Spaces of Allegory. Non-Euclidean Spatiality as a Ludo-Poetic Device

Backe Hans-Joachim
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

Studies of digital game spaces have established a solid understanding of the general dissimilarity of game spaces and space in reality, discussing e.g. the particular cardinalities of motion and agency, the significance of projection methods, and the possibility of movement among non-linear paths. This paper applies these theories to a particular phenomenon, the manipulation and defamiliarization of spaces, which has become a rather widespread feature of digital games in recent years. Drawing on postphenomenology and developmental psychology, the paper argues that games with nonEuclidean spatiality challenge real-life epistemologies of space that are acquired early in life. The paper demonstrates the creative use of this form of defamiliarization in two examples, Superliminal and The Witness, which turn it into allegories of dreams, agency, and authorship.


NieR (De)Automata: Defamiliarization and the Poetic Revolution of NieR: Automata

Gerrish Grace
2018 DiGRA Nordic '18: Proceedings of 2018 International DiGRA Nordic Conference

This paper employs the 2017 game NieR: Automata as a case study to explore how Russian Formalist poetics, particularly the concept of “defamiliarization,” can operate as a mode of subversion in games. By focusing on the technical devices available to the genre, and the unique ways those devices can be manipulated and subverted for “poetic” effect, this paper also demonstrates how defamiliarization challenges the boundaries that attempt to define the genre’s textual and narrative capabilities, and in doing so, promotes its ongoing evolution. As such, this framework is innately useful to the field of digital game study, as it diverges from the common practice of searching for concrete definitions of the genre, and instead focuses on the generative analysis of its formal elements, and the mutable potential of what games can achieve.


Antimimetic Rereading and Defamiliarization in Save the Date

Mitchell Alex
2018 DiGRA '18 - Proceedings of the 2018 DiGRA International Conference: The Game is the Message

In repeat experiences of story-focused games or interactive stories, players tend to expect to experience something different in each play session. At the same time, they usually expect that each play session will be self-contained, in the sense that there are no explicit, diegetic references to earlier play sessions. Through a close reading of the visual novel Save the Date, I argue that breaking this expectation of self-contained play sessions creates a sense of defamiliarization, disrupting the mimetic nature of the work at the level of the individual play session and foregrounding the process of rereading, resulting in poetic gameplay. I suggest that such antimimetic interactive stories or story-focused games render the acts of reading and rereading unfamiliar, drawing attention to the act of rereading and encouraging players to think about the process of rereading in new ways.


Making it Unfamiliar in the “Right” Way: An Empirical Study of Poetic Gameplay

Mitchell Alex Sim Yuin Theng Kway Liting
2017 DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference

There has been much discussion of whether games can be considered art. Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, some games stand out as clearly different in a way that can be considered “poetic”. Much work has been done to discuss how these games achieve their effects, and how they differ from mainstream games. There have not, however, been any empirical studies of how players respond to the techniques used in these games, and whether these techniques result in poetic gameplay. This paper describes an empirical study of poetic gameplay in three games: The Graveyard, Thirty Flights of Loving, and The Stanley Parable. Using retrospective protocol analysis and semi-structured interviews with 21 participants, we observed that although these games did encourage participants to reflect upon issues beyond the immediate game experience, this tended to happen when the gameplay was made unfamiliar in ways that directly supported the emerging meaning of the game.


Making the Familiar Unfamiliar: Techniques for Creating Poetic Gameplay

Mitchell Alex
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Just as writers use specific literary devices to deliberately draw attention to a poem's form, in this paper I propose that game designers can make use of the structure of gameplay to draw attention to a game's formal qualities for "poetic" effect. Starting from Shklovsky's notion of defamiliarization and Utterback's concept of the poetic interface, I draw parallels between poetic language and the techniques used in games to create what I refer to as poetic gameplay. Through a close reading of Thirty Flights of Loving, I identify three possible techniques for creating poetic gameplay: undermining the player's expectations for control, disrupting the chronological flow of time, and blurring the boundaries of the form. To demonstrate the potential use of these techniques for analysis, I discuss how these techniques appear in a range of games, suggesting that these techniques can serve as the basis for a more general set of techniques for creating poetic gameplay.