Virtual Reality is ‘Finally Here’: A Qualitative Exploration of Formal Determinants of Player Experience in VR

Murphy Dooley J.
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

It is already a truism that consumer virtual reality (VR) systems offer sensorially immersive first-person experiences that differ markedly from those begat by traditional screen displays. But what are the implications of this for player experience? It is well-documented that VR can induce illusions of non-mediation; of spatial presence; of embodiment in avatars. This paper asks—and reports on—what common features of digital games are liable to be experienced as stressors (that is, as beyond optimally affective or intense) when the player perceives her avatar–self egocentrically as a ‘life-sized’, spatially present, and potentially vulnerable entity within the gameworld. The present paper describes and discusses findings from a qualitative content analysis of immersive virtual environments (IVEs) experienced via head-mounted display-based VR systems akin to those now commercially available. A purposive sample comprising video, photographic, and written documentation of IVEs (n = 124) from historical clinical VR and telepresence research is interrogated through the lens of cognitive media theory. Effecting a novel approach inspired by systematic review, the present study's observations and inferences regarding players' subjective experience of IVEs are presented alongside relevant findings from the research literature sampled. This produces a preliminary formal framework for discussing VR player experience as significantly structured by patiency (cf. agency), with VR experiences eliciting self-directed affect, and thereby somewhat unintentionally engaging the player's body as a site for feedback.


Digitising Diplomacy: Grand Strategy Video Games as an Introductory Tool for Learning Diplomacy and International Relations

Loban Rhett
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

The paper illustrates the rich diplomacy and international relations content contained within Grand Strategy video games and how this could be used as a great learning and teaching tool within the discipline. The paper initially surveys learning and video game literature with an emphasis on strategy and board games. Second, it briefly defines diplomacy and international relations as a point of reference and comparison for subject matter content within Grand Strategy games. Third, it analyses Grand Strategy gameplay, mechanics, and strategies that simulate diplomacy and international relations and how this teaches the player about the discipline. Fourth, it analyses and interprets survey responses from a game forum, to understand player experiences with diplomacy and international relations within a Grand Strategy game. Finally, it highlights how these different manifestations and simulations of diplomacy and international relations, collectively represent a spectrum of digital diplomacy from explicit representations to more conceptual and player based forms.


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.


Fictionalism and videogame aggression

Tavinor Grant
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

Videogames undoubtedly contain a great deal of apparent violence and aggression. This depictive content has frequently led to both public moral condemnation and the scientific investigation of the possible effects games have on aggression and violence beyond the context of gaming. This paper is not concerned with either the moral or the empirical questions of the effects of game violence, rather it concerns a conceptual problem with the analysis of in-game aggression. The frequently unacknowledged status of almost all videogames as fictions has important implications for our understanding of the content of games and the attitude of players toward it, and has proved a very poor starting point for understanding the function of apparently aggressive and violent gameplay. This paper investigates how the fictional nature of videogames affects the analysis of game aggression and violence, both undermining various assumptions of scientific accounts of game violence, but also leading to promising avenues of investigating the role of fictional aggression in gameplay.


That Dragon, Cancer: Contemplating life and death in a medium that has frequently trivialized both

Schott Gareth
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

As a game mechanic, death has primarily been used to punish players for mistakes and failure. Over-reliance on screen-death possibly constitutes one of the most dated aspects of digital games as a contemporary medium. This paper considers why this artefact of historical forms and content persists (Zimmerman, 2007), and in doing so, how it continues to trivialize the otherwise irreversible nature of the cessation of human life, and the sense of loss and grief experienced by those who are close to the deceased. In particular, this paper discusses the game That Dragon, Cancer (Numinous Games, 2016) for the manner in which it contributes towards a redefinition of the relationship between gaming and death. It is argued that the game allows the medium to tackle contemporary Western issues associated with the experience of death, and avoids contributing further to the ‘emotional invigilation’ (Walter et al., 1995) of death via its re-appropriation as an entertainment form. That Dragon, Cancer’s status as a game is also commented on, and defended, in terms of the player experience it offers.


Exhibition Strategies for Videogames in Art Institutions: Blank Arcade 2017

Reed Emilie
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

While debate over videogames’ cultural status can still become contentious, theorist Bruce Altshuler describes the contemporary exhibition form as a route into art history, and therefore, exhibitions of videogames and their curatorial and display choices have already drawn videogames into the discursive construction of the history of art. Examining past exhibitions as well as reflecting on current curatorial practices is a vital area of investigation to form an interdisciplinary history of videogames. After providing a historical background of this phenomenon, I summarize my practical work in games curation through a case study of The Blank Arcade 2016, reflecting on how exhibition strategies can incorporate a comprehensive and engaging perspective on videogames into the art world. By reviewing both the process of exhibition organization and resulting visitor feedback, I reflect on the effectiveness of the present curatorial process and issues it will benefit from taking into account in the future.


Adapting Epic Theatre Principles for the Design of Games for Learning

Tyack April Wyeth Peta
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

Educational games are primarily developed for use in formal education, which limits both their typical audience and the subject matter they may address. This paper presents recommendations for designing games for learning to be played outside the context of formal education, which explore the ways complex systems influence real human lives. Existing work from within the field and epic theatre principles form the basis for these guidelines. In this framework, the context of educational game play is considered alongside game content as essential to encouraging reflective play behaviour. Educational aims are made explicit throughout game involvement, and each aspect of the game directly contributes to stimulating reflection on the topics at hand. Complex subject matter — for example, the ways systems such as economics affect players in real life — may be fruitfully explored using this approach.


Considering play: From method to analysis

van Vught Jasper Glas René
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

This paper deals with play as an important methodological issue when studying games as texts and is intended as a practical methodological guide. After considering text as both the structuring object as well as its plural processual activations, we argue that different methodological considerations can turn the focus towards one of the two. After outlining and synthesizing a broad range of existing research we move beyond the more general advice to be reflective about the type of players that we are, and explore two methodological considerations more concretely. First of all, we discuss the various considerations to have with regards to the different choices to make when playing a game. Here we show how different instrumental and free strategies lay bare different parts of the game as object or process. Secondly, we consider how different contexts in which the game and the player exist, can function as different reference points for meaning construction and the way they can put limitations on the claims we can make about our object of analysis.


From Video Games to Virtual Reality (and Back). Introducing HACS (Historical-Analytical Comparative System) for the Documentation of Experiential Configurations in Gaming History

Therrien Carl
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

This paper introduces a comparative analytical system that seeks to document the evolution of the game experience in the history of video games. Following an overview of formal and ontological inspections of games, ten interactive figures – domains of human agency typically modelled by game systems – are presented. The study of figures in art history traces the emergence and resurgence of different types of characters, poses or scenes, and indeed this is the meaning that is ascribed to the term here; games propose different “roles” depending on the specific ways they model this agency. These concepts are ideal to segment any game experience, and each of these segments are then analyzed with four conceptual categories: three layers of interface (the manipulation, mapping and feedback layers), and the ludic modes of engagement associated with each figure. The presentation of the system is encapsulated in an argument about the recurring fascination for VR technology in the world of video game; the analytical system will be able to document the actual integration of such elements along with other important parts of the ludic mediation


Modeling and Designing for Key Elements of Curiosity: Risking Failure, Valuing Questions

To Alexandra Holmes Jarrek Fath Elaine Zhang Eda Kaufmann Geoff Hammer Jessica
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

In this paper, we present a design model of curiosity that articulates the relationship between uncertainty and curiosity and defines the role of failure and question-asking within that relationship. We explore ways to instantiate failure and question-asking within a cooperative tabletop game, share data from multiple playtests both in the field and lab, and investigate the impact of design decisions on players’ affective experiences of failure and their ability to use questions to close information gaps. In designing for comfort with failure we find that risk can be more frightening than failure and affective responses to failure can be modified by aesthetic decisions as well as group norms. In designing for comfort with questions we find that empowering quieter players supports the entire group, flexibility in enforcing rules fosters curiosity, and questions can serve multiple simultaneous roles. Our findings can be used in other games to support curiosity in play.