Source Code and Formal Analysis: A Hermeneutic Reading of Passage

Willumsen Ea Christina
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

White-box analysis of video games is not an integrated part of the formal analysis. Rather, few scholars have investigated how an analysis of the source code can inform a hermeneutic reading of the game. In this paper I will present a reading of the source code of Passage (Rohrer, 2007), argue for why a focus on authorial intention is unnecessary when investigating the symbolism and metaphors of a game, and illustrate how the white-box analysis can inform the formal analysis of the executed game. Finally, I shall discuss how the source code relates to the game as a ‘work’, and how it can be used for studies of symbolism and metaphors. Thus I will conclude that it is indeed a valuable method for game studies, albeit needing more studies on the textual relation between executed game and source code.


Selling out the magic circle: free-to-play games and developer ethics

Jordan Philipp Buente Wayne Silva Paula Alexandra Rosenbaum Howard
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

We describe a narrative case study of a free-to-play, massive multiplayer online role playing game through virtual ethnography inside the game as player and passive, participatory observation of the official game forum to understand the actions of both, the developer and the player community in relation to subliminal development changes of the game rules. We then show that players are able to claim agency and change the course of the game design while trying to allocate themselves as both, consumers within a heavily commercialized game model and invaluable members of the gaming community itself. We draw from studies on player agency, game co-creation as well as research on free-toplay game design to demonstrate how a developer constantly undermines player agency through an ongoing re-definition of the game rules disrupting the magic circle which is the main contribution of this study. Our discussion outlines the constant struggle of players to level the playing field within this damaged magic circle which is punctured by casino-like game reward mechanisms, in-transparent development notes, deceptive developer implementations and game modifications in the context of the freemium business model of game design.


“Who Am ‘I’ in the Game?”: A Typology of the Modes of Ludic Subjectivity

Vella Daniel
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

In order to arrive at an understanding of the formal structures by which an ‘I’ is established for the player towards the gameworld, this paper proposes a typology of the various modes of ludic subject-positioning. It highlights the ways in which each mode of ludic subject-positioning uses specific formal mechanisms to structure the player’s experience of the gameworld around a particular subjective , presenting relevant examples in each case.


Game Essays as Critical Media and Research Praxis

de Smale Stephanie
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

The emergence of software programs such as Game Maker, Unity3D, or Twine make it easier and faster to create games. As a result, game scholars and humanities-based theorists who study games have the ability to create games. Game prototyping and critical making is a vital yet understudied practice for digital humanities research. In this paper I explore authoring game essays as part of the scholarly research practice. I argue that these practices are a valuable addition to contemporary humanities research, as they result in the creation of critical media that question games and game culture and the reflexive and situated making practice demystifies the production process. On the one hand, many scholars in the digital humanities are keen to explore the potential of games as educational tools or instruments to collect data, as seen in the explosion of serious games. On the other, a much smaller section of researchers engage with game design as a critical reflexive practice, using critical theory to question, interpret, and deconstruct games as objects within cultural and historical contexts. Drawing from experiences of the Utrecht Game Lab, I engage with game essays as an object and essay creation as a creative critical practice.


“Playing RPG Maker”? Amateur Game Design and Video Gaming

Hurel Pierre-Yves
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Game creation tools like Game Maker or RPG Maker democratize game making and facilitate the development of amateur game design. The best known among these programs have dynamic web-communities with active members making thousands of games. However, as of now, there is little research on amateur game design except for modding or education fields. In this paper I argue that approaching amateur game making in these relations with video game playing allows a better understanding of game creation tools’ users. To support my argument, I will lean on the early results of the exploratory step of my ongoing research.


Designing Unconventional Use of Conventional Displays in Games: Some Assembly Required

Goddard William Muscat Alexander
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Game design is experiencing a renewed interest in co-located games and the social play it facilitates. Specifically, public settings such as game exhibitions and parties are the host of games with unique experiences supported in part by custom and unconventional hardware design. These installations of custom hardware can create barriers for distribution and facilitation. However, it is possible to create both similar and novel and installation-like experiences with ephemeral DIY-installations. We investigate two games that create such novel experiences. These games explore ephemeral installation design through the unconventional use of displays, but using only conventional and commercially available hardware. Our investigation reveals six themes, providing an understanding of how to utilize this design space related to the social, spatial, and tangible aspects of these game designs, such as creating movement and aggregated spectatorship. We present unconventional use of videogame hardware in public settings as an underexplored design space.


The Journey to Nature: The Last of Us as Critical Dystopia

Farca Gerald Ladevèze Charlotte
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

As an instance of the critical dystopia, The Last of Us lets the player enact a post-apocalyptic story in which human society has been severely decimated by the Cordyceps infection and where nature has made an astonishing return. This paper examines the ecological rhetoric of The Last of Us by laying emphasis on the empirical player’s emancipated involvement in the gameworld (virtualized storyworld) and how s/he engages in a creative dialectic with the implied player. In suggesting the utopian enclave of a life in balance with nature, The Last of Us scrutinises the ills of our empirical present and lays a negative image on the latter. As such, The Last of Us is a magnificent example of the video game dystopia and succeeds in triggering a powerful aesthetic response in the empirical player, which might result in a call to action in the real world.


You Say Jump, I Say How High? Operationalising the Game Feel of Jumping

Fasterholdt Martin Pichlmair Martin Holmgård Christoffer
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

This paper explores the design of jumping in 2D platform games. Through creating a method for measuring existing games, applying this method to a selection of different platformer games, and analysing the results, the paper arrives at a comprehensive data model for jumping. The model supports the exploration, design and development of new jump implementations. The underlying framework and toolset can be used by game designers to measure, model and analyse movement in platform games.


Conventions within eSports: Exploring Similarities in Design

Al Dafai Samer
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Among the thousands of competitive games, only a few have emerged as the eSports sensations that they are. To understand the cause of this phenomenon, this paper applies the notion that successful eSports share design characteristics which ordinary competitive games do not possess. Drawing from the MDA framework (Hunicke et al. 2004), these similarities are explored by conducting a comparative interface study (Consalvo and Dutton 2006) on two leading eSports – League of Legends (Riot Games 2009) and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (Valve Corporation 2012) – in order to understand how they may be similar in design despite the contrast in genre. As a result, this paper identifies five design characteristics – Match Based Structure, Player Evaluation System, Explicit UI, Player Performance Feedback and Game Client – that are shared explicitly between these eSports and elaborates them in detail with discussions on the potential reasons behind their implementations. In doing so, this paper argues for the consideration of implementing these design characteristics in the construction of any competitive game that seeks success within eSports.


Paratextual Play: Unlocking the Nature of Making-of Material of Games

Glas René
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Similar as to how films are accompanied with bonus features and extras on their dvd release, digital games too are sometimes released with supplemental materials which provide insight in the creative development process. Examples of these are behind-the-scenes documentaries, concept art, audio commentaries, and so on. In the study of digital games this material could easily be overlooked or primarily seen as marketing material outside and therefore not part of a game itself. This paper will discuss a shift in the paratextual location and function of making-of material from an external to internal or even integral part of the digital game experience. In some contemporary games, making-of material has become a feature which has a visible presence during play, and at times can only be accessed by unlocking them, which invites players to forms of paratextual play. In these play situations, paratext and text entangle, resulting not just in a potential shaping of the understanding but also of the playing of digital games, making them part of players’ gaming capital. By engaging with this type of making-of material, players are not just framed as knowledgeable insider in the creative process of game design but also acknowledged expert in terms of gaming prowess, requiring us to rethink how we approach making-of material as paratexts.