Such gimmicks arguably break the illusion and remind the player of the artificiality of the situation. From a traditionalist Hollywood perspective, this illusion must be preserved for the spectators to be able to lose themselves in the narrative. Film-makers of the modernist school have challenged these classic film-making conventions. Here, Adams voices a common notion that games and all media must uphold certain rules and conventions that help transport the player to an imaginary space. The slightest incongruence may violently rip the player out of this space, rendering the experience shallow and imperfect.
There is an opposing position, however. They argue that, to the contrary, we become engrossed in games through the activity of play, which necessarily entails that the player, at some level, is aware that the situation is at once real and make-believe. Even Adams admits that many games do in fact make strategic use of mixing fictional levels.
In the case of real-time-strategy games the player is probably less immersed in a narrative than feverishly processing strategic opportunities in her head and thus not likely to be torn from any deep-felt immersion. In games that rely on the progression of a richly textured narrative such antics may well seem inappropriate, however.
In other words: we need to take into account genre when considering the effects of immersion-disruptive techniques. Interactivity Games require the active participation of players and the way a game plays out depends on input from players. This, at a very concrete and basic level, sets games apart from linear media like novels or movies. A typical game is more like an amusement park than like a novel.
Generally, the concept of interactivity has been associated with positive notions of freedom and the liberation of media users. Having people make choices and exert influence was, particularly during the s, one of the greatest emancipatory promises of computing and networking. Game scholar Espen Aarseth points out that attempts to produce nonlinear fiction are not tied exclusively to computer technology but can be found throughout the entire history of written literature.
The industrial rhetoric produced concepts such as interactive newspapers, interactive video, interactive television, and even interactive houses, all implying that the role of the consumer had or would very soon change for the better. Aarseth, , p. What is interactivity? Media Scholar Jens F. Jensen has emphasized that the concept is multi-discursive having significantly different meanings in different fields Jensen, In particular, he focuses on three.
Interactivity refers to the meaningful ways in which the user becomes a co-author by directly manipulating variables. DVD viewers are technically able to edit their own narrative and can influence the form of the movie by adjusting the lighting or sound. But the video game player is usually able to determine the configuration of the signs presented to him or her on-screen and through the speakers.
Again, the issue is genre-dependent. Most discussions of interactivity in video games are muddled by the fact that they assume that users of other media are passive. This corresponds poorly to the understanding employed by most media scholars who argue that media use such as television viewing demands a high degree of cognitive activity on the part of the viewer. The meaning of a movie is something that the viewer must largely construct cognitively from what are essentially patterns of light on a screen. Also, media users sometimes make interpretations that are different from or even opposite to the intended meaning.
A few remarks towards the end We can, contrary to common arguments, learn much about video games by looking at other media, even film. While analogies can of course run out of control, the cultural development of games has many similarities with that of film and the two media obviously inspire each other thematically and aesthetically to great extents. At present, studies of the cultural reception of video games during the course of their four decades of existence are sparse.
In particular, cross-national studies of how various cultures have dealt with the arrival of video games on the cultural landscape would be illuminating; not least for developers and publishers who are still facing some opposition from policy makers and from those who would delegate gaming to the domain of children and the young. Such studies would help us understand an important part of the video game ecology, the effects of which - however subtly - influences both games, their creators, and their players. References Adams, E.
Postmodernism and the Three Types of Immersion. Graetz, J. The Origin of Spacewar! Burnham Ed. Holden, S. The New York Times. Jensen, J. Rothstein, E.
- The video game explosion a history from p mark j p wolf by cmfoto - Issuu.
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Reading and Writing: Participatory Novels. Salen, K. Rules of Play - Game Design Fundamentals. London: MIT Press. Smith, J. Does gameplay have politics? Aarseth, E. Cybertext : perspectives on ergodic literature. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. To say that the review created a controversy would be an understatement; in fact, the backlash against the review was so intense that I refrained from writing reviews for more than a year after its publication.
Three years older, but none the wiser, I approach the task of writing a review of Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media with a certain wariness, but also with the hope of righting wrongs that I may have inflicted unintentionally because I simply had too high expectations. The fact that Second Person is no longer entrenched in the theory wars between narratologists and ludologists, and draws on a more diverse pool of contributors, makes this task much easier.
First off, the list of contributors bears some reflection. Of the 50 contributors, eleven are women. Most of the authors live and work in the United States. Their backgrounds are almost exclusively Western. Admittedly, this is a problem that plagues not only new media studies but also many other fields of research, but this is precisely why it is a point worth reiterating.
This sounds confusing, and indeed it was. Therefore, I am very pleased to see that this concept has been abandoned. While the first one deals with role-playing and storytelling systems that do not require a computer, the second part is about interactive media including computer games, cyberdrama, and hypertext.
In doing so, Costikyan covers a lot of ground that has already been covered by scholars such as Espen Aarseth, but he does not add anything to his structuralist analysis of ergodic texts.
Costikyan thus sets the tone for the first part of the book. However, while Salen and Zimmerman at least recognize the fact that games are inscribed into cultural contexts, the embeddedness of games is largely disregarded by the contributors to Second Person. Overall, however, the first part is especially interesting for researchers in the field of digital games, because it demonstrates the manifold possibilities of integrating storytelling and games in non-computational media. The second part, by comparison, offers less interesting examples and less interesting writing.
While some of the descriptive pieces in the first part are nothing but post mortems or thinly veiled advertisements, some of the shorter contributions in the second part seem to serve no purpose than to include the names of some renowned researchers in new media, such as Lev Manovich and Marie-Laure Ryan. Again, there is an abundance of examples, particularly in the area of interactive fiction, but ultimately most of these are so obscure as to render them invisible outside of the small circle of academics who study them.
One of the few genuinely ground-breaking essays in the entire book is D. The contributors in the third part of the book look at alternate reality games ARGs , persuasive games, and massively multiplayer games, as well as more experimental forms of play such as improvisational theatre. Clearly, this is the miscellaneous section of the book, and it is hard to discern any kind of overarching theme in the contributions to this section.
This is a particular interesting example of how theoretically advanced positions are rejected in favour of simplistic models of representational identity and monolithic citizenship in order to package politics into a game. This refusal to engage with the economic context in which ARGs take place threatens to render her entire argument moot because she disregards capital as a source of power. Even more dubious is her suggestion that player performativity solves the problem of unequal power distribution in ARGs.
This is at least partially due to the fact that it lacks coherence, and there is hardly any interplay between the individual essays. This, however, is a problem that plagues the book throughout. While there is a semblance of coherence in the first two parts, it is quickly revealed to be superficial. While First Person tried to hard to engage the contributors in a conversation, Second Person has given up on the idea of intertextuality almost entirely.
It contains a lot of information, but most of this information is only potentially useful. Considering the recent inflation of game-related books it would have made much more sense to create a companion website with background materials for the book than to put all this material in the book itself. In the final analysis, then, Second Person is clearly an improvement on its predecessor, albeit a small one. At the same time, it remains unclear which audience this book is trying to reach. Most academics will probably reject it as too shallow, while game designers are likely to shun it for its lack of practical advice.
Considering that Second Person strikes me as fairly cliquish and exclusionary, I fear that the only people who will take an interest in it are the contributors themselves. The title of this book suggests a comprehensive overview of the field of game studies and possibly answers to fundamental questions. Aphra Kerr takes a political economy approach to the international business of making games, from the pre-development stage to retail. Stages of game design are examined by Jon Sykes, who offers dread phrase! Concept identification 2. Research 3. Defining game mechanics 4.
Balancing game mechanics 5. Game evaluation. The theories and approaches of Part 2 are derived from existing academic fields. Julian Kuchlich questions how applicable literary theory is to analysing games by attempting three approaches, Poetics conventions and rules , Hermeneutics meaning and Aesthetics effects. They concentrate on the newness of digital games and the forms of engagement and experience facilitated by their status as computer hardware and software, showing particular interest in user intervention strategies such as modding and skinning. The concepts of interactivity, simulation and technological imaginary are applied to Tomb Raider , The Sims and Quake.
Unfortunately for them, they fail to make a convincing case for a multidisciplinary approach by assembling a range of essays that shuffle tentatively around their subject and notably fail to lay a glove on the key issues of gameplay. This is not the fault of the contributors, who will have been asked to write from their own particular perspective, but what this book lacks is any sense of true engagement with the actual playing of games. Understanding Digital Games is a misnomer. Date posted: December 22, Visits Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
MMOGs like Second Life and The Sims Online created environments where real-life social phenomena are encouraged and replicated, while games such as World of Warcraft, Lineage, and Everquest, in virtue of their role-playing and fantasy settings, create new social dynamics with few practical real-life analogues, which in turn create new bases for trust. Though in most MMOG populations male players outnumber females by a wide margin, gender proportions are steadily converging, and in many respects e. Players are encouraged to meet, cooperate, and socialize in the game environment; users in my survey reported that they meet and play in a group with new players every time they play.
Common tasks include informal adventuring for the sake of gathering items and completing predefined mission objectives, meeting to socialize and role-play, and creating and exhibiting player-created content such as items, furniture, character models, organized performances, and so on. Often times, tasks are designed such that they are too difficult to realistically complete with only a single player. Since MMOGs are subscription-based services owned and maintained privately, players are subject to strict end-user license agreements and terms-of-use policies, as well as less formal game etiquette standards established both by the game companies and the player communities.
However, the extent of repercussions for transgressive in-game behavior has thus far only amounted to account suspension or cancellation; there has yet to be a criminal investigation arising from actions between in-game characters. The lack of privacy makes the use of MMOGs for illicit legal conduct risky; however, the otherwise lax repercussions make more minor behavioral infractions prevalent, such as verbal harassment and item stealing.
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Trading and bartering of equipment, items, and property occur much as they do in real life, and cooperative tasks such as exploring dungeons and defeating enemies form the bulk of gameplay in games such as World of Warcraft. As such, MMOGs share many trust issues with online transactions, such as those found in e-commerce and online auctions like eBay and craigslist, where participants are mutually anonymous and direct retribution for fraud is difficult. Similar to those sites, then, MMOGs have implemented reputation systems of their own; however, the entertainment-oriented environment of MMO worlds makes certain abuse and fraud issues all the more salient for their ease of execution Appelcline.
Corritore et al. Naturally, players have found many ways to exploit reputation systems in MMOGs. Moreover, since new characters and identities are easily created, it is easy to falsify positive reputation from many different sources, which is a common basis for judging overall trustworthiness online. Griefers confound the motivations for evaluating trust and trusting reputation scores, because some griefers will build reputation for long periods of time simply to grief more effectively, and they are not motivated by self-interest where game standing or welfare is concerned.
Players often interact in highly transient, lightweight situations, and many users report that they play with different players nearly every play session, and often only once. As in the real world, this pattern of play makes it difficult to form long relationships upon which one would otherwise base trust; rather, players must employ swift trust An effective reputation system is therefore critical for providing a surrogate basis for trust and facilitating cooperation.
Raph Koster, one of the lead designers of UO, had this to say about his experiences with reputation systems:. It led to all the bad guys having sterling reputations and all the good guys with terrible reps because they were willing to sacrifice their good stats in order to take down the bad guys who had great reps through abuse of the system. I suppose that in some ways this is an accurate simulation of real life. Rather than a system intended to indicate trustworthiness to other players, it was only intended to govern interactions with NPCs.
The socially-oriented MMOG Second Life allows players to rate other players with positive or negative feedback, for a fee of game money. This system provides a quick means of assessing not only how reputable a character is, but who the source of the reputation is.
Unfortunately, this aspect of the system is not as useful if the user does not know who those sources are, which is often the case. A Proposed Implementation of Reputation in MMOGs I propose a general design for reputation systems in MMOGs which, although not ironclad, hopefully resolves many of the loopholes and vulnerabilities of previous attempts at encoding trust into a system operated by the population of players.
In doing so, I have attempted to identify the bases of trust that apply specifically to MMOGs and apply theories of online trust accordingly; I will enumerate these after describing the proposed system. A player player A can assign another player player B up to one negative or positive rating, which can be modified at any later date if the player changes his mind. That is, each of their ratings are divided by the number of friends giving another player identical ratings.
Finally, multiple characters from the same account could only form one rating of another character, and all characters on a single account share the same rating. First and foremost, all ties between trust scores and game content have been severed; as soon as there is some tangible benefit conferred by a high trust score, there is a huge motivation to game the system. There are fallibilities to RS-Tag, but hopefully the cost of exploiting these vulnerabilities would be too great to appeal even to dedicated griefers.
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Another possible exploit might involve a player opening up several distinct accounts, but this would require acquiring many subscriptions with distinct credit cards, and few players would consider this practical. Also, players who give other players positive ratings in order to receive one in turn might later change their minds out of spite; this is easily remedied by a notifier which informs players of when other players have changed their ratings, so they can respond in turn. RS-Tag also prevents players who prefer to play solo or always with the same group of friends from earning a high reputation score; but then, such players would not have any use for trust systems at all.
If anything, RS-Tag encourages players to meet and cooperate with as many separate groups of people as possible, which indeed is one of the underlying tenets of the MMO genre at large. RS-Tag is a synthesis of previously postulated ideas, coordinated in order to provide players with a basis for trusting other players. However, in the future, it might be interesting to study source-orientation effects to see if reputation assignments are influenced by the appearance or in-character behavior of an avatar, even when players are explicitly instructed to rate the person controlling the avatar.
If the effects are significant, then this might be another potential failing of RS-Tag, which assumes players are able to distinguish between in-character and out-of character behavior. However, the alternative would be to put reputation in the hands of automated behavior monitoring algorithms, none of which have yet succeeded in resisting exploitation by any player with enough friends or time on his hands. Appelcline, Shannon. Corritore, C. Fitzpatrick, Rob. Koster, Raph. Levander, Michelle. Loftus, Tim. Ludlow, Peter.
Second Life Herald. Meyerson, D. Woodcock, Bruce Sterling. COM Yee, Nick. Stanford University. Haverford College. May Below is one sample response to the questionnaire I sent to a dozen people. Salient comments are in bold. Answer these questions about your MMO s of choice.
The Philosophy of Computer Games | SpringerLink
Be as detailed or as concise as you please, but answer completely. All the time. Meanwhile, any sort of end game raid 40 people definitely requires cooperation with people I do not know face to face. Essentially every time I sign on there is some cooperation required with people I do not know from real life. Mostly for 5 man instances, it is possible to cooperate with somebody only once. While there is no guarantee that the cooperation will only occur once, there is no assumption of further interaction in many cases. A little of both, and often both at the same time.
The class structure in wow requires a variety of classes to be successful in an instance. This is often the case as I play a healer class and they are in demand, so there are great swings in the familiarity I have with my group mates. This is a difficult question. Once you get on to a voice chat server with your guild for more complex raids, the amount of familiarity with individuals increases.
Pretty damn necessary in WoW. I joined because I was grouped with an individual who seemed nice enough and skilled enough and they asked if I wanted to join. For the most part, yes. Also, because I know they have more to gain over time through cooperation than by defecting. Once again, especially since I am a healer and in short order. All of the above but the last. Also, being a healing class while people really need me, I also really need people. Killing things on my own is extraordinarily slow. While the game does not have one in place, except for, arguably the PvP honor system, I am wary of in-game reputation systems.
If reputations were publicized it would be impossible to control how much individual players reward positive reputation, thus making the goal of a robust, impossible to game system more important. Not applicable. Most of those are from personality and not skill disagreements though. How long does that take?
Well, risk is actually never that high, but I guess the time loss can be huge. You know within the first 5 minutes of a group how skilled the players are are they fulfilling their needed roles? Or usually you do. Synchronous trading, master looting system, hierarchical guild powers all prevent people from having too much ability to abuse trust.
There is basically no role-playing that goes on on the server I play on. Avatar chat is usually used for trying to do silly things while waiting for something. Voice chat for in guild and some of my RL friends cooperative efforts. Once voice chat enters the text screen becomes rather muted. Patient, nice, competent, fair.
And no fucking ninja looters. A successful one is any partnership that keeps me entertained and not frustrated. I have done many failed instances with funny people. No wipes is good, one is pretty much expected, 2 is reasonable. Above two and I start questioning my commitment to continue. Even that can be okay though, but that would probably be considered a failed run. A complete failure is a group that fragments before it reaches the instance, where somebody has to leave in the middle, or where a total self-centered ass wastes my time with his douchity.
And ninjas. This article presents some thoughts on educational use of computer games focusing on why we should look to socalled process-oriented games rather than games that relies more directly on narratives for providing the game experience. One may start by asking where the infatuation with computer games for education stem from?
Is it just a passing phenomenon so well known from other new media emerging or does it have more holding power? Educational researchers have embraced radio, television, computers, and computer games for their ability to engage and motivate students Calvert, ; Prensky, The idea of using computer games for education is not just a concept forged by educators and hopeful game researchers but is also found in game designers description of the most basic incitements for playing computer games.
Apparently a very basic premise for playing computer games is to engage with an unknown universe, and slowly find ways to surmount seemingly impossible barriers. For a computer game to work the player on a very basic level need to learn. Computer games may have different tolerance levels for bad learners but in all games you need to learn to advance. This makes computer games quite different from other media as the responsibility for the game activity and progress lies with the player. The role of the player have important ramifications for learning through computer games as it presents an alternative to the distanced, abstract, and representational form in other media.
When computer games work best they give an internal understanding of a given system by embedding the player in the game universe Gee, The player will not only be presented with text, pictures, sounds, and explanations but will have to act on these connecting them meaningfully to the actions performed. The player cannot abstain from constructing a meaningful response to what happens in the game, as this will in effect bring the game to a stop although this may just mean a restart Egenfeldt-Nielsen, a.
The learning in computer games may take very different forms in the action game Space Invaders you improve your ability to react swiftly with utmost precision shooting down those damn aliens. In adventure games like Leisure Suit Larry you are forced to constantly acquire new knowledge, solve puzzles to advance, and understand the mindset of the avatar Larry.
If you fail to get a clue or figure something out, you are stuck. The game will come to a halt. The demand for actions and making the play situation meaningful by connecting the different output is closely related to everyday learning experience. This paper will argue that the structure found in computer games are more similar that other media to our everyday life, and how we learn from everyday situations. Computer games may therefore be a way to cross the border between an educational setting and an everyday setting that have notoriously been a hard nut to crack for educators. With other words making sure education is accessible outside the setting, where the learning experience takes place.
Narratives will play a central role to understand how we can engage with everyday situations. Narratives can potentially play a central role in computer games facilitating learning. I furthermore find that all computer games possess a potential for educational use, with some more explicitly catering for the instructive dimension.
Of course, depending on your educational goals some computer games may be more or less appropriate for education. However, whether a computer games is considered educational or not is more than anything a question of perspective. The decision as to what is educational primarily rest on what knowledge, skills, and attitudes we as a society find relevant to nurture.
The focus on simulation games in educational game research Some educators have intuitively identified some computer games more worthy of pursuit than others for educational purposes, often after growing weary of traditional edutainment titles relying mostly on drill-and-practice learning principles. It has almost become a mantra for people talking about computer games and their educational potential to bring forward SimCity, a second after Simcity has been mentioned other familiar titles will emerge like Civilization, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and Railroad Tycoon.
However it seems that SimCity is the game when it comes to having a metaphor for education through computer games. The other titles are not too different from SimCity but can be described as process-oriented computer games. I will in the following elaborate on what I mean by process-oriented by looking at the characteristics of SimCity. By this I do not mean to state that SimCity should be our preferred genre for educational use of computer games however it is a suitable starting point especially for the educational perspective I will bring forth.
The social-cultural environment surrounding playing a computer game should not be neglected as important for facilitating the learning experience, however in this paper it will be somewhat in the background. It is interesting that SimCity is quite an unusual computer game. Mainly the objections are connected with the lack of explicit goals in the game: how and when did you win.
Will Wright, the designer of SimCity, has since become well known for his design style that he characterises with the following lines:. Brown, It is not the lack of goals that are central but rather the possibility to create a more open game universe: The goals are set by the player but are still a part of the game context. From his perspective it seems that computer games are not well defined and finite for the player but instead serves as a mental construction set.
It is less important what the result is as long as you have fun with exploring the different potentials for building a city. Of course you will still be disappointed if a neighbourhood falls flat but still the game experience is primarily the process of building the city. The success of SimCity points to the factors in games that educators and researchers find interesting properties for educational purposes. The general idea seems to be that games for educational use should be open-ended, creative, process oriented, dynamic, complex, and toy-like.
There are for example few similarities between SimCity and the so-called edutainment titles, which is the current label for computer games specifically targeted at education. There is common agreement that edutainment has not fulfilled the potential of computer games for education Van Deventer, ; Brody, ; Leyland, , so it seems obvious to instead distil some characteristics from a commercial computer games, SimCity. A problem is that if we take the properties of SimCity as necessary elements in educational usage of computer game we limit the scope of games for education and favour process-oriented games.
This is hardly in line with my starting point, where I saw all computer games as learning experiences and potential educational. Towards the end of the paper I will try to extend the focus to other genres to avoid this trap. Closely connected with process oriented computer games is a research preference for simulations and experiential learning. The simulation genre is one of the most researched genres when we look at traditional games and education.
The simulation genre lends itself well to the underlying learning paradigm in the game research community, namely experiential teaching Gentry, In line with experiential learning theory simulations make it possible to perform actions in a virtual setting resembling the real actions as closely as possible. We should however be careful not to perceive the ideas of experiential learning to literally, and we should not make experiential learning the only theory. We should also be aware that when we choose experiential learning as a starting point it points in the direction of simulations.
A few words on educational theory The focus of this paper will not be traditional educational theory as I will focus on the role narratives play in understanding the actions we perform. In that sense narratives are the central tool for learning as they frame and reflect our practice.
Still, it might be worth introducing a few theories and concepts used throughout this paper. I use learning to refer to all activities and contexts we engage in, where we change or support our patterns of action Bateson, This is as broad a perception of learning as they come, and a tighter focus is appropriate.
Knowledge can take different forms including memorization, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation. Memorization is the most basic form whereas synthesis and evaluation is the most complex. The higher levels of knowledge are built on the lower levels. With the term education I refer to a more controlled process, where we engage in an activity with the purpose of learning specific things. The landscape of educational theory is rich but I primarily use the experiential approach represented by John Dewey, Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky, and David Kolb as their focus on connecting concrete experiences with abstract representation and thinking is most suitable for my purpose.
In an experiential perspective it is not enough to simply hear or read some information, we have to engage with them, and connect it with our existing knowledge and concepts. The everyday life is where the existing knowledge has been constructed, and for the new knowledge to take root it has to connect with the everyday experiences Kolb, ; Dewey, ; Vygotsky, ; Bruner, These circumstances are facilitated through different forms of mediators for example language, teachers, and peers.
Computer games could be one mediator but it will often not be enough. Wertsch stress that tools will stress different aspects of a relevant area, and computer games are in that sense not different than books, television, teachers, parents, or peers. Language is the primary mean for a tool to reach the learner, and this sets certain limits. Some tools are capable of supplementing the learning experience with other forms of modalities Jewitt, ; Wertsch, It is critical to understand why some tools are more appropriate for learning. This is partly because the zone of proximale of development works, there is a fitting distance between actual and potential zone.
Constructing this zone should be understood through narratives which is the way a learner constructs a concrete instance of a situation. I will expand a bit on the role of narratives in the following. A different kind of narratives When Henry Jenkins in his paper Game Design as Narrative Architecture, points to the obvious problems of applying film theory to computer games, the flexibility of the game universe is one of the key points. A computer game supports different interpretations and routes.
Jenkins is trying to follow in the footsteps of legendary game designers like Will Wright and Sid Meier. He advocates for diversity in the genres, the aesthetics and the use of narrative in games. Narratives should have different roles, and be allowed to have different expressions in computer games. On this note I will try to outline a somewhat different understanding of narratives in computer games drawing on Jerome Bruner and Marie-Laure Ryan.
The aim is to be able to capture the characteristics in process oriented computer games described earlier, and ultimately expand it to other game genres ultimately linking it to educational potential of computer games. In her transmedial definition Marie-Laure Ryan identifies three properties of a narrative script, which are necessary for a narrative script to function:.
A narrative has a world with characters and objects. The world must change either as a consequences of user actions or events. In the three points above Ryan focuses on the narrative structure. Marie-Laure Ryan proposes this distinction and sees being a narrative as attributable to the text game itself , however in order to posses narrative quality the text must be able to evoke the narrative script in the user through immersion, agency, and transformation.
It is possible to speculate around the events of the plumber, killing monsters, getting closer to freeing the princess in the end, but the players only engage in this behaviour to a limited degree, and it is not the primary dynamic of the game. It does not make sense to connect, the plumber on a rescue mission for his loved one, with head butting little boxes to gain points. Even though the narrative is potentially there, and the objects, characters and events are interrelated, it is not deep and relevant enough to engage the player meaningfully.
The distinction between being a narrative, and possessing narrativity, is important because it points to a common misunderstanding, when thinking about the educational potential of computer games. Even though a computer game may as a text contain elements relevant to any curriculum they may not be central to the playing experience.
A player of Age of Mythology may superficially recognize the Greek mythology used in the game however the mythology is of little relevance to the concrete playing, and will therefore not really form the playing experience, and therefore also only to a limited degree facilitated a learning experience about Greek mythology. In Age of Mythology the Greek mythology narrative will be quite weak for most players because the distance between the gameplay activity and narrative is quite abstract.
A player with prior interest in Age of Mythology will appreciate the names, narratives, and objects hereby reinforcing knowledge about Greek mythology. What is quite certain is that all players will learn to perform the activities necessary to play the computer game.
This illustrates the problem when using narratives in computer games compared to rules. The rules are finite, logical, and can formally be described. This also results in the narrative components being supplementary rather than core to the game experience. There have been made different attempts to solve this problem with the quest structure as the most solid Tosca, The strength of narratives also becomes its weakness in an educational perspective.
We can further explore the potential of process-oriented games by looking closer at the limitations of relying on narratives in educational use of computer games. The relation between narrative, language and mental images Marie-Laure Ryan states that she finds that language is one of the best carriers of narrative but that narrative is not a linguistic phenomenon but rather a cognitive phenomenon, where we construct a mental image of the experience we participate in. Taking this further, the mental image comes before the narrative.
We construct a mental image of the activity we are engaged in and only when we reflect over it, under special circumstances, do we turn it into a narrative. In this way narratives become a way to understand and handle the world by making it meaningful. If we turn to the psychologist Jerome Bruner the importance of seeing narrative as something very fundamental becomes clear. According to Bruner, language is learned through praxis, which he calls an everyday drama: narratives without a narrator.
Bruner sees the first drive for acquisition of language as a way to control these everyday narratives, and frame them according to ones own goals and pleasures. Therefore, it is not strange that to understand and communicate narratives the natural medium is language, which originally is a way to master our everyday life, and frame it to our benefit, by using narratives. However it is also very clear that the experience of a narrative is not related to language per se. Our everyday experience is life but when we talk about them and construct the experience it happens through language manipulation.
They become narratives. To make events manageable we narrate them, and put perspective on. Therefore the experience of agency a player has is not to be seen as a narrative but rather the other way around. The player venturing into a game, experiencing things, and dealing with these, is participating in virtual life. Like life itself it can with different degrees of relevance and success be transformed into a narrative. Drawing on Bruner the narrating process is often activated when it violates canonical narratives. Although life in action is not a narrative we still constantly live and navigate in and through narratives.
Everyday life is framed within a social praxis that consists of canonical narratives, but these are not explicit in our everyday life, rather background noise. When the background noise comes too much out of tune with our life narratives are violated , we search for ways to make these deviances meaningful. The language becomes a tool for the narrative process. This implies that narratives are problematic as the very building blocks for educational experiences.
Rather, the narratives can serve as ordering tool for the concrete experiences we have in real-life, or in the process-oriented games. These actions are not the background story in Age of Mythology, the description of wonders in Civilization, the scenario description in Medal of Honour, or the aesthetic expression in SimCity with still more beautiful buildings. Often, these narratives are, however, quite simple and relies on recognition from the player rather than brining new knowledge as Sid Meier have revealed Brake, The narratives are presented through language, which is a tool of manipulating basic building blocks rather than actual learning new blocks.
The game universe in process-oriented games is not build through language but through a wide range of means like genre awareness, kinetic activity, spatial, and audiovisual dynamics. Language plays a smaller role, and is usually not necessary to come to terms with, what is going on in the game, by creating a narrative. At least not until someone ask you, and you thereby reflect on your practice.
It can also occur when you have to make sense of a specific conflict or problem in the game for example objects, characters or events that deviate from traditional genres, narratives or gameplay. The point I want to stress is that we should not be fooled into believing that games are necessarily better off by drawing more heavily on abstract representation language , which seems to be he case in some circles, where adventure games with a strong narrative component is preferred Cavallari et al.
Process-oriented games have other means and effects for facilitating educational experience. Games are closer to our everyday activities than to other media types, and we should not build on top of classic media theory. Instead you will have to move closer to theories of everyday life, to understand, what goes on in computer games.
Characteristics of games in a learning context from a narrative perspective Narratives in a classic sense are not the main attraction of computer games, and in line with the thoughts not usually a part of the playing a game excluding adventure games In most computer games the dynamics comes from playing with life in a social praxis with another frame than everyday life. Just like everyday life happens within an overall narrative Bruner, , so does games but without taking on immediate consequences to our everyday life.
The narrative is framing the perception. From a learning perspective this is quite interesting, as this is actually close to the very definition of a learning environment. It is a place where we can experiment and gain important experiences and knowledge, without too much risk Dewey, It has long been argued that games are well suited for offering the opportunity to practice and experience different areas without the consequences of real life Boocock, The main question is how strong the relation between the digital learning environment and everyday life is. Adventure computer games are a popular way to create a digital learning environment through games although the evidence on the learning outcome and the correct teaching application is limited Cavallari et al.
What is interesting in their research project is that the degree of success is measured through test questions on environment, and it supports the researchers in their conclusion that learning do occur. The environmental information are presented through language, and tested through language. However this does not mean that the children change their everyday practice, in this study the researchers found this to be unlikely.
With the exception of the few homes, where the children parallel with the computer game playing in school, engaged in environmental relevant behaviour. When the children at home engaged in environmental issues it became possible for the players to cross the border between the narratives constructed through language by playing the game, and their everyday activities. Adventure games are quite traditional and close to the written media in their learning process, using language as the primary requisite.
Therefore it also makes sense to talk about a narrative to a certain degree although it is rather clumsy implemented in this particular environment game. However the adventure game rest heavily on traditional learning theory, where we acquire information and then learn about them. We read or hear information, and then learn them Bandura, xxx.
In their perspective it is not enough to simply hear or read some information, we have to engage with them, and connect it with our existing knowledge and concept. A better example of a learning game, which lends itself more to experiential learning perspective is Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus presented by Debra A. Lieberman , which is within the action genre, in the sub genre called platforms games.
You control Bronkie, a little dragon that must fight the bad Tyrannosaurus Rex to assemble a wind machine to clean the air. During the game you must fight evil dinosaurs, and engage in proper asthma management to win the game. The story has minor significance except setting the scene, and is quickly forgotten, when you jump over enemies and avoid obstacles that will deteriorate your asthma, trying to make it to the next level.
In the game a lot of necessary asthma management tools are embedded in the game universes and the activities you perform. The use of language is limited to a few multiple-choice questions between levels. These improvements were for example observed in communication about asthma with peers, clinical staff and parents. Here, in addition to improved communication, a post-test showed a percent drop in visits to urgent care and medical visits Lieberman, Here primers for the information you wish to convey have been integrated as a natural part of the game activity and are necessary for succeeding in the game - the game actions are directly related to the behaviour you want to learn the player.
The adventure games do have a potential for learning as have been argued by Amory et. Here the social virtual praxis is constituted through narratives but as in real life the narrative is a distant, framing device. In everyday life it is possible to manipulate these narratives through language, framing a situation differently, or exploring other narratives by reading them.
But the narrative part comes after the game experience, after we have done something. We have to get the small blocks for toying with in the game before we engage in reflection, and narrative discourse. Computer games can very well be the carrier of this something, providing it can give the necessary physical sensations audiovisual, tactile, kinetic, and motor skills for a given situation to be constructed meaningfully by the player.
With a safer, better, and fuller experience I am referring to the game as environment, where you can explore, experience, and manipulate without the same risk as other environments, and get input that is otherwise more restricted. In the genres, action, strategy, and simulation, the process-oriented potential of games is an interesting feature for educational use. The narrative experience is formulated and constructed by the player under the right circumstances for example about how he managed asthma in a game, or changed light bulb from a normal bulb to a low-energy bulb.
Perhaps this explains the attention that SimCity have drawn in educational circles. As I explained at the start of this paper Simcity is characterized by giving the player more options for setting own goals, and playing the game. It becomes possible for the player to play a game of own device, and to construct a narrative experience, which supports their game experience, and not the game designers. In this perspective the closer a game simulate real life, the better. This is not necessarily the whole truth.
In the future work will have to be done on identifying different learning set-ups in computer games. When examining learning games from a simulation perspective learning by doing we would be wise to be cautious with games trying to communicate abstract information, concepts and ideas, which are learned through language, and are primarily represented by language. This is not sufficient; instead we should stress the importance of actually engaging in play, and do concrete things in a safe environment.
We should also be wary of our tendency to fit our conception of learning games within the current educational practices, which clearly supports learning through language. Furthermore we should be aware that the computer game genres today are quite rigid, and the expectations of the players make it limited what activities they will engage in. Computer games are somewhat conservative in their content, interface, narratives, use of time, space perception, and progression.
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