Intellectual Production #7

This concept map illustrates how the concept of ‘the magic circle’ (Huizinga, 1955) has made its way into contemporary scholarship.

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References:

Flanagan, M.  Designing for Critical PlayCritical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009.

Huizinga, J. (1955). “Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon.” In K. Salen and E. Zimmerman (Eds.) The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology (pp. 96-120). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. (2005). “Game Design and Meaningful Play.” In J. Raessens and J. Goldstein (Eds.) Handbook of Computer Game Studies (pp. 59-79). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

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Intellectual Production #6

Concept #1: Don’t obsess over cosmetics, from Crawford, Common Mistakes in Game Design (Week 8 Readings).

In Crawford’s article, he argues that a common mistake amongst game designers is the tendency to obsess over cosmetic appearances. He argues that cosmetics should not be seen as the most important component in a game; rather, designers should focus on other elements, such as the level of interactivity of their game and its conceptualization around a topic.

In my final project, my group has decided to create an interactive story on Twine. Our goal is to create a project that will help students taking introductory-level philosophy classes at university or high school gain a better understanding of two ethical theories. To do this, we will be creating a story that forces players to participate in scenarios that directly engage with these ethical theories. For example, players will be forced to make the ‘correct’ choices according to the moral theory of utilitarianism in the first scenario, when they are faced with saving mankind from an overpopulated planet in a not-so-distant dystopian future. By literally playing out these scenarios, we hope players will gain a better understanding of how these moral theories might operate in practice, as well as the weaknesses of each theory. In this way, we hope to promote critical thinking skills in philosophy students by creating a game that engages with ethical content in a practical way in order to make these moral frameworks less abstract for students to conceptualize.

As our story will be created on Twine, we hope to use minimal embedded pictures and audio files in order to focus more on creating high-quality practical and relatable scenarios for students. In this way, we will be heeding Crawford’s advice and focusing on creating a game with more meaningful scenarios and content rather than stunning graphic visuals.

Concept #2: The meaning is derived from the context, from Salem and Zimmerman, Game Design and Meaningful Play (Week 8 Readings).

In their article, Salem and Zimmerman discuss how meaning is derived from the context within a game. For example, in their discussion of semiotic concepts on page 8, the authors argue that by assigning colours to buttons, players will eventually figure out which ones are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and attribute meaning to them based on how they are utilized within the game.

In our game, we hope to create scenarios that force players to understand the strengths and weaknesses of different philosophical moral frameworks. Rather than outright telling the player as soon as they enter the game that the way to be successful is by engaging with utilitarian ethics, we hope to be more subtle. Instead, we hope to incorporate semiotic principles such that players will be able to understand they are in world that operates using a utilitarian framework. For instance, we may reward players in some way when they make choices that follow utilitarian principles, or have signs in the game that say things like ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ with a government’s endorsement on the sign. In this way, our game will employ Salem and Zimmerman’s use of semiotics to help the player understand utilitarian ethics based on affordances within the game.

References:

Crawford, C. The Art of Computer Game Design. Indianapolis, Indiana: New Riders Publishing, 1982.

Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. (2005). “Game Design and Meaningful Play.” In J. Raessens and J. Goldstein (Eds.) Handbook of Computer Game Studies (pp. 59-79). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

 

Intellectual Production #5

In Kishonna Gray’s (2016) article, Solidarity is for White Women in Gaming, she argues that black women are often marginalized in feminist communities. To illustrate this phenomenon, Gray analyzes a discussion on a GamerGate forum on Xbox Live between women of colour and white women. Using snapshots of text from the discussion, Gray demonstrates how black women tried to create a discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement in relation to GamerGate, but were met with resistance from the white women, who saw racism and sexism as separate issues.

According to Gray, this discussion on Xbox Live is indicative of the larger problem of intersectionality within the feminist community. In other words, there is a struggle amongst feminists to understand how larger systems of oppression, such as racism, sexism, ableism, etc., are interconnected. This disconnect between users and players and intersectional approaches is exemplified in Gray’s analysis. For example, one of the (white) users in Gray’s analysis argued that “…But we are addressing your needs too. We’re talking about helping all women here,” to which a black Xbox live user commented “But you’re not. When you fix the whole gender issue, I still have to deal with racism.”  In this way, the way we view these interactions needs to be through an intersectional framework so that we can understand how racism and sexism are linked.

Ultimately, this article is about the need for developing intersectional approaches in feminist theory in order to understand how different systems of oppression affect people in unique ways. In the specific case of Gray’s article, she advocates for creating better communication tactics between black and white feminists.

Reference:

Article: Gray, KIshonna. (2016). “Solidarity is for White Women in Gaming.” In Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat.

 

Intellectual Production #3

In their study, “Deep Assessment: An Exploratory  Study of Game-Based, Multimodal Learning in Epidemic,” Jenson et al. (2016) examines what 178 Ontario students (aged 11-14) at two different schools learned from Epidemic, a health-based video game.  The aims of the study were to: (1) See how students interacted with Epidemic, and; (2) Evaluate which type of assessment (standard or experimental) might be best for game-based learning.

To assess learning outcomes, Jenson and colleagues (2016) developed two instructional and assessment models. Students were divided into three groups. The standard group was provided with a lecture before being allowed to play Epidemic, the baseline group did not have any instruction and did not play Epidemic, and the experimental group skipped the lecture and moved straight to playing Epidemic. Each group was asked to produce a ‘public-health’-themed comic or poster which was then graded by the researchers. The results of the study revealed that the standard group performed better than the experimental group.

Ultimately, Jenson and colleagues (2016) argued for the development of more sophisticated assessment tools to measure digital game-based learning outcomes. Their findings reveal that there is a tension surrounding how best to gauge learning: For example, although the experimental group had lower scores than the standard group, their comics/posters were more critical than their peers’ in the standard group. These findings raise a discussion about how best to measure different competencies and even which types of learning are most important (e.g. critical thinking versus standard test scores), given the nature of today’s interdisciplinary economy. In this way, this article illustrates the short-comings of traditional assessment tools based on ‘print-cultural literacy’ in classrooms that incorporate game-based learning environments.

Reference:

Jenson, de Castell, S., Thumlert K., & Muehrer, R. (2016). “Deep Assessment: An Exploratory Study of Game-Based, Multimodal Learning in Epidemic.” Digital Culture & Education, 8(2).

Intellectual Production #2

Both James Paul Gee (2005) and Rowan Tulloch (2014) argue that video games can be used as pedagogical tools. In particular, I argue that both authors share the following connections in their articles: (1) That video games allow players to gain new skills by making sense of situated meanings, and; (2) That video games can act as pedagogical tools because they provide players with feedback for how to improve their in-game performance.

The first point of connection between Gee and Tulloch is that video games allow players to gain new skills by making sense of situated meanings. In his article, Gee argues that video games are “…‘action-and-goal-directed preparations for, and simulations of, embodied experiences’ they allow language to be put into the context of dialogue, experience, images, and actions. They allow language to be situated” (Gee 17). In other words, what Gee is arguing is that by playing video games, where the meanings of words are dependent on the situation in the game, players learn to think more critically about language and how it is used in different capacities.  For example, both biologists and chemists use the term ‘polar,’ but its meaning is radically different depending on the discipline.  Similarly, Gee advocates that certain terms might take on different meanings, whether the player is “…a member of a SWAT team or a scientist” (Gee 17). In this way, Gee argues that video games act as suitable mediums for players to gain a better understanding of situated language.

Tulloch (2014) echoes Gee’s argument that video games can act as learning tools by providing students with an understanding of situated meanings. Tulloch advocates that “…video games ask players to engage in unfamiliar worlds, perform tasks and understand logics of which they have little or no prior skill (from being soldiers in warzones, to criminal outlaws… to piloting planes)” (Tulloch 322). In this quote, Tulloch argues that video games demand players learn new skills in order to be successful in the game; however, what defines a correct action is subjective depending on the game. Therefore, video games must provide players with training to act properly. This is similar to Gee’s argument that players must learn how to perform (and make sense of) situated actions and language in order to succeed. In this way, both Tulloch and Gee argue that video games can act as pedagogical tools by teaching players how to interpret different meanings and respond accordingly.

The second point of connection between Gee and Tulloch is that both authors argue that video games utilize feedback mechanisms as pedagogical tools. Gee identifies this feedback aspect when he discusses the role of distributed intelligence, arguing that players “…gain competence through trail, error, and feedback, not by wading through a lot of text before being able to engage in an activity” (Gee 13). In other words, video games provide players with feedback as a pedagogical tool to guide them through the game. For example, the game Dark Souls uses death as a pedagogical tool; players who die leave blood splatters that can be clicked on in-game. These blood splatters allow the player to briefly observe the last actions of another player who died. This may provide some insight about the tactics nearby enemies use and/or what actions are more likely to lead to death. Thus, Gee argues that players may learn through feedback mechanisms what actions are preferable in certain games.

Likewise, Tulloch also identifies that video games provide “…constant corrective feedback to [the] player on their play strategies,” which include formats like “…virtual money, experience points, time remaining and even the number of military units available” (Tulloch 324).  For instance, in League of Legends players are provided with a greater number of ‘influence points’ at the end of matches where they perform well. Similarly, players are awarded fewer points if they play poorly. In this way, both Tulloch and Gee argue that video games can act as pedagogical tools by providing players with regular feedback in order to help them improve their in-game performance.

In this way, both Tulloch and Gee argue that video games can serve as pedagogical tools by (1) encouraging players to get used to the idea that the meanings behind language and actions are situated, and (2), that video games often incorporate feedback mechanisms to teach players how to be successful in-game.

References:

Gee, James. (2005). “Why Are Video Games Good For Learning?” Academic ADC Collaboration.

Tulloch, Rowan. (2014). “Reconceptualising Gamification: Play and Pedagogy.” Digital Culture & Education, 6(4).

Intellectual Production #1

PART 1: Define and explain what Ian Bogost means when he says that video games are a microecology.

Ian Bogost claims that video games are a media microecology. Microecology refers to a technique in which one focuses on a single medium and “…seeks to reveal the impact of a medium’s properties on society” (Bogost 7). Borgos likens this approach to removing a caterpillar from an environment to study its impact, or studying the impact the printing press had on 17th century Europe (6). Thus, ‘micro’ refers to a single medium, while ‘ecology’ Bogost borrows from the scientific practice of ecology, in which a scientist focuses on a single creature and studies its individual impact in an ecosystem.

Ultimately, Bogost claims that video games are a media microecology because they are complex systems with many different interwoven mediums (e.g. music, art, texture, etc.)  that make up a cohesive system called the ‘video game.’

PART 2: Define Bogost’s framework for analyzing video games in your own words, and using examples from the text.

The framework Bogost proposes for analyzing video games is to examine a single medium of video games at a time in order to appreciate how the culmination of these ‘micro’ mediums align to make a richer whole (i.e. the video game). For instance, in chapter two, Bogost explores the medium of empathy. He argues that games like E.T. are a medium that allow players to see the world from a point of view other than their own (in this case, a vulnerable alien).  In chapter three, Bogost conducts a similar analysis focusing instead on the medium of music. He argues that games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero provide players with a richer understanding of music, because as players become more “…familiar with a song’s structure and form, players experience the transition from… amateur to the smooth confidence of an expert” (34). In other words, Bogost claims that these musical games can be educational as players gain a deeper understanding of musical composition.  In this way, by examining individual gaming components in isolation, Bogost attempts to establish a greater appreciation for the complexity of the game as a whole.

PART 3: Determine the 3 main points of Chapter 13, Relaxation. Provide examples of each, and a quote that can ‘stand on its own.’

Analysis of chapter 13, ‘Relaxation.’ The three main points of this chapter are outlined as follows. First, contrary to popular opinion, Bogost claims that video games are not just a ‘lean forward’ medium (89). Or, in other words, Bogost claims that all video games are not high-intensity fast-paced mediums that require a high level of engagement from players. Instead, Bogost argues that some video games can be relaxing. For instance, Harvest Moon is a farming game that involves regularly performing routine tasks like milking cows, weeding gardens, and watering crops; these tasks are performed independently of long-term goals.  Bogost argues that games like these that make no social demands (in contrast to FarmVille) and require players to perform tasks that “…require precision, duty, and calm” can have a relaxing effect on a player (93).

However, not all ‘relaxation’ games are successful in Bogost’s view. Games like Cloud that require players to perform tasks that demand extremely precise physical maneuvers to move within the game can create feelings of frustration. Similarly, the game flOw has flashing lights that can cause feelings of anxiety. Thus, for a game to be relaxing, it appears to require slow tasks that do not require difficult movement techniques, sudden lights or noises, or the association of long-term goals.

For this reason, the final component of Bogost’s argument is that for video games to be a successful relaxation tool, game designers must abandon the principle of engagement. Instead, he argues that they should create games that are less likely to overwhelm the senses in order to create a game that does not center around engaging a player. Bogost cites the game Guru Meditation as an example of a successful relaxation game because it relies on the Atari’s primitive graphics and is less engaging than the graphics of contemporary games.

The following quote captures the essence of Bogost’s argument regarding relaxation games: “Videogames may often overwhelm and titillate our senses, but relaxation comes instead from withdrawal and placidity. To relax through a game requires abandoning the value of leaning forward and focusing on how games can also allow players to achieve satisfaction by leaning back” (95).

PART 4: Ask a question about the section

Why does Bogost insist that the principle of engagement must be abandoned entirely in order to achieve relaxation? To me it seems that a certain (albeit low) level of engagement is required in a relaxation video game. Otherwise, wouldn’t the player get bored with the task or become easily distracted by the world around them? In Harvest Moon weeding is not simply blindly pressing a single button on a controller; it involves moving around the stage to find the weeds and then pressing a button. Thus, even if a task is simple like weeding in Harvest Moon, I feel that it requires a (low) level of engagement such that the player still has to focus on the game to be successful.

Reference:

Bogost, Ian. How To Do Things With Video Games. University of Minnesota Press, 2011.