Friday, November 23, 2007

Back from Toronto

I just got back from Toronto and Santa Cruz filled with enthusiasm and energy! However, returning also means a lot of administrative stuff to take care of - apart from the travel claim and other really boring stuff, I have summarized the conference in a document that I thought I'd share with you here...

Report from Futureplay Nov 14-18, Toronto

Futureplay 2007 took place in Toronto, Canada. Around 150 ?? people participated in the activities by either giving a presentation, a keynote speak, presenting a game at the competition or just visiting. The conference had a strong focus towards serious games, the last day was for instance all dedicated to those types of games and there was a serious games workshop during the Friday. There there was also room for them in other tracks and many keynote speaker had this perspective. Another common topic was game ethics – in particular violence in games and its (possible) impact on the player and in the long run society.

The paper I presented was part of the “Storytelling in Games” session, and it turned out to be the only paper that was presented during the session since the other presenters didn’t show up. Instead a student from MIT entered the role of a moderator and started a game discussion that mainly involved storytelling in games (as this was the title of the session) and thereafter adaptive games. I will refer to this discussion further down in this summary. The discussion continued in the lobby afterwards and I will have to admit that I missed some of the sessions and panels I had planned to participate in due to this type of spontaneous discussions with interesting people. I spent for instance some time talking to a serious games developer from Toronto, Jeremy Friedberg, which was really interesting and fun. I also spent at least one session to talk to Annakaisa L from Tampere, who is working in a project about game design, brainstorming and evaluation methods in cooperation with companies such as Nokia. The fact is that these discussions became more giving than listening to the speakers since the time set for each presentation was too short and gave no room for questions and discussions in between, and most speakers used up the time (including me, it is really hard to limit a presentation to 15 min even though you have planned for it!).

Day 1
Keynote : Constance Steinkuehler

Title: Massively Multiplayer Online Games as an Educational echnology: an outline for research.

Literacy scare -
"The collapse of literacy and the rise of violence in the electronic age"

Playing games- constellation of literacy practices

In-game talk - abbreviated for practical reasons but contain the same meaning as ordinary language. Same communicative acts

Orally delivered stories
Invitations to meetings

Magic circle - fuzzy boundary
official fandom - and unofficial... -interactive online communities, fansites forums - constant update of manual produced by players
- Jenkins refer to this as collective intelligence

Fan fiction - cool, students failing in school excel in writing stories - writing and reading considered part of gameplay -

AAAS standards for scientific habits of mind
pilotstudy WOW - forum discussions .-> full investigation
2000 posts, 85 threads. How participants approach scientific habit of mind

Do they back up data with arguments?
• scientific discursive practices
- 28% used data/evidence
- 37% build on other ideas
- 37% use of counterarguments

• model based reasoning
- 58% system based reasoning,
- 41% understanding feedback
- 11% model-based reasoning model
- 5% testing and prediction
- 4% mathematical modeling
- 1% mathematical computation

• tacit epistemology
- 65% evaluative - "I see your point but..."
- 30% absolutist
- 5% relativist

- 86% social knowledge constructions - question - expl A [disc 1] expl B [disc2]
- 8% social banter
- 6% uncodable

Computational literacy - the ability to interpret and express ideas through computational means (DiSessa)
- for instance Mods - sometimes takes over the gaming itself. may be released by game company

Why do they work so hard?
- the new third place - socialising, bonding and bridging

- pop.cosmopolitanism - find people that are like you...

- games as gateway drug

Research paper presentations – Session 1: Social Ethical and Cultural Perspectives on Games. The name(s) refer to the actual presenter(s), not the author(s) (some presenters were co-authors, other would be the main and/or only author)

This session was crowded since it was the first day of the conference and everyone was there. I had to stand in the back the first part of the session, where it was difficult to both hear the speaker (esp. the first one who spoke very quietly) and see the ppt-presentation. I have chosen to include the abstracts to all the presentations that I attended, and if you are interested in reading the whole article, just let me know.

Grant Tavinor: Towards an Ethics of Video Games

It was almost impossible to hear what he said so I will just include the abstract from his paper:
Video gaming continues to be an ethically contentious topic, not the least because of its claimed negative effects on individuals and the society they live within. By taking a consequentia-list approach to the issue — setting out the conseq-uences of videogames and gaming, and assessing those consequences for their ethically relevant properties — video gaming can be given a partial moral defence against its critics.

Jennifer Jenson & Suzanne de Castell: Girls Playing Games: Rethinking Stereotypes
This paper reports on findings from a three-year, Canadian federally funded research project entitled “Education, Gender and Gaming”. Our study of gender and digital game-playing was driven by two significant factors: first, that far more boys than girls play video games, and boys’ early and sustained experience with gaming places them at an advantage with respect to computer competence and confidence. Second, not only are computer-based media increasingly central tools for learning and work, but in fact games are increasingly being recruited in educational contexts. This eager uptake for educational deployment of game-based learning threatens to compound and intensify girls’ disadvantage. It is therefore even more urgent that educationally-based research reinvestigates stereotypical presumptions about gender as they relate to computer-based game playing for children in order to make it possible for girls to participate more fully and equally in technology-related fields. In this way, the new push to design educational games might better be informed by as full an understanding as possible of girls’ perspectives on and participation in gaming, and about the kinds of games, characters, and overall approaches to “play” that might better engage and involve girls, who are already very much participating in gaming culture.

Report from a 3 yr study:
Yr1 - boys gaming club, girls gaming club
Yr2 - mixed club
Yr3 - separate clubs

footage 100hrs
clips 1143
surveys 210

Research focus:
Play practices, choices and engagement
Players' discourse both inside and outside game

Comment: Girls thought they had prior game/computer familiarity but they didn't. Usually they would sit watching their brothers - or other males in the surroundings - play

- collaborative play

Girls play:
"benevolent" competition
less chatter, more play

Boys play:
cooperation, and novice support from some

gameplay as identity defining for boys

- commented on how hard the game was
- repeated the same game endlessly
- did not want to play in mixed groups

- aggressively competetive

Karolien Poels: Digital Game Design for Elderly Users

The current paper reviews and discusses digital game design for elderly users. The aim of the paper is to look beyond the traditional perspective of usability requirements imposed by agerelated functional limitations, towards the design opportunities that exist to create digital games that will offer engaging content combined with an interface that seniors can easily and pleasurably use.
A project supported by FUGA (and others).
"The gaming grandma"

What utility and benefits do digital games have for elderly users?
- demographic lifestyle characteristics
Trad. research on games and elderly focuses on usability etc

Alex Thayer: Games and violence - so what?!

This article reports the results of a content analysis that tested whether a significant difference in attitude toward violent digital games occurred in the news media as a result of the Columbine school shootings. This article lists attitudinal information about violent game content for more than 30 worldwide news sources, as well as the most frequently mentioned people, institutions, and digital games mentioned by these sources. A one-way ANOVA of authors’ attitudes toward violent digital games prior to and after April 20, 1999, as well as ANOVAs testing geographic location, newspaper, and article type, showed no significant attitudinal difference toward violent digital games before and after the Columbine incident. Four cultural themes that relate to the control of violent digital games are also analyzed.

RQ1 :whas there a significant difference among newspapers with reagrd to the coverage of violent digital games?
RQ2: Was there a significant change of attitude in the media toward violent digital games after the columbine incident?

RQ3: Which other people, institutions, digital games, and cultural themse are discussed in articles that adress digital games?

Research Paper Presentation - Session 2: Pervasive games.

Jaakko Stenros: Pervasive games in ludic society

In this paper we chart how pervasive games emerge from the intersection of two long-standing cultural trends, the increasing blurring of fact and fiction in media culture, and the movements struggling over public space. During the past few decades a third trend has given a new meaning to media fabrication and street cultures: the rise of ludus in the society through maturation of the gamer generations. As more and more activities are perceived asgames in the contemporary society, fabricated media expression and performative sports pave the way for a new way of gaming. Born in the junction of playful, ordinary and fabricated, pervasive games toy with conventions and configurations of contemporary media.

Pervasive games not based on tech.
- games where at least one boundary is broken or abandoned (for instance time or location).

Games as structure- concept of game changes over time
Three trends:
1. blur of fact and fiction in pop culture e.g. The Game (movie) - {Jamie Kahn – My comment}
2. struggle for public space
3. the right for ludus in society

former paida becomes more important in ludus - games, e.g. singstar, dancemats
Where are the boundaries? Are they really Juul-strict?
playing and gaming less distinctive

Instead: place context and mindset in a matrix:
context; serious vs playful
mindset: serious vs playful

playful pretence serious

Anthony Whithead: Sensor Networks as Video Game Input Devices

In this work we are motivated by creating a network of sensors that can be used as input devices for video games. Our goal is to create an inexpensive network of off-the-shelf sensors that are used to force proper movement and engagement of the player. Our experience shows that a distributed set of sensors around the body prevents the player from cheating the system by using motion of the device alone to trick the system. In this work we show that a relatively simple sensor network configuration can enforce proper form and ensure that the player is actively participating in the game context.

Pose recognition
3-axis accelerometers
- impossible to know exact rotation and position
- cannot replace gyroscope
- inexpensive
- can directly tell us about motion
- feasible computational methods exist to handle the data flow

Carolina Islas Sedano: Where is the answer? – The importance of curiosity in pervasive mobile games.

Today games are increasingly recognized not only for their entertainment value, but also for their positive impact on social interaction, educational potential, technical interests, publicity and economical power. A new game genre of pervasive games extends a virtual game world into the real world environment, allowing players to move seamlessly from one to the other. Our research is focused on identifying the elements that are important in a pervasive playful application that can trigger the interest of different individuals towards the reflection and understanding of the knowledge surrounding them. Our findings suggest that stimulating the curiosity of players is one of these key elements, and that it should be considered in the design of serious mobile games with pervasive characteristics, while looking to enrich the informal learning. In addition, mobile phones are well accepted as play tools. These results are based on the feedback given by 45 players of our game entitled SciMyst, which is a mobile adventure
game with pervasive and multiplayer characteris-tics. In SciMyst the player has to solve different types of enigmas, which are based on the information from the real world. The player is required to become familiar with the surroundings in order to succeed, and at the same time s/he is learning from the environment in a playful manner. The game was in action and the data collection took place during SciFest 2007, a science festival in Joensuu, Finland, in March 2007.

To my opinion, this presentation was rather uninteresting. The only notes I took were the following…
Gameplay findings:
- curiosity
- challenge
- control
- fantasy

Keynote speaker: Mia Consalvo

Title: “There is no magic circle”

• magic circle is a concept, it's imaginary

• The magic circle is magic - unreal, different from everyday life

• The magic circle is a circle - unboundedness? structural - bounds a certain space: physical, conceptual,...
...conveys connotations of safety
... fuzzy boundaries
...could be a utopian sphere (Friedman, 2005)
...part of game dev curriculum

• the magic circle is circa the 1930s...
...doesn't handle contingencies well - the "what ifs"

Cheating and the magic circle
cheating and how cheating relates to the magic circle
"cheating gives you an unfair advantage"

The purist <-------------------------->
"everything outside
your own head is cheating"
you have to get through the game on your own

<------------code is law ------------->
the code is actually altered to assist a certain player or using a cheat code

<----------------------------> the cheater
cheating is social - "i like to have any possible advantage against people that do not necessarily want to play fair with me"

Why cheat?
- stuck in the game
- fun to play God
- bored - do not want to play the whole game to see the end. Too many repetetive actions
- to be an ass

cheating + magic circle = ??

Real situation inflects gameplay
- I can buy a better piece of equipment or gold
- tax
- cheating? My real life situation can give me the possibility to perform better by cheating

Can cheating be regarded as a different way to play?
Universal hit system (on the internet)
Developer cheat on player…

Day 2
Keynote Speaker: John Nordlinger

Title: Games for learning

serious games - elements for success
Mål: att skapa ett spel som är lika attraktivt som WOW men i vilket man kan lära ut specifika kunskaper.

Seriously innovative games
- enhance computer science
- learn language
- augment training
- promote health/fitnes
- develop core skills
- awareness

Curriculum projects
- Randy Pausch - Alice & Panda 3D - next version will include prog from SIM
- rochester
- santa cruz - muppets on the beach ..
- etc etc

SAGE- Ian Parberry U of North Texas

Jim Whitehead - UCSC

Games to learn language
- sony online everquest- french
- alelos tactical Iraqi
- Stanford’s language proof and logic
- sonica spanish

Games for training.
- HAZMAT Hotzone
- America's army
- Full spectrum Warrior
- Close combat
- navy submariner
- cold stone
- flight sim

helth game - snowworld, pain and fear therapy/mitigation (Hunter Haufman/Hofman?)



Key points:

MSR Game Developer Kit V3
Serious games Montreal
GDC SIGGRAPH (sandbox for serious games, games edu)
Serious Games Listserve

3rd Annual Academic Days Gaming in CS feb 28- mar3, 2008

Q from audience: Koster's theory of fun - we find a game fun until we do not learn anymore - isn't serious games then just "sugar to make the medicin go down"? to learn boring stuff in a "fun" environment?
A: Make realistic environments-> learn (for instance languages are best taught in the countries where they speak it)

Research session 5: Psychology (“Mind Games 2”)

Marty Kauhanen & (Robert Biddle) - Carleton university:
Cognitive Dimensions of a Game Scripting Tool

In this paper we show how a heuristic evaluation can be applied to a game scripting tool, using the Cognitive Dimensions of Notations framework. We introduce an end-user development toolset that allows users to create custom modules and content or the popular Neverwinter Nights computer role -playing game. The use of the Cognitive Dimensions of Notations as a discussion aid is illustrated through the examination of the toolset using a select set of dimensions. We comment on the findings, and on the usefulness of this approach to study of game development.

Scripting tool for games
Can we design tools so that non-prog can create programs, games?

[Pratchett, R. 2005]

Serious games
Distil interactive

What makes a good authoring tool
How can we build good authoring tools?

Cognitive dimensions of notations (Blackwell and Green)
- define and compare
- simple examle
- how it is used
- hilight of our analysis

Premature commitment -
workarounds: decoupling, ...

Framework (result):
- goal
- games as scripts
- work structure
- cognitive dimensions of notations
- contextual design
- interaction pattern language

Janne Paavilainen & Annakaisa Kultima: Casual Game Discussion

Digital games have become a remarkable cultural phenomenon in the last ten years. The casual games sector especially has been growing rapidly in the last few years. However, there is no clear view on what is “casual” in games cultures and the area has not previously been rigorously studied. In the discussions on casual games, “casual” is often taken to refer to the player, the game or the playing style, but other factors such as business models and accessibility are also considered as characteristic of “casual” in games. Views on casual vary and confusion over different meanings can lead to paradoxical readings, which is especially the case when “casual gamer” is taken to mean both “someone who plays casual games” and someone who “plays casually”. In this article we will analyse the ongoing discussion by providing clarification of the different meanings of casual and a framework for an overall understanding of casual in the level of expanded game experience.

Gamespace project
Study of design and evaluation methods for casual multiplayer mobile games
Design ideas
- idea generation techniques, prototyping methods, design guidelines
- how evaluate?

Casual games are...
- easy to learn, difficult to master, non-violent... e.g. tetris, spider, bejeweled, solitaire, minesweeper, ... wow? Can it be any game?
players: women, new demographics, "don't regard themselves as gamers,
playing: at work, on breaks, mental exercise, stress relief, ...

{How do they define a casual game?}

not belong to any spec genre- can be any type of game
casual game player vs casual gamer
- sureveys most likely reached only the hardcore end of casaual gamers
- no valid info about the phenomenon as a whole
- further studies needed

some people say that casual games are best defined by their accessability

casual games disc is an indication of a dynamic phenomenon
need to distinguish between casual in games, casual games, casual game player, casual gamer,...

Lunch Keynote speaker: Espen Aarseth
Title: Killing Time? – The trouble with gaming
Can games be both good and bad?
Game addiction? What is it? Media panic?
“Addicted to culture?”
- look at history of addictive media and cultures – e.g. books…
Theory of games must focus on player:
- what is a player?
- does it have to be human?

Can game become art?
What is a player?
- the game plays the player
- who is in control, is it I or Wii? 

Media panic -> demonization of medium
Medium is blamed for complex social problems.

Distinguish between addiction and excessive/obsessive behaviour

Addiction have two meanings
- Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance
- The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something.

Game addiction often used in the first sense.
Addiction and games research
- little empirical research
- leading researcher: Mark Griffith
- There may be a difference among genres, consider for instance persistent game worlds.

Research paper presentation -session 6: Storytelling in Games

Jenny Brusk: DEAL (--) Dialogue Management in SCXML for Believable Game Characters.

In order for game characters to be believable, they
must appear to possess qualities such as emotions, the ability to learn and adapt as well as being able to communicate in natural language. With this paper we aim to contribute to the development of believable non-player characters (NPCs) in games, by presenting a method for managing NPC dialogues. We have selected the trade scenario as an example setting since it offers a well-known and limited domain common in games that support ownership, such as roleplaying games. We have developed a dialogue manager in State Chart XML, a newly introduced W3C standard1, as part of DEAL – a research platform for exploring the challenges and potential benefits of combining elements from computer games, dialogue systems and language learning.

The presentation focused more on the differences between so called “practical dialogue systems” and game dialogue systems. Slides can be handed out on request.

Game Discussion

After the presentation, the next presenters did not show up. Eitan Glinert (picture), MIT, appointed himself as moderator and initiated a discussion that revolved around interactive storytelling and adaptive games. Initially we discussed adaptive game skill levels, where some were completely against it since skilled players tend to start by “playing newbies”, in order to outperform in the rest of the game. I guess it all depends on how it is designed. I however pointed out that adaptivity also can refer to gameplay elements, meaning that a game can provide the player with those gameplay element s/he prefers. The preferences are analysed from previous actions by the player. This approach is for instance currently being studied at UCSC, where I was before going to futureplay. We furthermore discussed how interactive storytelling may develop in the future. Will it be provided by AI-characters for instance? Some also brought up the “old” discussion around interactivity vs narrative, mainly driven by Jesper Juul (wrote a paper on this topic) and Gonzalo Frasca (if I am not mistaken).

After this session I was rather exhausted and decided to mingle in the ”lobby” instead. I ended up in a discussion with Jeremy Friedman, an educational games developer in Toronto. He told me about his company – they are developing courses according to the curriculum and national goals (? typ läroplanen). They mainly use flash for fast and cheap development. Educational games have to be updated regularly, in order to provide the latest content.
I also attended the last minutes of the panel “Players Gaming the Play, Toolsets, and Creativity in and around Games.” This was actually one of my highest priorities, but since I was a bit high on adrenaline after the presentation I completely forgot about keeping an eye on the schedule so that is basically why I missed it. I got a short glimpse however, when they discussed educational games (!). As you may have already have noticed, games and education were persistent topics during the conference…

Geoffrey Long (I think) and Katherine Isbister in the panel.

Workshop: Sensor Networks as Input Devices (AKA: Dance Dance Evolution)
Workshop leaders: Anthony Whitehead, Nick Crampton, Kaitlyn Fox and Hannah Johnston.
This workshop focussed on demonstrating the input device described by A. Whitehead during his research presentation (see above). I will therefore just add some pictures from this session. I also shot some videos of the session so if you are interested in seeing them, let me know.

Nick Crampton (I presume) is demonstrating their sensors.

Of course HGo Game development student Håkan Mattson had to try it out!

Marcus Ingvarsson, HGo Game dev program, also entertained the audience…

Arcademy Games Awards Future Play Judging and Awards Presentation.
The competitors exhibited their games for testing. There were three different categories: Future Indie Games, Future Serious Games and Future Student Games. The students from HGo were in the finals in the serious games category with DrinkS. There was also the People’s choice award. DrinkS did not win any of the Future Game category awards, but they shared the People’s choice award with the game Booze Cruise! Two happy students collected the award:

Here are som other pictures from the exhibition:

Day 3
Keynote speaker: Frans Mäyrä (Tampere)
Title: The Role of Digital Play in a Society: The Case of Finland.

New book: “Gaming Nation?”, released online next week.


Facts or statistics about players are hard to value – How were the studies conducted? What (underlying) purpose(s)?

International Study of Games (InGa)
- aims to question the ways gamers are currently constructed and to provide a more nuanced way to discuss game culture.

Result from first study (appr. 800 parts.):
Gamers in Finland can be:
- anyone
- tend to be more young
- tend to be male
rather than old and/or female

Genres nonsymmetrically distributed:
Men prefers strategy games, action, shooter…
Women: casual games, Sims,…

Female age 25-44 play significantly less than their male counterpart. Men also play significantly longer ours. Esp. age 15-34 and 65-75

Serious Games Discussion
What does it mean to create an "immersive learning environment"?must
separate between perceptual, cognitive, emotional immersion (John Lester, Linden lab)
- immersion is an innate difficult concept
other comment: you don't need the 3D realism in order to be immersed, people tend to need very little stimulu to be affected perceptually

"learning through conversation" - can we create this conversation in order to transfer the knowledge?

Keynote speaker John Hopson
Title: Developers are from Mars, Researcher are from Venus

Spoke about his role as a researcher in the interface between the game developer and the publisher. Must have good relation to GD, but it takes time to “get in”. Often regarded as a “spy” or traitor rather than someone that can be of help. Tries to develop/research ways and tools for communication – e.g. he gave an example of a visualization tool for showing how the players were distributed on game map, so that the GD could see what places on the map to make more attractive – how to balance the map.

Some more pictures below...


Geoffrey Long said...

Heh -- yeah, that "someone" is me. I'm glad you liked what little bit of the panel you caught!

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