Understanding Videogame Cities

Schweizer Bobby
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

This paper examines the city of Steelport in Saints Row: The Third (Volition, 2011) as a real-and-imagined space that can be described using an urban framework of constitutional, representational, and experiential components. It relates mediated and physical cities through spatial arrangement, processes of representation, and the factors that contribute to a sense of place in both material and immaterial worlds.


What Happens when a Cyberworld Ends? The case of There.com

Márquez Israel V.
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

This paper is the first in a series presenting findings from a wider ethnography study of players from There.com and what they did when this virtual world closed on March 9th, 2010. Studies of online games and virtual worlds (or cyberworlds, as I prefer to call them) tend to focus in player activities during the time these spaces are open, assuming them as timeless places. But what happens when a cyberworld ends? How do players react to its closure and what they do next? Only a few scholars have investigated such critical events (Pearce 2009; Papargyris and Poulymenakou 2009; Consalvo and Begy 2012) and their findings suggest a determination by players to keep playing together after the closure. Players do not simply disperse and stop playing when a cyberworld ends but they actively work to form groups and relocate their activities elsewhere. I followed the movement of There.com players —or “thereians”, as they refer to themselves— across various cyberworlds, social networks, and forums after There.com closed. They actively worked to keep together gathering in forums, creating Facebook groups, uploading videos on YouTube, and travelling to other cyberworlds such as Second Life, Onverse, Kaneva, Twinity, etc., trying to translate their play identities and activities in these new spaces. In this paper I will focus on the player responses to the There.com closure and what they did after the end of the world.


Assassin’s Creed III and the Aesthetics of Disappointment

Church Jonathan Klein Michael
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

Using a case example of the cycle of prerelease, release, and post-release commentary, criticism and reviews of Assassin’s Creed III from June 2012-January 2013, this paper examines how video game players produce a “culture of history” about the game they play through their commitment to commentary and critique mainly found in user reviews in gaming enthusiast press websites. This paper examines how an aesthetic of disappointment generates a comparative sense of gamers’ cultural present by framing aspects that should have been improved upon from the series’ past as well as in terms of expectations for the future of gaming. This paper concludes by suggesting that part of the pleasure of contemporary gaming for many self-identified “core” gamers is being able to both play games and aesthetically discuss the game being played as part of a culture of history with other gamers, a form of paidiaic play for “gaming capital”.


Cosplay – Material and Transmedial Culture in Play

Lamerichs Nicolle
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

Through “cosplay” (costume play) fans perform existing fictional characters in self-created costumes, thereby enriching and extending popular narratives. Cosplay is a scarcely studied form of appropriation that transforms and actualizes an existing story or game in close connection to the fan community and the fan’s own identity (Lamerichs, 2011; Newman, 2008; Okabe, 2012; Winge, 2006). The activity can be read as a form of dress up. In the field of game studies, dress up is an often overlooked but significant category of play with its own affordances (Fron, Fullerton, Morie, & Pearce, 2007). While dress up can involve actual costumes or fantasy play, it is also encouraged in digital games and their user-generated content. Customizable characters and “dollhouse” structures in The Sims series are but one example (Wirman, 2011). Similarly, cosplay provides the player with the joys of make-belief and productive play. This paper explores the possibilities of reading the costume itself as a product that facilitates performance and play. I analyze cosplay as a transmedial activity that is constructed at different online and offline sites through small-scaled ethnography and close-reading. The transmediality of cosplay is foregrounded in the methodology that, rather than adopting a player-centered approach, construes a cultural reading that involves both participants and spectators (e.g., photographers, fans, media professionals or outsiders such as parents). Through two case-studies, I focus on the costume’s materiality and emerging performances. The first case details the materiality of cosplay through its consumption culture. Cosplay blurs the relations between labor and play. The activity takes shape at fan conventions but also increasingly at promotional events of the industry itself. Costumes are commodified by fans themselves as well that sell their cosplay photos, commission their dress from others or buy parts of them. Increasingly, costumes and accessories are sold over platforms as eBay and Etsy which will illustrate the dynamics between commerciality and creativity. The second case explores the visuality of the costume through its mediation. While the costume can be experienced first-hand at convention sites, it is also remediated in photography, for instance, thereby extending its potential audience and performative possibilities. I exemplify this transmediality through cosplayer music videos (CMV) that are commonly produced at convention sites. These rich videos are created by and for fans and juxtapose different cosplayers and texts. Informed by work on other fan videos such as “machinima” (Lowood & Nitsche, 2011) I propose a reading of a selected corpus of videos. Thus, this study analyzes the dynamics of costume culture as it transcends the convention grounds.


Playability and its Absence – A post-ludological critique

Leino Olli
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

This essay concerns with the overlap of interactive art and computer games. In order to arrive at a critique of the feasibility of using playability’s absence as a strategy in the design of ‘art games’, the essay contextualizes contemporary non-playable ‘art games’ in the discourses of both interactive art and computer games. For this purpose, a notion of ‘playability’ is derived from notions of freedom and responsibility. In the ‘cross-exposure’ of traditions, questions arise about authorship, and, the aesthetics and ethics of the relationship between the artworks and its audience.


Elements of Social Action: A Micro- Analytic Approach to the Study of Collaborative Behavior in Digital Games

Williams J. Patrick Kirschner David
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

In this paper we articulate an empirical approach to the study of social action in digitallymediated contexts. Our approach extends Carl Couch’s theory of cooperative action, which is based on a set of “elements of sociation”: acknowledged attentiveness, mutual responsiveness, congruent functional identities, shared focus, and social objective. Three additional elements of sociation, adapted from studies of jazz performance, are added to the list of elements that characterize coordinated action: a formal theory of task performance, an informal theory of task performance, and synchronicity of individual actions. Using audio-visual recordings of gameplay, the minutiae of social action were captured and subjected to repetitive, reflexive and collaborative analysis in order to identify these patterns, including their potential causes and consequences. We use data from two games—the single-player real-time strategy game Eufloria and the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft—to illustrate how gameplay can be dissected into such elemental units.


A Reality Game to Cross Disciplines: Fostering Networks and Collaboration

Stokes Benjamin Watson Jeff Fullerton Tracy Wiscombe Simon
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

The rise of reality gaming introduces a new possibility: that games can directly shape real-world networks, even as they educate. Network relations and skills are associated with career growth, educational attainment and even civic participation. Using methods of network analysis, this paper investigates the game "Reality Ends Here" over two years. The semester-long game is designed for freshmen university students, and is deliberately kept underground, which is rare in education. The game fosters multimedia production by small student groups, with hundreds of team submissions created each semester. This paper seeks to advance the formative use of network analysis for games that address human capital in education. Findings confirm that a player’s network centrality correlates with their game score. Team formation was biased by gender and academic discipline, but appears within acceptable levels. Implications are discussed for how game performance can be tied to various network indicators.


From Euclidean Space to Albertian Gaze : Traditions of Visual Representation in Games Beyond the Surface

Arsenault Dominic Larochelle Audrey
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

In this paper, we examine the two highly relevant traditions of the simulation of space, and the simulation of the gaze, to develop an art history approach to video games rooted in the relationship of a gamer to the visual and play space implemented in the game through its surface and diegetic spaces. Parallel projection and perspective are both examined from their philosophical roots in Greek antiquity to their technological implementation in 2D game engines; the many techniques employed to simulate a third dimension out of the bidimensional surface of the screen (namely parallax scrolling, occlusion, depth cues and ray casting) help influence the player’s engagement with the game space, and his positioning on the continuum opposing contemplative immersion and interactive engagement. We finally present an original model of Axial-Spatial Play to account for the mapping of diegetic and surface spaces in 2D video games.


Feminist Art Game Praxis

Westecott Emma Epstein Hannah Leitch Alexandra
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

This paper explores multiple approaches to building an art game project created from a feminist perspective. Funded by a research grant, this can be seen as an experimental praxis that plays with connecting metaphors invoked in feminist theory to playable media. This connection is figurative not literal and manifests throughout the development process: in conception (artistic intent), production (technical approach) and engagement with existent and emergent theory. Intentionally playing in the space between art games and game art and inspired by Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, PsXXYborg is an art game in development that presents a rich cyber-feminist mythos across multiple screens as an allegorical play with the eternal fascination of 'becoming-machine'. PsXXYborg blends feminist art practice, makerism and academic research in order to birth itself as a glitch for the hermetically sealed structures of game culture. When politically motivated the game glitch aims at disturbing the hegemonic structures of normative game culture questioning the evident exclusions growing over time. Questions include: How can digital play represent and reflect the human condition? What is a feminist game? Why does society position play as inconsequential? How might we play our way to an equitable future?


From Generative to Conventional Play: MOBA and League of Legends

Ferrari Simon
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

Despite its vast enthusiast community and influence on contemporary game designers, the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) remains under-explored by academics. This paper considers many meanings of “well played” reflected in the design, community, and aesthetics of the genre's most popular member, League of Legends. Originating as modifications of commercial RTS (real-time strategy) games, MOBAs present a rare study of the “rhetoric of the imaginary” in play theory applied to popular game design. The genre's reification in commercial forms such as League show how the attitudes of distributed design projects manifest themselves as values of play. A close reading of the phases in a match of League of Legends exposes one possible aesthetic framework for the consideration of eSports. Greg Costikyan's theory of uncertainty in play serves here as a backbone for the study of conventions, tension, strategy, and tactics in a team-based competitive videogame.