Procedural Content Generation, Player Agency, and Playfulness in Survival- Crafting Game Astroneer

Bodi Bettina
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

The explosive and still very much soaring success of Minecraft (Persson 2011) accelerated the proliferation of sandbox games based on the mechanics of exploration, crafting, building, and ultimately, survival. Hit titles Space Engineers (Keen Software House 2013) or Subnautica (Unknown Worlds 2018) afford gameplay that is, in many ways, less constricted than in other avatar-based genres, such as action-adventures or first-person shooters. In fact, notions of freedom and creative play are often associated with such design, which evoke questions about agency. This paper interrogates the implications survival-crafting games’ design has for player agency. As part of a larger project looking at agency in a variety of avatar-based genres, this paper draws on previous scholarship framing player action as an affordance of game design (Juul 2005; Salen and Zimmermann 2004; Sicart 2008), and conceptualizes agency as the possibility space for player action as expressed through avatar action that manifests in multiple dimensions (cf. Calleja 2011).


Paralysing Fear: Player Agency Parameters in Horror Games

Boonen Casper S. Mieritz Daniel
2018 DiGRA Nordic '18: Proceedings of 2018 International DiGRA Nordic Conference

The horror video game genre is dedicated to building suspense and scaring its players. One of the ways in which it achieves this goal is through the manipulation of the player’s agency. With this paper, we seek to examine and identify elements used to manipulate the agency of the player in horror video games, to see how they can be used to evoke horror and dread within the player. To this purpose, a qualitative humanistic approach has been applied, through the analysis of six horror games. Our results indicate several common themes, found in the elements used to manipulate player agency. Based on these themes, we have developed an Agency Parameter Model, illustrating a hierarchical relationship between different categories used to manipulate agency. At the core of the model are three overarching categories: Player Character Parameters, System Parameters, and Player Parameters.


Is My Avatar MY Avatar? Character Autonomy and Automated Avatar Actions in Digital Games

Willumsen Ea Christina
2018 DiGRA '18 - Proceedings of the 2018 DiGRA International Conference: The Game is the Message

This paper will explore the borders between the avatar and character dimensions of the player figure, as outlined by Vella (2015), particularly in cases where this line is blurred. Through investigation of five different examples, I suggest we use the measures of avatar control and character complexity to study the relationship between avatar and character in a given instance. Avatar control refers to the amount of agency the player has in a given instance in a game compared to the default mode of agency, whereas character complexity builds on transmedia and literary theory approaches to characters, to explore what constitutes complexity of the character in question. The analysis allows us to assess whether the instance can be considered representing either character autonomy or automated avatar actions, and in turn may help us understand the relationship between the player, the avatar, and the character.


Playing with Herstory. Representing Femininity in Historical Video Games

Elisabeta Toma Cosima Rughiniș
2016 DiGRA/FDG ’16 – Proceedings of the 2016 Playing With History Workshop

We propose a set of six topics of inquiry into historical games as regards their feminine characters, and we illustrate them through an analysis of This War of Mine, Valiant Hearts and 80 Days. Historical games may include documented historical characters and fictive characters as well; the latter may aim to represent a type of real persons, or may be individualized as a purely fictional character. We argue that This War of Mine, Valiant Hearts and 80 Days have both strong and weak points in their construction of feminine characters, when taking into account the proposed set of indicators.


Animal Crossing: New Leaf and the Diversity of Horror in Video Games

Brown Ashley Marklund Björn
2015 DiGRA '15 - Proceedings of the 2015 DiGRA International Conference

This paper explores the diverse ways horror can be conveyed in games by investigating how games that are not associated with the horror genre can produce unsettling or scary experiences. To conduct this exploration, this study uses interaction mapping, as outlined by Consalvo and Dutton (2006), to examine a game that has thoroughly pleasant and cutesy trappings: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo 2013). The interactions were analysed according to three themes prevalent within literature on horror and horror games: the loss of agency, the Freudian uncanny, and the Heideggerian uncanny. Ultimately, this paper demonstrates that a game which is not explicitly scary is occasionally made so through its rudimentary simulation of human behaviour and societal constructs as well as its autonomous functions and inclusion of real-world time, showing that games have very diverse means of conveying unsettling or horrifying experiences. The paper also shows how frameworks used to analyse games in the horror genre can be applicable to critical readings of non-horror games in order to understand the unexpected player reactions they can evoke.


End of story? Quest, narrative and enactment in computer games

Løvlie Anders Sundnes
2005 DiGRA '05 - Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play

Espen Aarseth recently claimed that all games referred to as ’narrative games’ could better be described as ’quest games’. The writer of this paper suggests that Max Payne is a possible counter-example to this hypothesis; i.e. a game with a strong focus on narrative which is not easily understood as a quest game. The writer suggests that this, and other similar games, could better be understood in terms of a theory of ’enactment’, which is seen as related to, but not similar to theatrical acting. Extending this idea, the concept of ’the estrangement effect’ in theatre theory is used to analyze a collection of small computer games from the perspective of theory about ”serious games”.