Understanding a Socially Awkward Digital Play Journey


Socially awkward experiences are often considered as something to be avoided. Interestingly, examples from the traditional games domain suggest that social awkwardness can enable novel and engaging play experiences. We note that there has been little research into exploring social awkwardness when it comes to digital games. In response we present our experiences with Musical Embrace, a digital game that requires close physical proximity and whole body interactions to explore socially awkward play between players. Our observations from users experiencing Musical Embrace at a number of events suggest that social awkwardness experienced by participants often rises and falls as part of the digital play journey. As such, we draw upon the classic five-act performance structure (consisting of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement) to examine the experiences of players and understand the way in which social awkwardness engages players as the game progresses. With our work we hope to inspire game designers to consider the potential of social awkwardness in digital games.