Sustainability in City-Building Games

Cox Morgan Zagal José P.
2022 DiGRA ’22 – Proceedings of the 2022 DiGRA International Conference: Bringing Worlds Together

Sustainability is a topic of concern in the design of modern cities. In the interest of evaluating how popular media may reflect this value, we modified an indicator-based framework designed for evaluating the sustainability of real-world cities to fit virtual cities. We then applied this modified framework to seven video games in the city-building genre and examined how each category of indicators (water, land use, energy, clean air, social wellbeing, population density, and trade) was represented in each game. We found that social wellbeing played the most significant role in the long-term success of a city: cities with poor wellbeing struggled to maintain or increase population. Additionally, we found that games with pre-industrial settings generally rewarded sustainable practices while the industrial and post-industrial games did the opposite. Post-industrial games also significantly prioritized city growth over sustainability. Thus, the setting was a significant predictor for modelling sustainability.


An Overview of Institutional Support for Game Students in Higher Education

Zagal José P.
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

What are some factors that contribute to the success of a game program? The curriculum and how it is taught, the way a program is organized, and understanding game students are all important factors. There is an additional aspect: the role that extra- curricular initiatives and supports play. We report on an interview study where game educators discussed the things their game programs do outside of the classroom to support and help their students. These efforts are grouped into initiatives that contribute towards strengthening a community of learners, those that help students develop their professional identities, efforts for broadening student’s experience, and managing/creating relationships with the game industry. By presenting and collecting these initiatives we can identify possible gaps in a program and encourage a more holistic perspective on higher education focused not only on the curriculum, but also on those things that can happen in between or adjacent to coursework.


War Ethics: A Framework for Analyzing Videogames

Zagal José P.
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

While much has been done exploring how ethics and videogames can overlap in interesting ways, there is little work examining the philosophy of war and its relation to videogames. This seems unusual since videogames have a long tradition of engaging with war as its subject matter. We provide a framework for analyzing and articulating ethical issues and concerns in videogames that feature representations of war. This framework is based in traditional war ethics, more specifically the notion of the “just war” and considers the ethical concerns that include when engaging in a war is morally justified (jus ad bellum), how to wage a war ethically (jus in bello) and the ethical responsibilities of the aftermath of a war (jus post bellum). Our framework consists of five lenses consisting of the perspective offered to players, the scale and scope of war represented, the centrality of war to the game experience, the type of military that appear in the game, and the authenticity of a game’s representation. For each lens we also provide a list of questions that can be used to examine the subtleties and nuances of how war is represented in the game that hopefully lead to deeper and more insightful analyses. We conclude with thoughts on how this approach could be productive as well as outline some additional areas worth considering for future work.


Shhh! We’re Making Games in the Library and You Can Too

Casucci Tallie Shipman Jean P. Altizer Roger Zagal José P.
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Abstract Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Libraries are known as community spaces; however, librarians can be excellent partners with game developers. In recent years library administrators have begun exploring ways to better serve patrons who participate and consume media across a diversity of new platforms, including digital games (Wieder 2011). Most libraries focus on creating digital game collections or hosting events to play digital games (Bishoff et al. 2015). At the University of Utah a game development lab is housed in the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library and collaborates with librarians. This poster will highlight reasons for partnerships, best practices, and how to start conversations at your university.


Good Violence, Bad Violence: The Ethics of Competition in Multiplayer Games

Nguyen C. Thi Zagal José P.
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Most game studies research on ethics and games examines the ways games encode, express, and encourage ethical reflection and ideas through their systems, mechanics, and representational elements. However, not much attention has been paid to the ethical aspects of games as/when they are played by more than one player. In this article we use literature from the philosophy of sports to discuss how competition can be framed as an ethical activity and how doing so allows us to examine commonly used value-laden terms such as ganking, spawncamping, and trash talking. We propose the idea of the ideal moral competitive game: a game in which the best moves or plays are coincidentally those that result in the best possible degree and type of challenge for my opponent. From this baseline we then articulate a preliminary ethics of play, centered on competition that can be productive for examining and understanding the ethics of inter-player interactions.


Designing Inside the Box or Pitching Practices in Industry and Education

Altizer Roger Zagal José P.
2014 DiGRA '14 - Proceedings of the 2014 DiGRA International Conference

Pitching, the act of trying to convince others to support the development of a project, has a long, storied tradition in the game industry. This practice has also been adopted by game educators and incorporated into their curricula. In project-oriented classes it is common for students to pitch games to classmates, industry panels, and faculty. Using a series of vignettes, informed by anonymous industry professionals, we explore the mores and myths of pitching. These vignettes reflect a variety of pitching practices in companies both large and small. We also present a pedagogical tool, the Design Box, discuss our experiences using it, including common critiques, and illustrate its use for creative ideation as well as persuasive potential. The Design Box is a method we present for adoption, critique and evaluation. We conclude with a call to explore more practices that find their referent in ‘the industry’ and the development of appropriate pedagogical techniques we can incorporate in game education programs.


Understanding Japanese Games Education

Zagal José P.
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

Although videogame education research is a growing area of interest, most work has examined practices in the US and Europe. In this article I describe the results of a study that explored how game design and development is taught in Japan and the challenges students face as they learn. For this study I interviewed ten people who teach game design and development courses in Japan. These interviews were conducted in person, recorded, and transcribed. The transcripts were analyzed using an iterative coding process to identify emergent themes. This study’s results support earlier findings regarding common challenges students face. For example, students often have difficulties generating creative game ideas and concepts, preferring to “mimic” games they are familiar with. Some findings also provide insights into issues that may be culturally specific. For instance, games education isn’t an area of explosive interest from the part of students as is currently the case in the US and Europe. Overall, games education in Japan does not seem to be that different from what is done in other places around the world. This is encouraging, since it suggests that solutions to pedagogical problems identified could be applied and shared more broadly.


Towards an Ontological Language for Game Analysis

Zagal José P. Mateas Michael Fernández-Vara Clara Hochhalter Brian Lichti Nolan
2005 DiGRA '05 - Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play

The Game Ontology Project (GOP) is creating a framework for describing, analyzing and studying games, by defining a hierarchy of concepts abstracted from an analysis of many specific games. GOP borrows concepts and methods from prototype theory as well as grounded theory to achieve a framework that is always growing and changing as new games are analyzed or particular research questions are explored. The top level of the ontology (interface, rules, goals, entities, and entity manipulation) is described as well as a particular ontological entry. Finally, by engaging in three short discussions centered on relevant games studies research questions, the ontology’s utility is demonstrated.


Temporal Frames: A Unifying Framework for the Analysis of Game Temporality

Zagal José P. Mateas Michael
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

This article introduces the notion of temporal frames as a tool for the formal analysis of the temporality of games. A temporal frame is a set of events, along with the temporality induced by the relationships between those events. We discuss four common temporal frames: real-world time (events taking place in the physical world), gameworld time (events within the represented gameworld, including events associated with gameplay actions), coordination time (events that coordinate the actions of players and agents), and fictive time (applying socio-cultural labels to events, as well as narrated event sequences). We use frames to analyze the real-time/turn-based distinction as well as various temporal anomalies. These discussions illustrate how temporal frames are useful for gaining a more nuanced understanding of temporal phenomena in games.


Ethically Notable Videogames: Moral Dilemmas and Gameplay

Zagal José P.
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

In what ways can we use games to make moral demands of players and encouraging them to reflect on ethical issues? In this article we propose an ethically notable game as one that provides opportunities for encouraging ethical reasoning and reflection. Our analysis of the videogames Ultima IV, Manhunt, and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn highlights the central role that moral dilemmas can play towards creating ethically notable games. We discuss the different ways that these are implemented, such as placing players in situations in which their understanding of an ethical system is challenged, or by creating moral tension between the player’s goals and those posed by the narrative and the gameplay of a game. We conclude by noting some of the challenges of creating ethically notable games including ensuring that the ethical framework in a game is both discernable and consistent as well as ensuring that the dilemma is actually a moral one and that the player, rather than the game characters, is the one facing it.