Finding Meaning in Abstract Games: A Deep Reading of Sage Solitaire

Treanor Mike
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

This paper presents a methodology for discovering and explaining how games with very few thematic assets (or abstract games) are meaningful to players through rules and dynamics. Through the process of implementing play strategies as computer code, and then running simulations of the game being played, insights about how a player might think about and experience playing the game are revealed. These insights are compiled into interpretations of the themes and meanings that can be found in the abstract game. The paper then applies the methodology to perform a deep reading of the single player digital card game Sage Solitaire.


Playing the System: Comparing the Efficacy and Impact of Digital and Non-Digital Versions of a Collaborative Strategy Game

Kaufman Geoff Flanagan Mary
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

The present research compared the experiences and outcomes afforded by digital and non-digital games. In a randomized experiment, a sample of youth, ages 11-17, played a cooperative public health game presented in either a non-digital format (board game) or digital format (mobile app). Relative to baseline scores reported in a no-game control condition (N = 30), players of the non-digital version of the game (N = 28) exhibited significantly higher post-game systems thinking performance and more positive valuations of vaccination, whereas players of a nearly identical digital version (N = 30) did not. This discrepancy was accounted for by key differences in play that emerged: specifically, players of the digital game exhibited a more rapid play pace and shorter turn length, and discussed strategies and consequences less frequently and with less depth. The implications for the use of games to facilitate cognitive growth and learning are discussed. Keywords


Collegiate E-sports as Work or Play

Kauweloa Sky Winter Jennifer Sunrise
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

This study examined how collegiate E-sport athletes conceptualize the process of their own competitive game play as situated between work and play. Using interviews guided by Stebbins’ (2007) serious leisure perspective, 12 active, competitive, collegiate E-sport players described how they experience their gaming as work or play, how belonging to a collegiate E-sports team has shaped their identity, and how they experience gaming within the structured environment of a collegiate E-sports club team. This study extends the serious leisure perspective by applying the framework to collegiate E-sports. Overall, Stebbins’ description of skill and knowledge development of serious leisure was supported and the findings are in accord with Stebbins’ conceptualization of “personal rewards”, in particular self-expression, self-image, and self-actualization. Additionally, competitive gamers frame their development as skilled players by integrating the idea of “gamesense.” The study also found differences between players’ experiences in a more structured program (scholarship-based) and less-structured one.


The Tapper Videogame Patent as a Series of Close Readings

Nelson Mark J.
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

The popular 1983 arcade game Tapper seems simple at first. The player controls a bartender, and serves customers beer, racing against the clock to serve them before they run out of patience. What then to make of a 10,000-word patent application filed in 1984, claiming protection for the game as an invention? Arguing over the patentability of videogame designs isn’t the purpose of this paper; rather, the Tapper patent document itself turns out to constitute a remarkable series of close readings of the game from multiple angles, while illustrating methods for game analysis that are of interest beyond patent law. This starts from its abstract yet evocative title—“Video game in which a host image repels ravenous images by serving filled vessels”—and continues from there, along the way touching on a number of subjects also considered by more recent authors.


A Lightweight Videogame Dialogue Manager

Ryan James Mateas Michael Wardrip-Fruin Noah
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

We present a fully procedural alternative to branching dialogue that is influenced by theories from linguistic pragmatics and technical work in the field of dialogue systems. Specifically, this is a dialogue manager that extends the Talk of the Town framework, in which non-player characters (NPCs) develop and propagate subjective knowledge of the gameworld. While previously knowledge exchange in this framework could only be expressed symbolically, such exchanges may now be rendered as naturalistic conversations between characters. The larger conversation engine currently lacks a player interface, so in this paper we demonstrate our dialogue manager through conversations between NPCs. From an evaluation task, we find that our system produces conversations that flow far more naturally than randomly assembled ones. As a design objective, we have endeavored to make this dialogue manager lightweight and agnostic to its particular application in Talk of the Town; it is our hope that interested readers will consider porting its straightforward design to their own game engines.


Environmental Storytelling, Ideologies and Quantum Physics: Narrative Space And The BioShock Games

Zakowski Samuel
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

In this paper, I present a narratological approach to the BioShock trilogy of games. I look at three narratological levels as they relate to space. At the level of the storyline, a large part of the game revolves around the piecemeal construction of the narrative of the game space – the narrative of the player's avatar is developed alongside the narrative of what happened to the space he is moving through. At the level of the storyworld, the game space symbolizes ideological oppositions – many locations are appropriated as a way of opposing the dominant ideology of the game space. At the level of the narrative universe, I focus on the last part of the trilogy, which is, to a large extent, a story about the story and, hence, metaleptic. The player and his avatar move through many different storyworlds and storylines, all alike yet subtly different from each other.


Game Jams as an Opportunity for Industry Development

de Salas Kristy Lewis Ian Bindoff Ivan
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Game jams are social events involving the integration of enthusiasts from various game making disciplines (e.g. programming, art, design) to make games under constraints, such as a short fixed time (Goddard et al. 2014) and a common theme (Fowler et al 2013). Research on game jams has suggested that they have the potential to provide an effective and focused experience and that participants gain valuable skills in prototyping and collaboration (Fowler et al. 2013), exploring technology limits, experimenting with interfaces, and exploring themes (Goddard et al. 2014). This paper investigates whether game jams have an effect on the sense of community among developers in a weak and unsupported development ecosystem. Results from two local game jams suggest that they can in fact provide an opportunity for increasing awareness, familiarity, and participation amongst community members, and open up opportunities for identifying potential work partners – all essential elements in the move towards the development of a local games development industry.


Playing with Data: Procedural Generation of Adventures from Open Data

Barros Gabriella A.B. Liapis Antonios Togelius Julian
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

This paper investigates how to generate simple adventure games using open data. We present a system that creates a plot for the player to follow based on associations between Wikipedia articles which link two given topics (in this case people) together. The Wikipedia articles are transformed into game objects (locations, NPCs and items) via constructive algorithms that also rely on geographical information from OpenStreetMaps and visual content from Wikimedia Commons. The different game objects generated in this fashion are linked together via clues which point to one another, while additional false clues and dead ends are added to increase the exploration value of the final adventure game. This information is presented to the user via a set of game screens and images. Inspired by the “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” adventure game, the end result is a generator of chains of followable clues.


Selling the Imperium: Changing Organisational Culture and History in EVE Online

Webber Nick Milik Oskar
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

This paper uses two different methodologies to look at the culture and identity of different organisations in the digital game EVE Online. First, it uses a critical historical perspective to look at how powerful individuals and groups in Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games attempt to construct active identities. Secondly, through ethnography and ethnomethodology, it looks at how the player base responds to modifications to this identity and how conflicts between leadership and membership are formed, perceived, and resolved. Looking specifically at two different events in EVE Online’s history, this paper finds that line members in the game have a lot of power in determining how the group identity forms, and if pushed sufficiently by leaders against their will, they will be able to stop changes from occurring. The lack of resistance, then, can be taken as implicit legitimacy for the actions from the leaders, in particular in the case of naming The Imperium.


What Does it Mean to be Orlanthi? Hermeneutic Challenge in King of Dragon Pass

Arjoranta Jonne
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

The game King of Dragon Pass (A Sharp 1999) portrays what it is like to live as an Orlanthi, a member of the Storm Tribe. In order to successfully play the game, the player must understand the values that guide a tribe of Orlanthi in a hermeneutic process that requires the constant evaluation of the players’ prejudices of how people should live and be governed. This paper examines the hermeneutic process of interpretation the player goes through and shows how meaning works as a game mechanic in King of the Dragon Pass.