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

Following the Green Light

Designing Inclusion in Game Distribution

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Though personal computers have become more affordable and ubiquitous in the past 30 years, deeming this as a “natural evolution” that lead to an increased technological literacy in America would be simplistic and technologically deterministic, and overlooks the organized efforts performed by companies to expand the use of these technologies to begin with. Steam, for example, had some adoption obstacles in the beginning: unveiled at the 2002 Game Developers Conference and released a year later, the distribution platform was reportedly buggy and unfriendly towards users. 2 years later, though, the video game giant that owns Steam, Valve, decided to release all of its games for PC asking for a compulsory installation of Steam in order to play. Coincidentally, in 2004 one of Valve’s biggest games was released: Half-Life 2, now an industry staple that cost $40 million to make, sold more than 1.7 million copies worldwide. Continue Reading

Simulating Life

Political Game Design

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It is useful for me to think of games as simulations. Although not all games are explicitly simulations, they all come to life by representing some activity as a prerequisite to being able to afford the player to partake in that activity. While this activity implies some sort of closed environment–be it through physical ability or problem solving–it is also possible to use this simulated aspect as a way to open up to the world around us and, as we will take a closer look here, to politics and political systems. This article aims to expose the inherently political aspect of game development. Having gone to school for both political science and game development, I have seen political questions appear over and over in the design and development of both my games and those of my colleagues. By taking the particular topic of political philosophy of the Enlightenment, I hope to show how computer simulations can help us in acknowledging the politics in designing and developing games. Continue Reading

Can Computers Be Feminists?

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When building systems that share or even entirely adopt the role of a designer for a game, however, the capability to reason about cultural context is entirely lost. At best, it sits implicitly in the code and the data; at worst, it goes entirely ignored and communicates an idea at odds with the maker’s intent. Though the human designer may have their own intent for the kinds of content or games their system should generate, it is challenging to fully express the constraints, rules, and context needed for generating content that is sufficiently varied for the overall game, valid such that it is even playable, and also consistent with the messaging desired by its creator. Designing generative systems can require human designers to deeply confront their own implicit biases and understand how to formally express, in code, the full generative space of acceptable content that the system should create. For example, consider a character generator with names generated from a gender-partitioned list of constituent name parts. This simple act–born from the common method in PCG of specifying the valid subcomponents of what should be built, partitioning them such that their recombination will always be valid, and then randomly piecing those parts together at runtime—communicates the implicit biases of the maker (including a declaration of the gender binary, a statement that names should conform to those genders) and is then cashed out in every character that is generated by the system. Continue Reading

Critical game creation

as intergenerational social participation

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Trying to change education towards a more innovative, creative and game-based learning approach is not a single-player game. There is a need for a huge amount of research and educational innovation projects before making educational actors promote digital games as a learning strategy. Just after my Ph.D, I was lucky to join a research network, a sort of a “research guild” for promoting mutual help, creating joint events and develop academic exchanges. Our “research guild” was funded by the 7th framework of research of the European Commission as a network of excellence, the “Games and Learning Alliance” (GaLA 2009-2013). The GaLA network included nearly 50 researchers in the field of digital games with educational, health, cultural purpose, also called “serious games”. Being part of an international research guild allowed me to access a higher level through collaborations with other scholars worldwide. Being in a guild required me to join efforts in topics and tasks that were out of my reach in an individual or small team perspective. Being part of a research guild is fruitful in terms of networking and outcomes. Continue Reading