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Online games & spaces Lisbeth Klastrup April 2003 IT University of Copenhagen Slides at: www.klastrup.dk Performative spaces? the creation of a space which enables and encourages the player to: act with the environment act as a character ”in” or player of a game Today’s topics

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online games spaces

Online games & spaces

Lisbeth Klastrup

April 2003

IT University of Copenhagen

Slides at:

www.klastrup.dk

performative spaces
Performative spaces?
  • the creation of a space which enables and encourages the player to:
  • act with the environment
  • act as a character ”in” or player of a game
today s topics
Today’s topics
  • Games as performative spaces
  • As game space
  • As role-playing environment
  • As world
what s in a game i
What´s in a game I
  • ..what distinguishes the cultural genre of computer games from others such as novels or movies, in addition to its rather obvious cybernetic differences, is its preoccupation with space. More than time (which in most games can be stopped), more than actions, events and goals (which are tediously similar from game to game) and unquestionably more than characterization (which is usually nonexistent) the games celebrate and explore spatial representation as their central motif and raison d’être. (Aarseth, 2000, pp. 161)
what s in a game ii
What´s in a game II

A central aspect of computer games is the experience of game space

A game requires interaction with the game environment or game world – games are about ”spatial representation and negotiation” (Aarseth, 2000)

Interaction with or in space takes place in accordance with the rules laid down as an integral part of the game

what s in a game iii
What´s in a game III

Rules, goals and “interesting choices” are essential elements of a game, hence:

Games presuppose that you play to obtain some form of goal through a process of working with the affordances (interaction options) and constraints (rules) offered by the game environment and through the gameplay.

You move through the environment or universe by performing a number of choices.

games which focus on the exploration of space
Games which focus on the exploration of space

The adventure game and the role-playing game

  • development of character (skills, stats, inventory)
  • exploration of gameworld integral to the gaming experience: as part of character development and to fulfil missions (”quest”), such as retrieving certain objects or solving sudden local puzzles.
  • some games provide maps, other games expect the player to draw them.
what s in a game iv
What´s in a game IV
  • Games are about
  • Interaction with the game space and the gameworld through
  • - Manipulation of objects (Chess, Tetris)
  • Navigation through the world (Tomb Raider, Counterstrike, EverQuest)
  • Most games evidently have elements of both
online games
Online games

What characterises the internet as ”game medium”?

  • networked “anonymous” players who can interact synchroneously the need to design for social interaction
  • infinite scope of game space
  • games as worlds no end goals, but constant improvement of player and character skills (“levelling”) and constant “growth” of world space
how are gamespaces different from other social spaces online

Virtual worlds, chat worlds

spatiality

extended spatial space

FPS games:

Counterstrike, Wolfenstein, Quake

BBS, newsgroupsforums

single point,

meet place

persistency

chat rooms

persistent

Weblogs, maillist

transient

non-spatial

email

Webcamsvideoconf

asynchronous

synchronicity

synchronous

How are gamespaces different from other (social) spaces online?
today s topics15
Today’s topics
  • Games as performative spaces
  • As game space
  • As role-playing environment
  • As world
online games as role playing spaces
Online games as role-playing spaces

The games of interest to us today are mainly gameworlds. A game world typically consists of multiple ”rooms” or settings (such as cityscapes or the wilderness) which you can move between. Specific locales are described either through text or through graphical devices (2D or 3D). Different locales encourages different forms of player behaviour (killing, courtesy).

games as play space as playground
Games as play – space as playground

“Games are enacted play spaces, and players bring thoughts, goals, feelings, and intentions to that play space, making interpretations based on their experiences.”(Kurt Squire, DIGRA list, Dec. 2002)

The game space is also a playground, a performative and interpretative frame within which you can perform yourself as player or player character

games as narrative architecture i
Games as narrative architecture I

Game designers create immersive worlds with embedded rules and relationships among objects that enable dynamic experiences.

 ….A hybrid form, games get their focus on space both from sports and stories.

 …Game designers use spatial elements to set the initial terms for the player\'s experiences.

(Squire&Jenkins “The art of contested spaces” (2002)

games as narrative architecture ii
Games as narrative architecture II

A [game] story is less a temporal structure than a body of information. The author of a film or a book has a high degree of control over when and if we receive specific bits of information, but a game designer can somewhat control the narrational process by distributing the information across the game space….essential narrative information must be redundantly presented across a range of spaces and artifacts.

(Jenkins, ”Game Design as Narrative Architecture”,

role playing space forms
Role-playing space forms

Beth Kolko in ”Building a world with words” (1995):

When you perform a character, the way the space within you interact is described can enhance or encourage certain ”performances”, such as collaborative storytelling (f.i. using the objects in the room to tell a story together).

She makes a distinction between

mapped and amorphous spaces

those which are clearly described and ”fleshed-out” and those which leave much of the interaction or play up to the players’ imagination

a mapped space in text
A mapped space in text

Ork Ugly’s Cave [a mapped space]

Watch out. You are approaching the dark, strange caves inhabited by the infamous Ork Ugly. When entering this cave, you cannot be sure that you will ever exit again.

The entrance to the cave is clammy and moist. Certainly, creepy-crawly things are hiding here which no one wants to meet. The top of the cave is lined with the remains of others who have tried to enter and exit the cave.

Deep inside the cave you can hear the sound of heavy foot steps which you are not sure whether are approaching or not. On the left you can see some vessels lined with a living carpet of rats. Some of them have big ugly black teeth which are very uncomfortable to feel in the leg during battle.

The sound of screaming hobbits is gradually rising from the inner parts of the cave. They scream for you and your help! Will you come to their aid?

an amorpheus space in text
An amorpheus space in text

White room [Amorphous space]

White room is a place for everybody with good intentions. The contrast between white room and you will always display you in an attractive and peaceful manner.

today s topics25
Today’s topics
  • Games as performative spaces
  • As game space
  • As role-playing environment
  • As world
game as worlds
Game as worlds

What the computer have done for gaming is to ease the representation – or simulation – of a fairly complex world (Juul)

Some game theorists have argued (Frasca, Aarseth), that games are simulations. I think that games are rarely ”complete” simulations. Like in stories, though for a different purpose, restrictions of time and space (ellipsis, constraints) is what makes the game space interesting and different from the real world.

games as worlds ii
Games as worlds II

Game designers must appreciate the difference, however, between trying to simulate reality and creating an environment that users perceive as reality….

(Microsoft Paper on Game Design)

slide33

Designers have found that in online worlds, players tend to gather in areas that fulfill particular functions, like shops that sell equipment, fountains that heal life, or crossroads where they can meet other players, rather than in environments that are "designed" for socializing. This game world is approximately the size of Rhode Island and would take nearly a day to run across. Asheron\'s Call contains a wide variety of spaces, ranging from civilized areas, populated cities, strategic outposts, frontier areas, and wilderness areas - each which gain their meaning in part, through players responses to the environment. (Squire, Jenkins 2002)

knowledge of the world
Knowledge of the world
  • Levels of experience
  • Getting to know the world (rules of interaction, geography, language/lingo)
  • Interacting with the world (mastering rules (both social and of the game), and “mastering” geography
  • “Virtualisation” of the world – refamiliarising yourself with the world after the introduction of new game spaces, objects, characters etc
  • “Living” the world: “merging” of social interaction and game interaction. Example: Epic Quests.
summing up
Summing up

Interaction in and with space is an important part of the gaming experience.

Online games allows for the creation of huge game spaces – ín the role-playing oriented online games space is both a geographical and a social space.

Game designers design game spaces so different spaces have different functions. Often information is embedded in space or in objects in the space. To play a game can also be to participate in a ”spatial story”

bibliography readings
Bibliography/readings

Markku Eskelinen: 500 Words on ”Game Design as Narrative Architecture” by Henry Jenkins[In Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan (Eds.) First Person. Cambridge: MIT Press, forthcoming] – can also be found online as many others of the interesting essays in this volume (see for instance also essays by Celia Pearce and Jesper Juul, can be found on their webpages)

Henry Jenkins: ”Game Design as Narrative Architecture” (available online)

Jesper Juul: ”The game, the player, the world – a transmedial definition of games” (forthcoming, available from the author via jesperjuul.dk)

Lisbeth Klastrup: Towards a Poetics of Virtual World. Ph.d. thesis, forthcoming (available by request to author)

Kolko, Beth: “Building a World with Words: The Narrative Reality of Virtual Communities” (available online)

bibliography readings42
Bibliography/readings

Microsoft Paper on Game Design: http://www.microsoft.com/playtest/Publications/User%20Centered%20Game%20Design.doc

Andrew Rollings & Dave Morris: Game Architecture and Design

Kurt Squire & Henry Jenkins: ”The Art of Contested Spaces” (available online)

slide43
Questions?
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