G|A|M|E on Games. The Meta-Panel

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Panel presented at DiGRA 2013 - Atlanta, Georgia.
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  G|A|M|E on games. The meta-panel. Giovanni Caruso Università di Udinenrgiga@gmail.com Riccardo Fassone Università di Torinoriccardo.fassone@gmail.com Gabriele Ferri Indiana University Bloomingtongabriele.ferri@gmail.com Stefano Gualeni  NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences galeni.s@n!tv.nl Mauro Salvador Università "attolica del Sacro "ore# $ilanoma.salvador@gmail.com ABSTRACT %Bt t!is leads s to recognition of a more comple& form of play' t!e game (!ic! is constrcted not pon t!e  premise )T!is is play* bt rat!er arond t!e +estion )Is t!is play,*-regory Bateson / A T!eory of 0lay and 1antasyIn late 2342# G|A|M|E - The Italian Journal of Game Studies 5(((.game6ornal.it7 lanc!ed an open call for a pro6ect named Games on Games 5!ttp899(((.game6ornal.it9games/on/games/pro6ect/297. T!e pro6ect srcinates from t!e !ypot!esis t!at it is possible to tal: abot and criti+e video games and t!eir related t!emes by adopting t!eir o(n forms# mec!anics and langages. ame designers from arond t!e (orld (ere invited to sbmit t!eir )game on games* prototypes. ;!ile t!is :ind of meta/pieces already e&ists in some nic!es t!is !as seldom lead to considering games as tools for t!eory and criti+e. Is it possible to design a )game on games*# a video game t!at not only represents t!e (ay games are designed# made# played Proceedings of DiGRA 2013: DeFragging Game Studies .< 234= At!ors > ?igital ames esearc! Association ?iA. 0ersonal and edcational classroom se of t!is paper is allo(ed# commercial se re+ires specific permission from t!e at!or.  and sold bt t!at also reflects pon t!ese topics, Are )games on games* able to !ig!lig!t some elements of play practices more effectively t!an (ritten (ords and adiovisal media, Are t!is :ind of prodcts a step to(ards a )playable t!eory* of game stdies / a meta/level in (!ic! playing# designing and criti+ing overlap, "an t!is tool !elp s defragging t!e divide bet(een playing games and stdying t!em,In t!is panel# part of t!e editorial team of A$ (is!es to discss e&amples of (!at (e consider sccessfl )games on games*. ;e propose a series of categories# e&panding on t!e $?A design frame(or: and discssing some specific titles. PANE!S" 1: ANA#"!CA FRA$E%&R'  T!e fndamental e&isting condition of a game on games is its relation (it! anot!er ob6ect# a Cero grade to (!ic! t!e o !as to relate. It signifies if and only if its ser recogniCes t!e related ob6ect# if not it loses its meaning and its ob6ective8 to criti+e video games and t!eir related t!emes by adopting t!eir o(n forms# mec!anics and langages.To describe t!e )games on games* (e encontered in or researc! (e decided to se an e&tended version of t!e $?A frame(or: 5Hnic:e et al.# 233D7. In addition to $ec!anics 5as sets of rles7# ?ynamics 5as emergent )rn time* of t!e game7 and Aest!etics 5as narrative elements and playersE sensations7 (e also consider a )conte&tal* sperstrctre t!at refers to video game cltres and prodction processes. In t!is frame(or: (e recogniCe t(o different modlations for eac! describer 5$# ?# A# "78 t!e elaboration9addition of elements and t!eir redction9simplification.;e are (ell a(are of t!e need of considering different points of vie( (!en considering video games 5Bogost 233F7. T!e meta +alities of t!e prodcts (e observed ma:e t!em even more sited to a trans/disciplinary analysis. ;e identify for non mtally e&clsive areas to (!ic! a o can relate8  a )conte&tal* area t!at refers to prodction practices and video game cltres 5see part =7'  a )figrative9narrative* area emerging from t!e aest!etics of t!e $?A frame(or: 5see part D7'  a )rn/time* area t!at emerges from t!e dynamics of t!e same model 5Gittle Inferno# rindstar7'  a )genre9rle conventions* area t!at comes from t!e mec!anics of t!e $?A model 5?G" est7. PANELIST 2: H! "I" !E GET HERE# T!is intervention (ill serve a doble prpose. 1irst# it (ill conte&taliCe t!e notion of  games on games  (it!in t!e (ider environment of refle&ive media te&ts# comparing it (it! a series of meta/discrsive cltral prodcts. 1rom ;oody Allens The  Purple Rose of Cairo to $c"lods Understanding Comis # I (ill confront t!e practice of crafting t!eoretical and critical discorses abot a medim t!rog! t!e adoption of t!e // 2  affordances and constraints of t!e medim itself. In t!e second part of my intervention# I (ill detail t!e s!ort bt trobled !istory of or researc! arond  game on games . 1rom t!e initial idea of investigating refle&ivity in game design# to a series of t!eoretical tools developed in or researc!. $y presentation (ill discss t!e critical le&icon and conceptal model t!at (e ended p adopting# bt (ill focs particlarly on t!e ideas and t!eoretical tools t!at (ere discarded or sbstantially revised# t!s detailing t!e pat! of or researc! in its entirety. T!is focs on mista:es and false steps (ill provide an insig!t on t!e difficlties of condcting t!is :ind of stdy# and at t!e same time (ill constitte a pecliar e&ample of a refle&ive practice (it!in researc!.By disclosing t!e mec!anics and dynamics of or researc!# (e !ope to demonstrate t!e relevance and !eristic vale of adopting a metadiscorsive# self/critical  perspective to investigate comple& p!enomena sc! as t!at of  games on games . PANELIST $: CNTE%T SIM&LATIN ;!en (e started or researc! on games on games# (e fond a grop of very specific games offering a critical insig!t on t!e prodction practices of video games indstry. "ontrary to (!at (eEll see (it! ot!er case stdies presented in t!is panel# (!ere t!e critical po(er seems to rely on an Je&agerationJ of some :ey elements of a genre or te&t sed as critical sorce or target# my interest !ere is to present Game!e" Stor# 5Kairosoft# 23437 and Glo$al    Game Jam Simulation  5Brace Lorself ames# 234=7 as critical simlations of t!eir o(n conte&t of prodction.According to 1rasca )to simlate is to model a 5sorce7 system t!rog! a different system (!ic! maintains to somebody some of t!e be!aviors of t!e srcinal system* 5233=7. In my contribtion# I (ill discss to (!at e&tent t!ese t(o games represent a c!allenge to t!e idea of game on games itself. $y point is t!at in t!is case t!e critical operation relies on t!e ability of t!e games to !oo: t!e player e&perience to a meta/discrsive layer t!at (or:s by contrast M as t!e reslt of t!e opposition of (!at t!e gameplay offers to t!e players interpretation 5simlation7 and players s!ared bac:grond 5t!e system simlated7. According to latest trends in game stdies# sc! a (ay to JoperateJ s!old be t!e (ay video games ma:e t!eir argments. So# can (e really tal: of o, ?o o really e&ist,  PANELIST ': GAMES N RPGs ;!ile mapping t!e crrent state of t!e art on games on games# (e noticed a relatively !ig! nmber of pieces criti+ing and reflecting on ole 0laying ames. In t!is case stdy# I (ill e&plore a small corps composed by The %astest RPG E"er   5So!ier# 23427# Grindstar   5failnat# 23427 and  &inear RPG  5Holden# 233F7. ac! of t!e t!ree e&amples focses on a different area of t!e above/mentioned sc!ema 5les9$ec!anics for The %astest RPG E"er  # n/time9?ynamics for Grindstar  # Narrative9Aest!etics for  &inear RPG 7 bt t!ey are nited by t!e common t!eme of storytelling and I arge t!at t!ey provide sefl insig!ts abot t!e relation bet(een games and narrative strctres. "lassic 0s tend to closely follo( basic narrative strctres becase of t!eir 5sometimes naive7 mimic:ing of myt!s. T!e t!ree proposed pieces are (ell a(are of t!is relation and play (it! it# redcing or e&panding some parts of a narrative sc!ema and# // =  t!s# ma:ing its e&istence more evident. Amongst different options# let s consider t!e "anonical Narrative Sc!ema developed in 1renc! Semiotics and Narratology. In its later version 5Bertrand 23337# it is composed by t!ree p!ases called $aniplation# Action and Sanction. T!e first t(o cases adopt different strategies to modlate its p!ases8  %astest RPG E"er   radically compresses t!e Action p!ase (!ile Grindstar   ta:es t!e opposite approac! by e&panding it. T!e t!ird  piece of t!is corps /  &inear RPG  / deploys a similar r!etoric bt ta:es it a step frt!er. ;!ile t!e Action p!ase is still present# t!e figrative strctres fles!ing ot its abstract components and mec!anics are redced to a bare minimm8 t!e avatar is simply a dot# t!e (orld is a single line# enemies are disembodied and t!eir presence is inferred only by t!e !eros diminis!ing !ealt! level.T!ese related r!etorical moves !ave several aims 5parody# criti+e of specific dynamics# e&perimentation...7 bt# from t!e perspective of games reflecting on games# t!ey s!are a common featre as t!ey all ma:e t!e nderlying narrative strctre visible# allo(ing its discovery and its criti+e. PANE!S" (: NECESSARY EVIL ) DES!GN!NG A CR!"!CA GA$E  'eessar# E"il   is a critical video game designed (it! t!e ob6ective of  problematiCing and demystifying t!e n+estioned 5sb6ective7 idealistic (ay in (!ic! video games are developed.Video games# t!eir (orlds and t!eir narratives are cstomarily designed to(ards t!e disclosre of a certain player/e&perience. 1rom t!e perspective of soft(are arc!itectre# video game (orlds are generated arond t!e players possibility to perceive t!em or interact (it! t!em8 ob6ects in t!e (orld t!at are too far from t!e player# (!ose sig!t is occlded by ot!er ob6ects 5or t!at are momentarily irrelevant for gameplay7 literally do not e&ist as far as t!e game states are concerned. T!ese tec!nical materialiCation of an idealistic mindset !ave t!e fnctional scope of limiting t!e amont of calclations t!at are needed to rn t!e video game (orld. It is a desirable# if not necessary# evil.  'eessar# E"il   prses its critical goal primarily by giving t!e player control over a contribtory c!aracter8 a disposable baddy. 0laying a trivial creatre t!at is trapped in a dngeon and is deprived of any meaningfl interactive possibilities is meant to ma:e t!e player e&perience feeling marginal and to reveal (!at a virtal (orld feels li:e# once it is designed arond someone elses perceptions and desires.In my contribtion# I (ill discss and analyCe many design c!oices 5inclding t!e non/ playing !ero and t!e end game conditions7 t!at ma:e  'eessar# E"il   a critical game. (E)!R"S efle&ive practices# game stdies# critical games# game r!etoric RE*ERENCES Bertrand, D (2000). Précis De Sémiotique Littéraire. Paris: Nathan Université.Bogost, I. (2009). “Videogames Are a Mess”. Keynote address 2009 DIGRA Conference (Uxbridge, UK, September 2009). // D  Brace Yourself Games (2013). Global Game Jam Simulator. Failnaut (2012). Grindstar. Frasca, G. (2003). “Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology”. In Wolf, M., Perron, B. (eds.). The Video Game Theory Reader. New York (NY): Routledge. Houlden, S. (2009). Linear RPG Hnic:e# $.# Geblanc# $.# be:# . 5233D7. )$?A8 A 1ormal Approac! to ame ?esign and ame esearc!*. 0roceedings of t!e "!allenges in ames AI ;or:s!op# Nineteent! National "onference of Artificial Intelligence.Kairosoft 523437. ame?ev Story OiPSQ. Kairosoft. To:yo# Rapan. $c"lod# S. Understanding "omics. T!e Invisible Art. Nort!ampton 5$A78 Tndra. So!ier# . 523427. T!e 1astest 0 ver. // 
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