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

Subversive humor & games

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Subversive humor can fulfill several different unique purposes. Firstly, humor is approachable; it can disarm critics by cutting through the clutter or noise around issues that make people feel uncomfortable. Humor is often used as a way to ridicule the oppressor by creating a dilemma they can’t win. Creating a situation in which any options (such as responding or ignoring) could lead to ridicule by the masses. This leads to another important element: humor melts fear – when you ridicule someone or something, you no longer fear them or it. It also acts as a healer of sorts, serving as a coping mechanism or as stress relief by highlighting and expressing frustration with problems out of direct control. Lastly, humor gives you power when you don’t have it. It has the ability (even if temporary) to take away the power of the “oppressor,” making it a powerful tool that should be considered in any creative critical process (Sorensen, 2008). Continue Reading

The Lost Levels

of New Games Journalism

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In reality, this mode of criticism brings us closer to, not further from, the majority of people who play games. Thinking through sensations of motion, for instance, helps to explain popular experiences with mechanics like quick-time events, exposing both their promise and their failings. When you are sensitive to the way a game literally feels, you can understand why some quick time events feel rewarding—they adeptly simulate a physical sensation—and why some don’t, like mere button-mashing that bears no resemblance to the action taken by the avatar on screen. Continue Reading

Different Games

An Introduction from the organizers

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As the diversity of these proceedings illustrate, Different Games has grown in many ways, including the number of attendees, the number and breadth of panels, the arcade’s size, and the expansion to a three-track panel schedule. The co-organizers have also increased in number, which has allowed us to more closely consider a greater number of submissions. We consistently strive to expand the reach of our call for participation and will continue to work at encouraging emerging designers, scholars and players to feel that their voices are welcome and desired. We’ve also increased our budget for offering travel grants for speakers, in the hopes of continuing to increase the accessibility of the event. Continue Reading