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Lindsey Joyce

The complexity of integrating agency into a digital game containing a narrative has been a key concern of games scholarship for years. Attempts to balance agency and narrative have proceeded largely in two ways: By increasing ludic and environmental agency by presenting the player with an open world and free spatial navigation, or by incorporating morality systems into the game as a method to give the player more control over the narrative outcome. Unfortunately, either solution constructs new limitations on player agency; the player may be free to move about the space but cannot interact with the narrative, or the player is stuck within the linearity of a branching linear narrative. I argue the greatest system design flaw isn’t one of ludology or narratology, but of feedback. It is possible to engage players and to give them the perception of control over the narrative as well as a fuller sense of immersion by reducing the amount of feedback-oriented systems included in the game experience. I argue such changes will also innately create more ethical game designs and experiences. An examination of recent and popular AAA games, such as Mass Effect 2 and Catherine, show some of the biggest obstacles currently restraining narrative agency are player interfaces, feedback systems, and tracking menus. These tools, meant to increase the ease with which the player can interact with the system, diminish meaningful choice by eliminating many of the processes inherent to decision making; fracture the player’s connection to the character by limiting the player’s narrative purpose and, therefore, the purpose of their choices; reinforce the game’s authority over the narrative and, thus, over the player, negating the need for moral principles of deliberation; and present easily decipherable and binary choices that eliminate the need for analysis and evaluation.

Joe Baxter-Webb

This chapter investigates the use of the phrases ‘bro shooter’, ‘bro gamer’ and ‘bro game’, which entered regular usage on English-language gaming websites around 2010. The author analyses a series of discourses surrounding these terms, and their role in the maintenance of a subcultural gamer identity in the face of newly emergent markets of more mainstream players. By concentrating on journalistic representations of an imagined subgroup of male players and comparing it with empirical research on player cultures, the chapter also illustrates how social class mediates the values involved in being the ‘geekier’ type of gamer to whom much videogame journalism is addressed. Existing research on gaming and social class in Europe finds that working-class masculinity is often associated with a preference for communal play of predominantly Anglophone sports, racing and military shooting genres. This relatively narrow set of tastes contrasts with the enthusiasm toward ‘geekier’ game genres (e.g. single-player RPGs, games from Japan, and narrative-heavy games in sci-fi or fantasy settings) often expressed in articles and related gaming media. However, in American journalistic accounts, the former set of preferences is more frequently associated with a middle-class (or upwardly mobile) university ‘frat boy’ identity; possibly a misleading association which stands unchallenged by most voices within online videogame journalism. Through an application of sociological theories of taste, I argue that the tension between subcultural ‘geeky’ and mainstream ‘dude-bro’ game preferences is key to understanding the social dynamics at work in the faction of videogame culture currently expressed and catered to within popular games websites.

Brian Quinn

Country Fire Authority (CFA) firefighters trialled the prototype exercise CODE RED: MOBILE at Hanging Rock. The exercise was in two parts: the Information Phase (Phase 1), where participants learned about the bushfire viewing media delivered in the 7scenes (7scenes.com) game framework on the iPad 3, and the Decision Making Phase (Phase 2), where participants made decisions based on their knowledge of this bushfire. Phase 1 and Phase 2 were in separate areas of the Hanging Rock Reserve. Participants were divided into two groups and received either static media or dynamic-static media about the bushfire. Both groups also viewed the same maps and text about the fire. Movies of the bushfire were made in the Sandbox2 game editor of Crysis Wars (crytek.com). A wind change moved the direction of the bushfire, and threatened several of four virtual houses. Participants had to correctly choose the three houses of the four that would probably burn down and one that would not burn. Group 1 saw annotated screenshots of movies made in the Sandbox2 editor, termed static media. Group 2 saw dynamic–static media which were annotated screenshots spliced into the same movies. There was no significant difference found between Group 1 and 2 for their performance in decision making and thus learning. This revealed that the media treatment had no detectable effect on their decision making. Spatio-temporal analyses, including heatmaps and fractal analysis, of participants’ GPS tracks were undertaken. The mean Fractal D of 19 participants, at the spatial scales of 10-250m, reflected the layout of paths, large spaces, and barriers in the Phase 2 game area, and five spatial domains were found. This provided a metric for analysing the game layout of the mobile training exercise.

Giuseppina Zisa

This work discusses the role of the English language nowadays, by analysing its consequences as the Lingua Franca of technologies and videogames. In order to understand this scenario, my study deals with the virtual world of videogames, and principally considers language use in one of the most popular MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing game) in the world: World of Warcraft. The research highlights the basic changes that a language undergoes when it is used in this context. Being a native Italian speaker, I am especially focused on the consequences that it has on the Italian community of players who seem to share a particular new kind of jargon or slang. This study is divided into two sections: the first deals with the role of English as a Lingua Franca in technology, the second shows the features of WoW and discusses the consequences the new slang used in this context has on young people’s everyday life. This research is not complete or exhaustive since it is an ongoing study, especially now that the game has been translated into Italian. The aim of this work is simply to prove the existence of a community of players both internationally and locally. I then investigated the new jargon the community is creating in order to satisfy the needs of its users, and I tried to understand the process of word formation in the Italian context. To conclude, I demonstrate that words are not translated into Italian but are simply transposed, thus creating an interesting scenario that is worth studying.

Ignasi Medà

Some video game hobbyists and experts, curious and nostalgic video game players in Spain know and regularly use the expression ‘The Golden Age of Spanish Software’ to refer to an unknown but rather important set of episodes that took place in the country between 1983 and 1992: the beginning and later widespread use of home computers and video games in Spanish households. According to this, it is well known that a small but promising industry of video games was created during the early 80s, although it was not until the mid and late 80s that such industry grew to the point that some information sources noted that Spain had the second most powerful video game industry in Europe, just behind the UK’s. However, such a flourishing industry had almost disappeared in the early 90s, at the time when international video game industry was making the technological transition from 8-bit to 16-bit machines. Among the multiple perspectives, issues and research areas that this period offers to video game researchers, this chapter focuses particularly on the success of early home computers in Spain during the 80s. It is usually said that such a process was possible owing to the work, education and entertainment applications these devices introduced into Spanish households. In principle, home computers were to help adults with the toughest tasks of their jobs while allowing children to improve their school achievements. However, as I will show, the early commercial success of home computers was mostly related to their role as entertainment devices, leaving their working and educational uses in the background.

Tommy Nilsson, Alan F. Blackwell, Carl Hogsden and David Scruton

BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) is a new wireless communication technology that, thanks to reduced power consumption, promises to facilitate communication between computing devices and help us harness their power in environments and contexts previously untouched by information technology. Museums and other facilities housing various cultural content are a particularly interesting area of application. The University of Cambridge Museums consortium has put considerable effort into researching the potential uses of emerging technologies such as BLE to unlock new experiences enriching the way we engage with cultural information. As a part of this research initiative, our ambition has been to examine the challenges and opportunities introduced by the introduction of a BLE-centred system into the museum context. We present an assessment of the potential offered by this technology and of the design approaches that might yield the best results when developing BLE-centred experiences for museum environments. A pivotal part of our project consisted of designing, developing and evaluating a prototype mobile location-based BLE-centred game. A number of technical problems, such as unstable and fluctuating signal strength, were encountered throughout the project lifecycle. Instead of attempting to eliminate such problems, we argued in favour of embracing them and turning them into a cornerstone of the gameplay. Our study suggested that this alternative seamful design approach yields particularly good results when deploying the technology in public environments. The project outcome also demonstrated the potential of BLE-centred solutions to reach out and engage new demographics, especially children, extending their interest in museum visits.

Adam Flamma

It’s been said for some time now, that the line between video games and films has been narrowing more and more. In a large part, this is due to technology such as motion capture. It allows for video game characters to take on the images of real actors; replicating their shapes and movements. A considerable influence is also the trend of steering away from a linear plot, thanks to which the player has a greater influence on the development of a virtual history – a history that focuses increasingly on the plot rather than simply on the process of playing. In effect, such a game resembles a real film, differing only when at certain moments the player must complete a task. That which until recently seemed only a gradually growing tendency, in 2013 reached its pinnacle. Namely, Quantic Dream studio presented the world with ‘Beyond: Two Souls’, deemed a new form of video game called interactive drama. However, this new form of virtual entertainment received some criticism from players as well as researchers. Questions emerged as to the point and sense of this ‘new genre’, as well as the type and possibility of immersion, which in the case of ‘Beyond: Two Souls’ gave rise to many reservations. Moreover, the controversy also has to do with the players’ experience and the process of playing, which at times seems redundant. The aim of this chapter is to present the controversy and scepticism that surfaced around Quantic Dream’s studio, as well as to analyse the new phenomenon of interactive drama and its status in the world of video games. Additionally, there will be an attempt to answer the question of whether this latest model is simply an innovative experiment, or possibly a new path for video games.

Edited by Lindsey Joyce and Brian Quinn

Marcelo Simão de Vasconcellos and Vicente Martin Mastrocola

Entertainment and digital culture are intertwining landmarks of contemporary culture. From countless mobile gadgets with wireless connections to more traditional modes of access, people are increasingly blurring the lines between near and far, public and private, online and offline. One aspect of these developments is the self-care technology, providing a vast array of methods for individuals to track their physical health. Our focus in this work will be the Nike+ Fuelband, a gadget that hybridizes experiences of healthcare, entertainment and social networking. This rubber band developed by Nike records user information — like cardiac beats, thermo impressions, distances travelled — and allows users to share information via a digital social network named Nike+ and to gain trophies and badges for their performance in physical exercises. Data collected through research with 60 Fuelband users showed that the playful component is quite a relevant experience, along with other features like ‘encouraging physical exercise,’ ‘sharing and comparing performance information in social networks,’ and the ‘endorsement of Nike brand.’ Based on these findings, we discuss Fuelband health claims in light of classic health promotion tenets as presented in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. We also detail how aspects of play (competition, skill, rankings, etc.) and the discourse of health (self-care, physical improvement, etc.) are employed by other users and, ultimately, by a corporation to convince users to dedicate themselves to fitness. We conclude by highlighting the current tendency to treat health as a personal issue that can be controlled, publicized and improved by commercial means. Finally we analyse the potential harmful effects of making the individual the only one responsible for his or her health and the new configurations in understanding health, as a disputed field between individual, public sector, industry and technology.

Gaspard Pelurson

This chapter serves as an introduction to the issues that video games displaying dandy characters raise among Western gamers. It is common for the latter to look at characters displayed in East-Asian games through a Western lens only and to therefore, misinterpret their identities. This highlights the clear difference between Western and East-Asian masculinity tropes as well as the necessity to apply the concept of Orientalism to video-games and gamers. Orientalism is not only a way for Westerners to encapsulate the East in a set of pre-conceived ideas, but is also is now used by East-Asian developers who, taking Western bias into account, play on it and self-exoticize their own product. One could, in that case, write about reversed Orientalism, or even maybe Westernalism. This chapter would not be complete without mentioning Western games and how their characters disrupt gender norms. Interestingly, their strategy seems opposite.