This chapter presents a project developed in a study about the narrative dimension of the immersion process in the virtual world of Second Life. This digital universe is not usual because users can build the digital environment themselves, that means that they design and shape the Second Life’s space. In order to understand the impact of the space on the avatars behaviour, I developed a tracking tool, called the ‘Magic Ring,’ which collects millions of ‘quali-quantitative’ data. This name means that they are very accurate data in big quantity (millions of data), which allow the researcher to choose between a qualitative approach or a quantitative one. This chapter focuses on project genesis to explain how the idea to develop a tracker came to us. Firstly, I present Second Life by emphasising the possibility for the user to build the three dimensional world. Secondly, I deliver contextualised overview of our immersion study, especially about the narrative dimension of this process. I explain I used the concept of ‘spatiality,’ and I define it, to understand the link between the shape of the space and the avatars behaviour in the virtual world. I also present the limitations encountered in this study and the need to develop an appropriate method to solve our problematic. Before explaining how the Magic Ring works, I describe two others projects that have inspired it. Finally, I briefly evoke some results, explaining that avatars often return to the same places, identified as ‘hotspots,’ and I discuss the theoretical possibilities a device like the Magic Ring and quali-quantitative data open.
Ann-Marie Cook and Debra Polson
The ability to identify and assess user engagement with transmedia productions is vital to the success of individual projects and the sustainability of this mode of media production as a whole. It is essential that industry players have access to tools and methodologies that offer the most complete and accurate picture of how audiences/users engage with their productions and which assets generate the most valuable returns of investment. Drawing upon research conducted with Hoodlum Entertainment, a Brisbane-based transmedia producer, this chapter outlines an initial assessment of the way engagement tends to be understood, why standard web analytics tools are ill-suited to measuring it, how a customised tool could offer solutions, and why this question of measuring engagement is so vital to the future of transmedia as a sustainable industry.
Hovig Ter Minassian, Isabel Colón de Carvajal, Manuel Boutet and Mathieu Triclot
This contribution presents a research work in progress based on the analysis of video recordings of people playing at videogames. The screen and the players are both recorded, and then the two video records are synchronised. This methodology allows observing precisely the immersive potential of videogame practices, according to the socio-spatial contexts in which they take place. The results of such analysis show that the videogame experience is not only immersive or intensive, but also actually characterised by the superposition of discontinuities: immersion/perturbation, connection/disconnection, pleasure/boredom etc. Thus, the limits between what is real and what is not, between what is play and what is not, are not given a priori, and are not the same according to the contexts of play. There are several interests of such work. Firstly, it allows putting in perspective the place given to the images in the analysis of videogame practices, and to focus on what we could name, in the continuity of Raymond Bellour’s works on the body of the spectator in a movie theatre, ‘videogame bodies.’ Secondly, such research allows taking account of spatial and social micro-interactions which occur during a videogame session, particularly between the videogame spaces and the players. Lastly, it gives us a glimpse of the ordinary life of a group of players engaged in a collective activity, in a context of leisure and friendship. The whole study shows that the limits between what is real and what is virtual are due less to the technological performances of more and more powerful videogame machines, allowing the player to be dived into always more immersive and realistic universes, than to the way the player is engaged in a videogame. Immersion in a videogame is not reducible to a unique formula, and the circumstances of videogame practices should be observed to be understood.
In 2012 I completed some ethnographically styled research representing a snapshot of the multi-platform Internet use of four adolescents in the Southwest of England. Through these in-depth case studies I argued how young people are co-constructing unique multi-platform Internet spaces, combining online social networking and multiplayer computer games, to develop transformative arenas in which to journey through their rites of passage from childhood into adulthood. That thesis arose as a result of observing specific phenomenological behaviour in the way adolescents were interacting with Internet interfaces: not as discrete applications, tools, or resources, but as a way of co-creating and using shared space. In order to answer my original research question, ‘What’s in it for them?’ I argued for a critical rethink of how we conceptualise adolescent multi-platform Internet space: theorising my field-site as a place of play, ritual and learning and defining this co-created and inhabited space generically, not by temporal parameters but by the function it serves. More pertinent to this chapter is the hybrid methodology I adopted, the field data arising from it, and more specifically the significance of both for studying learner interactions with online virtual world (vw) and digital games. By repeatedly asking ‘What are you doing now?’ and ‘Why are you doing that? I was able to map how each individual interacted with their own multiplatform paradigm by flowing seamlessly between states of engagement, immersion and reflection. Using a grounded research approach allowed for the emergence of both a new theoretical paradigm, The Syntagmatic Cathedral, to describe heterotopic adolescent multi-platform Internet space; and a new term, flow-waves, to describe unique rhythms of individual’s activity (through states of engagement, immersion and reflection) within it. This chapter discusses these concepts and the implications of both for understanding experiential learning in virtual worlds.
The concept of ‘griefing’ is in wide circulation among both online video game consumers and producers, and in existing academic research on online video games. Scholars from a number of disciplinary backgrounds have sought to examine grief play and grief players, focusing, for example, on the definitions of these terms, grief player objectives, and the consequences of griefing. Notably, attempts to regulate griefing are a significant presence within the work to date: griefing (however defined) is usually portrayed as something which must be prevented or ameliorated, and in some cases connected directly to ideas of cheating and bullying. Researchers tend to agree that grief behaviour is classifiable as ‘transgressive’ or ‘deviant’ in nature. This chapter therefore seeks to interrogate these positions, employing some methodologies from cultural theory to examine the practices of griefers. Some of these practices absorb huge amounts of the griefers’ time and effort, are supported by extensive activity outside game environments, and are the product of effective organisational structures and hierarchies. With that in mind, they are perhaps worthy of re-evaluation. Furthermore, the large numbers of players who involve themselves in these activities should give us cause to think carefully about what we mean when we classify griefing as deviance: in what ways are these practices transgressive, and do they now constitute part of the mainstream of online game consumption?
Pejman Mirza-Babaei and Graham McAllister
Specific characteristics of video games, including the intentional challenges, mean that most of the established user research methods cannot be applied in the same way. Two of the many challenges are to gain insight into how players feel and behave when playing a game. Having a better understanding of players’ gameplay would help developers to optimise the experience of their title. In this chapter we are reporting our current work on introducing a new technique called ‘Biometric Storyboards.’ Narratives and stories have always been part of the user experience process to communicate how and why a design would work. We are promoting a new methodology based on using stories (or rather storyboards), where we graph the player’s gameplay experience over a longer period (e.g. a level of a game). Sometimes the limitations of stories are that they are a personal and subjective experience from the perspective of the consumer, thus becoming a fairly intangible experience to record. Using our proposed method of the Biometric Storyboard, the seemingly elusive narrative experience becomes a data-supported, recorded asset. The graph itself is drawn based on (1) player’s biometric responses, (2) post-session interviews, (3) players’ self-drawn diagrams of their gameplay experience and (4) coding of player gameplay behaviour. Our chapter reports the three evaluation stages and iterations of this method on two commercial console games that were still under development. We explain how these approaches helped the developer to have a better understanding of how players interact with their game, ultimately enhancing their ability to effectively optimise the experience of the final release.