Dr. Livingston in No Man’s Sky

The effect of researching interactive media

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Since its inception, the camera has captured and confounded us. The introduction of recording devices ranging from the phonograph to the photograph marked an astounding technological achievement: we could now collect moments in time. Relatively recently, this affordance has been extended to our gaming experiences. Consoles have incorporated screenshot functions into their operating systems, like the PlayStation 4’s dedicated “SHARE” button for recording and sharing gameplay. More dynamic “photo mode” features are creeping into many of the most visually compelling games as of late, such as Shadow of Mordor, Grand Theft Auto IV and V, Uncharted 4, and Batman: Arkham Knight. Continue Reading

Becoming Sensate

New Approaches to Observing Play

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Games move us (Apperley & Jayemayne, 2012; Giddings, 2009). They teach us how to play them, how to move through their worlds, how to learn their protocols, and how to negotiate their persistent blending of virtual and physical worlds. The moving parts of a situation of gameplay – the platform, the narrative, the player and her environment – act as an assemblage, a constantly changing interaction of humans and nonhumans influencing one another. The notion of play is not a fixed reality, but a result of these elements in constant contact and becoming what we recognize as play (Massumi, 2002). Continue Reading

Destructive Tumbleweeds and WereBeavers

Attuning to Time and Space in Don’t Starve Together

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Dropped into a wilderness with no instructions, no inventory, and no end goal, Woodie the Lumberjack and Wilson the Scientist wait for my partner (Adam) and I to take control and guide them around Don’t Starve Together’s randomly generated world. These characters have the skills to craft tools from sticks, scavenge food from animals, and properly cook berries and meat over a campfire. In return, we as players must lead them to resources and develop a strategy for keeping the characters alive. The only problem is that we have no idea what we’re doing. Continue Reading

Getting Good: An Introduction to the Becoming Machine Series

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As a researcher who studies games and their practices, communities, and industries, I am deeply interested in the ways that my own proficiency with games (or lack of) modifies how and what I know about them. To take a pithy example, my years-long experience playing in Guild Wars 2’s PvE scene affords me some insight into the ways that the game has evolved to create some opportunities for incidental collaboration between players while suppressing others. At the same time, my utter incompetence with the game’s PvP play leaves me less capable (and less willing) to investigate it – to ask, for instance, how the Guild Wars 2’s meta has evolved in response to the demands of top competitive guilds. Continue Reading

Flexible Times

need Flexible Game Design

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Since games emerge from and reflect upon culture, it is becoming more and more important to find ways to accommodate the various cultural relationships to games and play that already exist globally. As the barriers to technology drop, accessibility to the tools of games are increasing, but the syntax of game making remains largely unexamined from the context of multi-cultural languages of games and play. Game development is a small world and has not demonstrated a willingness to deal with the cultures of play around the world that are now being reached with new global audiences. Mindful Play is our attempt to investigate the ways in which games are made and find ways to adapt existing game design methodologies to accommodate these emerging forms of play. Continue Reading

THE ILLUMINATOR

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Games are interesting to us for a few reasons. The first is this idea of Procedural Rhetoric put forth by Ian Bogost. For Bogost, software programs are a unique medium in their procedural rules, a flow of loops and state changes governed by conditional elements. Leveraging this idea for the purposes of employing rhetoric is then “the practice of using processes persuasively.” Our 2014 collaboration with the New York Civil Liberties Union aimed to put this into practice. Continue Reading

THE IMPORTANCE OF ABSTRACTION

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This essay builds on this particular area of development in video games and addresses the importance of abstraction in this medium by drawing on the work of Jesper Juul, Alexander Galloway, and others, and thus on the relevance of video games from a game theory perspective. A short qualitative analysis of two video games, Jeppe Carlsen’s 140 (2013) and Starbreeze Studio’s Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013), is included to demonstrate how abstraction can be used in unique and interesting ways and can increase player agency, engagement, and authorship in ways that have not yet been fully tested. The former visually alludes to early video game aesthetics, but also amplifies updated mechanics that allow for more highly developed movement, transformation, and player outcomes specifically through sound. The latter, though more linear in terms of narrative and gameplay, utilizes a key feature of abstraction to heighten a player’s sense of loss and difficulty by disabling a portion of the player’s game control after a major narrative event unfolds. Continue Reading