Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gaming Seminar 2 in Gothenburg

Live blogging again. Narrativity vs. ludology. Janet Murray and "Hamlet on the Holodeck" provoked a lot of younger gamers/academics, who saw for themselves that many of Murray's claims seemed to be incorrect. Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern's article "Interaction and Narrativity" discusses interactive drama from an Aristotelian perspective. Agency and plot. Artificial intelligence — successful or not?

Erving Goffman talks about the things that unintended things in games in terms of "rules of irrelevance" and takes an example from the game of chess: knocking the pieces down unintentionally, and the other know that this is irrelevant to the game, and chooses therefore to disregard it from the game.

Henry Jenkins' "Game Design as Narrative Architecture" does not polarize in the narrativity/ludological debate. Spacial stories/narratives. Parallel: John Alexander, narrative as a viewpoint on many things. The pace of the game influences the perception of a game narrative, if the game is progressing quickly the narrative comes secondary, perhaps only possible to be concious of afterwards.

Ulf Wilhelmsson from the University of Skövde talks about play- and narrative elements within culture, ludology vs narratology, games as interactable environments/time spaces, the affordances of the environment, play character and the character of play, and the game ego. His theoretical framework includes Roger Caillois taxonomy of game, ludologist and narratologist viewpoints, Mikhail Bakhtin, some elements of film theory, James Gibson's affordance concept, Lakoff and Johnson experiantialist cognitive theory and his own concept of a game ego.

Wilhelmson does a card trick without cards shows that games are embedded within human culture. Huizinga - Homo Ludens. Roger Caillois concepts of paidia (free, improvisational play) vs ludus (gaming, rule-based play), agôn (competitive based on the skill of the individual), alea (chance-based), mimicry (role-playing, trying out different roles to fit in in different settings) and ilinx (physical, Liseberg as the "Mecca of fun," looking for kicks, rapid, montage sequences) are illuminated by Wilhelmson's example of a group of girls negotiating their virtual playhouse and he concludes that narratives are embedded within human culture.

Wilhelmsson the points to the play- and narrative elements within culture. Using Mikhail Bahktin (The Chronotope, the time space of a narrative, what is possible within a narrative?), Wilhelmsson discusses narrative in terms of probability. The story has to make sense and it does so with a "distributed timespace." The timespace is very relevant in a game context. Analepses and prolepses sometimes increases the pace in a game.

Ludology (Aarseth, Juul, Eskelinen) vs. narratology (Ryan, Hayles, Wilhelmsson). How to study what (aspects) in computer games, ludology (the essence of games and gameiness). What a computer game is, can be and have been can be explored from a narratological point of view. Jesper Juul: "You can not have narration and interaction at the same time" (Juul 2001), and argues that it is impossible to influence something that has already happened, but Wilhelmsson disagrees, since an interactive story is fiction anything can be change. Even death can be avoided or "rewritten" in fiction. Setting the scene and providing the basic conflict for a player to act upon which will enable the player to be the proactive part of the narrative/game experience. Sequential action sequences.

Logic and probability? Pascal's wager. Calculating the odds, the internal logic of the narrative, causal logic and studying the chain of events to predict the outcome. Genre specificity. Games as interactable time spaces. Film may be understood as a virtual time space construction. We actively construct the cinematic room from spacial and temporal markers. We expect more of the same. Strive to make sense of the world, find coherence. Games as interactable time spaces: Perceptual sets, expect continuity, meaningful thematic units, i.e. animals, humans, colors, certain shapes etc., Bugelski and Alampay (1961) de Bono (1990), Lakoff and Johnson (1999), Wilhelmsson (2001). Georges Méliès (French illusionist, Le voyage dans la lune), Edwin S. Porter, David W Griffith, Lev Kuleshov. Hugo Münsterberg "The Photoplay: a psychological study" (1916). The human mind is the material for the photoplay. The motion picture is structure in a way that is analogous to the human mind (Anderson, J. on Münsterberg). Shifting perspectives and the brain adds material.

Games as interactable time spaces. James J. Gibson theory of affordances (what an object reveals of itself in a game setting, which allows for interaction, for instance: a chair is "sitable"). The surface/texture/sound are the most important features, it gives information about the character of the object. (Gibson speaks from a psychological/ecological standpoint). Lakoff and Johnson work is based on the idea that we categorize the world. "I can eat this or this can eat me." Basic level primacy supplies the object with a single user pattern (it is supposed to be used in one specific way). Games are centered upon action and need to be balanced with regards to paidia and Ludus (Caillois). The environment in a game is basically enactable and interactable and is meant for the game player to actu upon and within via a Game Ego manifestation. What is the setting? Story events may be understood as a consequence of the environment and the characters within it. Computer game events can be understood from the viewpoint of Bakhtin and Gibson: what the player can do depends on what the environment supplies: the affordance of the environment. Example Zelda and the heroic Link: Geographically distributed chain of events. There is a need for strategy in a game environment and the player looks for it.

"The Point of Being." Point of view in film studies/film theory. Bordwell: the placement of the camera. Branigan: A way of reading a text (from what perspective should I understand this material?). Gibson: affordance theory. Computer games rather interactable than interactive. Player-centered approach. Point of Being not only point of view.

"The Game Ego" is a bodily based function that enacts a point of being within the game environment through a tactile motor/kinesthetic link. The exertion of control is an extension of the player's sensory motor system via a tactile motor/kinesthetic link. Not only the controlled and perceived motion on a screen but also the experience of locomotion within an environment. Our conceptual system relates to the motor system of the human body and is tightly connected to the emotional system so that no clear-cut boundary can be drawn between them. The locus of reason is also the locus of experience (motor control). The agency within the game that manifest the player's presence allowing thim or her to perform actions. The visual form not as important as its functional schemas. Being is not only to observe but also and mor importantly to act within the environment.

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