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

Useful, Joyful, Willful

Thinking About Types of Play

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In this paper I outline three perspectives that emphasize different characters of play: useful; joyful; and willful play. I further argue that designing for willfulness (e.g. rule-bending) will allow players to become game-changers rather than being played.

Generally speaking, computer games have created new arenas for play in several senses. Massive multiplayer online games have spurred, amongst other things, particular forms of social interaction and behavior; mobile and casual gaming has generated new breeds of gamers; the fundamentally code-based underpinnings of computer games make hacks and modifications possible; and grand ambitions of gamification, supported by digitization, even aims to turn ‘anything and everything’ into a race for points and badges. Instead of clearly situating itself within one particular practice, this paper will take an overarching perspective on play. It will go on to propose three perspectives that, in the light of processes such as the increasing specialization, quantification and rationalization of play(Pargman & Svensson), emphasize different characters of play. Continue Reading