Boal on a Boat – Teaching Critical Game Making

Prax Patrick
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

This paper presents and evaluates a plan for a 2-weeks teaching moment with a series of lectures and a seminar in a Game Design course on advanced level that teaches students to critically examine their design task as game designers. This means that this is a critical intervention that can be used to educate critical makers or reflexive professionals. The center piece of the course is an assignment that asks the students to create a design prototype that is highly problematic from moral and ethical perspectives that are discussed in the course literature and lectures. The paper explains in detail the setup of the lectures and seminars and shows the results of a first trial. Any game design education (and potentially even other digital making like IT or Information Systems) that aims at educating reflexive professionals or critical researchers should be able to adapt this teaching moment.


The Post-Game Foodmob: Labor and Leisure in LARPing

Glenhaber Mehitabel
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

LARPing is a co-creative medium, in which participants collaboratively construct storyworlds, eschewing a traditional producer/consumer dichotomy. (Montola, 2012, Stark 2012) To facilitate co-creation, LARPing communities group participants as GMs or players, dividing up narrative roles (Montola, 2008) The negotiation of this division of narrative power has been extensively researched, mostly in Nordic LARPing communities. (Hammer, 2007, Sternos, 2016) However, there is less work on how divisions of creative control correspond to divisions of labor, and attitudes about what constitutes “work.” In this paper, I draw on participant observation and interviews in the MIT Assassins’ Guild, an American LARPing group, in order to explore attitudes about narrative control, labor, and power. I argue that, while the Assassins’ Guild is a non-commercial organization, where most members regard their participation as leisure, social relationships between players and GMs reflect vestiges of a producer/consumer relationship, which Guild members simultaneously reject and borrow from.


Is this still participation? A case study of the disempowerment of player labourers

Prax Patrick
2019 DiGRA '19 - Proceedings of the 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo-Mix

Critical research into games and player labour has shown that player creators remain disempowered despite the impact of their work. On the other hand, player-creators enjoy their work, they freely and in an informed manner consent to working without pay, and they can use their unpaid labour as experience and CV-entries. This paper aims to critically discuss these arguments in the light of a specifically chosen case study. The analysis is informed by expert interviews of player creators and it uses Carpentier’s (2016) analytic framework for participatory processes. This analysis of the power relationship between player creators and game developer is elemental for the discussion around unpaid player labour. In this case the company has enough power to purposefully keep the involvement of players secret which supports the notion of exploitation of free labour. The discussion suggests possible ways forward and connects to the ongoing unionization movement in the industry.


Selling out the magic circle: free-to-play games and developer ethics

Jordan Philipp Buente Wayne Silva Paula Alexandra Rosenbaum Howard
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

We describe a narrative case study of a free-to-play, massive multiplayer online role playing game through virtual ethnography inside the game as player and passive, participatory observation of the official game forum to understand the actions of both, the developer and the player community in relation to subliminal development changes of the game rules. We then show that players are able to claim agency and change the course of the game design while trying to allocate themselves as both, consumers within a heavily commercialized game model and invaluable members of the gaming community itself. We draw from studies on player agency, game co-creation as well as research on free-toplay game design to demonstrate how a developer constantly undermines player agency through an ongoing re-definition of the game rules disrupting the magic circle which is the main contribution of this study. Our discussion outlines the constant struggle of players to level the playing field within this damaged magic circle which is punctured by casino-like game reward mechanisms, in-transparent development notes, deceptive developer implementations and game modifications in the context of the freemium business model of game design.


Selling the Imperium: Changing Organisational Culture and History in EVE Online

Webber Nick Milik Oskar
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

This paper uses two different methodologies to look at the culture and identity of different organisations in the digital game EVE Online. First, it uses a critical historical perspective to look at how powerful individuals and groups in Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games attempt to construct active identities. Secondly, through ethnography and ethnomethodology, it looks at how the player base responds to modifications to this identity and how conflicts between leadership and membership are formed, perceived, and resolved. Looking specifically at two different events in EVE Online’s history, this paper finds that line members in the game have a lot of power in determining how the group identity forms, and if pushed sufficiently by leaders against their will, they will be able to stop changes from occurring. The lack of resistance, then, can be taken as implicit legitimacy for the actions from the leaders, in particular in the case of naming The Imperium.


Ethical Recognition of Marginalized Groups in Digital Games Culture

Hammar Emil Lundedal
2015 DiGRA '15 - Proceedings of the 2015 DiGRA International Conference

In this paper I argue that moral agents are obligated to include and pay respect to the equal treatment, equal opportunities and justice of groups and identities usually marked by marginalization, discrimination and/or oppression in the domain of digital games. As a result, I point towards how individual and collective moral agents in digital games culture can pay respect through recognition and affirmation of different groups and identities. At first I establish what constitutes a group and my definition of marginalization. This allows me to identify which specific groups are marginalized in digital games through a literature overview of different research into the representation and inclusion of said group identities. This demarcation and identification of marginalized groups allow me to further propose the ways in which marginalization and discrimination occurs and is reproduced in the domain of digital games. In turn, I propose the ways in which this marginalization and discrimination can be curbed through recognition and affirmation of marginalized groups. As such, I provide and identify the ethical aspects and general actions that moral agents are confronted with and called to act upon. This results in specific suggestions on how moral agents within the domain of digital games are morally obligated to include and pay respect to groups and identities usually marked by marginalization, discrimination, and oppression.