Online Video Games in Brazilian Public Health Communication

Simão de Vasconcellos Marcelo Soares de Araújo Inesita
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

Based on an ongoing doctoral dissertation, this paper discusses online video games’ potential for public health communication in Brazil. Brazil is a continental country, with wide variance of habits and cultures, presenting great challenges for public health policies. Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS), one of the largest public health systems in the world, serves entire Brazilian population guided by the principles of universality, comprehensiveness and fairness. Brazilian government places great importance in health communication strategies, using both traditional (print, radio, television) and new media (websites, social networks). However, most of this communication is centralized, prescriptive, unidirectional, focusing dissemination of peremptory norms and behaviors, ignoring local contexts and population knowledge. This limits communications’ effectiveness and potential for change, particularly among youngsters, resistant to less interactive and dialogic media. There are already some efforts to occasional use of video games in Brazilian public health; however, we still lack a rigorous analysis of the potential of this medium as a means of public health communication. We suggest that video games can play an important role in reaching such young audiences, combining entertainment and interaction. The primary focus of our research is online video games, specifically MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), where the links created between avatar and player would allow incorporation of in-game learned notions of self-care into players’ offline lives. Such games could enable contextualizing health communication content, since the player experiences the virtual world at his/her own pace and according to individual interests and limitations. MMORPGs also encourage players to act over the environment, emphasizing notions of personal effort and responsibility in maintaining one’s own health. In addition, these games provide immediate feedback and players see clearly results of their actions, which would portray powerful links between cause and effect in everyday behavior and health consequences. Finally, these games allow the emergence of entire online communities with a rich panorama of communication flows, where each player would receive the health content presented by the game system, and also mediate, interpret and re-contextualize this content. In Brazil, this space for socializing and joint creation provided by games thrives today not only in richer homes, but also among lower classes, thanks to the proliferation of Internet cafes in low-income neighborhoods. MMORPGs could provide opportunities for mediation flows more dynamic than traditional media and their use in public health communication may represent a powerful channel for transmission of information, for contact with public and a fruitful environment to foster creativity and social participation of young people. However, appropriate conditions for the design and production of such games are essential to this outcome. In the Brazilian context, games like MMORPGs for health would originate through support of public agencies, as the Brazilian government is the largest investor in this field. This fact introduces special difficulties in the process, such as government’s typical bureaucracy and slowness, which do not match the efficient production of cultural goods required for a fast market such as the games’ one. This further widens the gap between academic thinking and development of products to the public. From this preliminary analysis, we aim to propose some production guidelines to facilitate the creation of such games mixing health content and dialogic characteristics that would enable players to learn and express themselves more freely in the interactive environment: 1) Teams should be multidisciplinary and dedicated to each project, incorporating academic researchers (who will provide data and content about public health) and also representatives from the target audience of the game; 2) tools should be open-source or free, to keep costs down, but also there should be special attention to content’s efficient distribution such as online games accessible through common browsers; 3) the primary attraction of such games should be fun, regardless of any serious content; 4) these games should incorporate features for measuring and analyzing online behavior, which, respecting players’ privacy, could provide developers with useful data for improving the game and at same time provide invaluable information for researchers assessing the effectiveness of health communication portrayed in game; 5) such games should give broad channels for players’ communication and expression, inside and outside the game, from customizing the avatar up to virtual spaces for socialization as chat channels, guilds and clans, with the virtual environment encouraging players’ creative participation through its history and visuals; 6) these games should be in constant refinement, in short production cycles, preferably with many means of communication between public and developers through abundant use of social media like Facebook, Twitter and others. We believe that game projects that incorporate these practices will have a greater chance of success and may represent a major advance in health communication for the Brazilian society.


Game Spaces Speak Volumes: Indexical Storytelling

Fernández-Vara Clara
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

In the problematic exploration of the narrative potential of videogames, one of the clearest aspects that bridge stories and games is space. This paper examines the different devices that videogames have used to incorporate stories through spatial design and what is known as environmental storytelling, focusing on the design elements that make the story directly relevant to gameplay beyond world-building and backstory exposition. These design-related elements are accounted for with the term indexical storytelling. As a refinement of the concept of environmental storytelling, indexical storytelling is a productive game design device, since reading the space of the game and learning about the events that have taken place in it are required to traverse the game successfully. Storytelling becomes a game of story-building, since the player has to piece together the story, or construct a story of her own interaction in the world by leaving a trace.


Casual mobile gameplay – On integrated practices of research, design and play

Hajinejad Nassrin Sheptykin Iaroslav Grüter Barbara Worpenberg Annika Lochwitz Andreas Oswald David Vatterrott Heide-Rose
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

The Mobile Game Lab is a community of players, designers and researchers of Mobile Games currently initiated from the research project Landmarks of Mobile Entertainment. As researchers we find ourselves in a quite complex, frightening and yet pleasurable situation. Our research goal is to develop a dynamic system of landmarks for pedestrian navigation by means of mobile game play. To achieve our goal, we have to play and involve other players, we have to understand the various facets of game design and research, we have to deal with different partners, and integrate their diverse practices. How to focus on such a project in a manner that the different forces involved move in synchrony with mobile game play at the core? Within our paper we introduce the casual mobile game cubodo as a first empirical instance of the lab for developing our approach and spelling out what we call the mobile game play cycle. More than other games, Casual Mobile Games defy traditional definitions of gameplay and related concepts of game design and research. Casual mobile games are deeply intertwined with everyday activities. To understand, deploy and deepen this connection the integration of play, design and research is required. Accordingly we found that cubodo was well suited to form the idea of the lab.


Subversive Game Design for Recursive Learning

Mitgutsch Konstantin Weise Matthew
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

How are players' expectations challenged through subverting common design patterns in digital games? The following paper outlines a game design experiment that combines state of the art learning research with game design. The goal of the game project is to explore how subversive design patterns can be created that force the players to rethink their expectations and interpretations. In the developed game Afterland various paradigm shifts subvert common gameplay patterns in order to encourage players to modify their anticipations. This is designed to provoke a corresponding paradigm shift in the players, forcing them to reassess certain expectations and to adopt new mental models, strategies, and goals other than those commonly found in games of this genre. The paper introduces recursive learning as a theoretical foundation for the game design process and offers constructive insight derived from this particular research-based game design project conducted at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.


The End of the Rainbow: In search of crossing points between organizations and play

Van Bree Jeroen
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

This research report covers an ongoing project that explores the crossing points between organization & management theory and the study of games & playfulness.


Understanding the Contribution of Biometrics to Games User Research

Mirza-babaei Pejman Long Sebastian Foley Emma
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

Utilising biometric data has become an increasingly active area in the video games user research community, and a number of academic papers have been published introducing various biometric based analysis techniques in video games research. This paper aims to quantify the value of biometric methods as an addition to traditional observation-based user research methodologies, and their respective contributions to the production of formative feedback during the development of video games. Our results show that observation-based techniques can expose the majority of issues relating to usability, however the biometrics-based approach enabled researchers to discover latent issues in related to players’ feelings, immersion and gameplay experience and, in certain categories of issue, reveal up to 63% more issues than observation alone.


Unexpected game calculations in educational wargaming: Design flaw or beneficial to learning?

Frank Anders
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

This paper describes situations where learning games are not perceived by the player as being realistic. In educational wargaming this is seen when the game calculates battleoutcomes. Defined as unexpected game calculations, these incidents can cause players to adopt a Gamer Mode attitude, in which players reject the idea that the game accurately portrays warfare. In a study involving cadets playing a commercial strategic wargame as part of their course in war science, unexpected game calculations emerged and resulted in different user responses. Although user responses risked damaging the worth of learning from gaming, this paper argues that these incidents could enhance learning, as the cadets became interested and keen on finding rationales to why and how unexpected calculations occur.


Grow-A-Game: A Tool for Values Conscious Design and Analysis of Digital Games

Belman Jonathan Nissenbaum Helen Flanagan Mary
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

This paper discusses a tool developed by the Values at Play (VAP) project to facilitate values-conscious design and analysis of digital games. Our tool, called the Grow-A-Game cards, has been implemented and assessed in numerous advanced and beginner game design courses. Here, we report five case studies of Grow-A-Game exercises, each demonstrating how the cards can be used to produce innovative and interesting values-focused designs and/or guide meaningful exploration of the relationship between values and games.


The Aiming Game: Using a Game with Biofeedback for Training in Emotion Regulation

Cederholm Henrik Hilborn Olle Lindley Craig Sennersten Charlotte Eriksson Jeanette
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

This paper discusses the development of the Aiming Game, a serious game intended to be used as a tool for training emotion regulation. The game is part of an intervention package designed to support training of financial investors in becoming aware of their emotional states as well as providing them with a toolbox which can be used for training to counteract cognitive biases which may interfere with their trading activities. The paper discusses how such a game can be implemented as well as how it can be effectively evaluated. The evaluation is mostly focused on the effectiveness of the induction of emotional arousal by the game, which is supported by standardized game design methods and patterns.


Designing the Designer

Potanin Robin Davies Oliver
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

This paper examines the selection criteria for design roles in the videogame industry and examines the profiles of students undertaking game design studies at NHTV in the expectation of working in the industry. A total of four analyses were conducted: job advertisements for design and production roles; an industry survey; MBTI profiling of a cross-section of IGAD students; and a survey of Design and Production students. In 2010 NHTV University of Applied Sciences initiated the Design and Production (D&P) specialization within its existing International Game Architecture Design (IGAD) bachelor degree. In preparing the specialization the authors analyzed a range of job advertisements for design and production staff in the videogame development industry and profiled its first intake of students according to gender, age, personality (Myers-Brigg (MBTI), Brainhex) and play preferences. Which students were successful in their first year of game studies? How did they compare to programmers and artists? In recent years, design positions in the game industry have increased in direct correlation with the focus on producing sequel titles/levels in established franchises. These titles require more design staff, namely game designers, level designers and narrative designers. The need to critically examine the role and personality of a designer in the game industry is vital to replicating them on a scale that surpasses previous production pipelines where one game designer envisioned the game on a macro level and a handful of level designers implemented gameplay on a micro level. NHTV initiated this first stage of research to gain insight into what the videogame industry needs in terms of design and production skills and personnel and what NHTV, in terms of students and curriculum, is providing. Ultimately the authors hope their research will innovate the game design production pipeline.