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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IT University of Copenhagen
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
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.
The adventure game and the role-playing game
What characterises the internet as ”game medium”?
extended spatial space
Counterstrike, Wolfenstein, Quake
synchronousHow are gamespaces different from other (social) spaces online?
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 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
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)
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”,
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
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?
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.
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.
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)
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)
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”
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)
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)