Space, Agency, Meaning and Drama in Navigable Real-Time Virtual Environments

Roudavski Stanislav Penz François
2003 DiGRA '03 - Proceedings of the 2003 DiGRA International Conference: Level Up

Does our preoccupation with navigable space distract us from the expressive potential of interactive media? Can our understanding of spatial context in virtual environments (VEs) be expanded to incorporate social reasoning and behavior? Drawing on the theoretical foundations and practice of Architecture, this paper considers the relationship between person and environment in the real world and in navigable real-time three-dimensional digital worlds. The first part discusses the cyclical and bi-directional nature of the person _ environment relationship with interactive involvement as the basis for meaning construction and behavior guidance. The second part considers the differences brought in by the representative nature of computer-based interactive three-dimensional (3D) worlds. The examples for discussion are derived from the rich field of videogames. This is followed by an overview of the principal components of Shenmue II, a role-playing game, and a case-study examination of one interactive sequence from it. The analysis shows that navigable space always carries meaning, reiterates that interactivity is an integral part of spatial experiences and illustrates how construction of mental images is a product of mediation. When VEs are designed to utilize rich agency and expressive mediation devices, they potently overstep the systematic rule-based constraints of their design and become meaningful and engaging as situations that have real-world roots and dramatically significant consequences.


Encoding liveness: Performance and real-time rendering in machinima

Cameron David Carroll John
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

Machinima is the appropriation of software-generated 3D virtual environments, typically video games, for filmmaking and dramatic productions. The creation and distribution technology of machinima tends to hide the nature of the performer, provoking consideration of a definition of ‘liveness’ that can accommodate the real-time rendering of screen content by game software in response to human input, or – at the extreme – as if there is human input in accordance with performance parameters coded by humans. This paper considers the continuum of creative modes that machinima makers work on, and the differing aesthetic/technical decisions affecting the level of liveness in the finished production. Machinima films derive from captured gameplay, puppet-like live improvisational work, cinematic or televisual on-camera performances, and totally scripted performances produced using coded commands. Often, the real-time rendering capability of the game software is only critical at the point of image capture, but once the footage has been saved as a video file it is editing and post-production that becomes the focus of much machinima production. Even live improvisational pieces – whether performed in a real or virtual venue - are generally better known via their capture and distribution as video clips to a wider post-performance audience. This paper also explores machinima making as a community of practice, that is a specific group with a local culture, operating through shared practices, linked to each other through a shared repertoire of resources. Digital performance communities of practice emerging from video games and machinima production can be seen as having levels of engagement with a range of other communities, most obviously the gameplaying, game modifying, CGI animation and filmmaking communities. Consideration is given to how, from a dramatic viewpoint, the performers within a machinima production are also operating in much the same way as in-role improvisation occurs within the community of practice associated with process drama - a strongly framed environment defined by a ‘digital pre-text’ - the common digital environment that provides the agreed fictional context for the dramatic action to unfold in.