of whether the perceptual nature of sexuality is undergoing a transformation, allowing for wider patterns of variation in erotic sub-cultures. This paper recognizes how these sub-cultures remain focused upon, and constructed around phallocentric fantasies and desires, but begins to reflect on how the substance of the body and the sexual object is continuing to shift and diversify.


Textuality in video games

Carr Diane Burn Andrew Schott Gareth Buckingham David
2003 DiGRA '03 - Proceedings of the 2003 DiGRA International Conference: Level Up

In this article the participants report on a two year research project titled Textuality and Videogames; Interactivity, Narrative Space and Role Play that ran from September 2001, until late 2003 at the Institute of Education, University of London. After presenting an overview of the project, including the methodologies we have adopted, and the questions we have sought to address, we outline two sample case studies, one that relates to player agency, the other that considers role-play, social semiotics and sign making in an MMORPG.


“I Like the Idea of Killing But Not the Idea of Cruelty”: How New Zealand youth negotiate the pleasures of simulated violence

Schott Gareth
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

‘For all its horror, you can’t help but gape at the awful majesty of combat … It fills the eye. It commands you. You hate it, yes, but your eyes do not’. The aim of this paper is to account for the experience of a two-year research project, funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand. This project sought to interrogate commonly articulated beliefs concerning the contribution of games to the ‘debauched innocence of our young’. Akin to the seemingly incompatible sentiments expressed in the opening quotation, the project broadly acknowledged the complexity of players’ relationship with violence as it is articulated in interactive digital games. To achieve this the project prioritized the experiences and perspectives of young people on the nature and function of what is commonly understood as ‘violent’ content within games. Despite forming the readership of popular culture, young people are commonly denied a voice by the very ‘authorities and opinion makers’ that chastise their practices. This paper highlights how players variously contested the term ‘violence’ for its expansive nature and the appropriateness of the way it is unquestioningly and legitimately employed to express what happens in games.


Situating Gaming as a Sonic Experience: The acoustic ecology of First-Person Shooters

Grimshaw Mark Schott Gareth
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

To date, little has been written on digital game sound as Games Studies has almost exclusively treated and discussed digital games as a visual medium. This paper explores how sound possesses the ability to create perceptions of a variety of spaces within the game world, thus constituting a significant contributing factor to player immersion. Focusing on First-Person Shooters (FPS), we argue that player(s) and soundscape(s), and the relationships between them, may be usefully construed and conceptualized as an acoustic ecology. An argument is presented that, even though its sonic palette may be smaller, the FPS acoustic ecology emulates real world ecologies as players form a vital component in its construction and maintenance. The process of building a conceptual framework for understanding and testing the function of game sound as an acoustic ecology is broadly outlined, involving the application and extension of a disparate range of media sound theories in addition to the construction of new concepts to account for the unique features of the interactive medium of FPS games.