Thursday, 8 March 2007


The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology. Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006

Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution. Steven Poole Arcade Publishing, 2000

Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever. John C Beck and Mitchell Wade Harvard Business School Press, 2004

Week 4

When playing video games there is no denying that we can get addicted, but why is this? In this blog I will be looking at what I find the most addictive part of playing video games and that is getting to that reward, earning something. Hallford and Hallford talk of the four different rewards we experience whilst playing video games, these include Rewards of Glory, Rewards of Sustenance, Rewards of Access and finally Rewards of Facility. Rewards are seen differently in every game we play in many games such as Super Mario games, loved by children world wide, rewards are clearly in front of us, jump slightly higher and you can get that gold coin. The rewards in these games are often material, and therefore seem easily accessible and give the gamer themselves a personal boost. Rewards seen in these games are therefore Rewards of Glory due to the fact that it is not actually the amount of coins you collect that help you go forward in the game, but purely for the gamer’s pleasure. These Rewards of Glory are often found in these simple games designed for children, as I have said above Super Mario games played on the Gameboy and Nintendo use rewards of glory often by offering points.

Rewards of Glory are therefore offered in the numerous games that have been created through the years that mirror Super Mario’s simple, but fun frame. I decided to play an old game of Donkey Kong using a free internet site. The game is from the 80’s and the graphics are clearly very basic. Although I was playing the original version, created by a Japanese artist, the idea of the game has stayed very similar. Donkey Kong has escaped from a zoo and kidnapped Mario’s girlfriend. Mario is required to climb a number of levels to save his girlfriend, only to find when he reaches the top, Donkey Kong takes Pauline, Mario’s Girlfriend to a higher level. Therefore by the player getting to the top with Mario he reaches the next ‘level’ as such, here the player is experiencing the ‘Reward of Access’. In certain games a reward of access may include retrieving keys, or in more complicated games passwords to get onto higher levels e.g. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Crash Bandicoot which I really enjoyed playing due to the numerous different areas that I could gain access to through playing well and gaining access.

In many video games the player may find that the rewards become less attainable or less common as the game progresses. Steven Poole believes that ‘rewards must be balanced… Video games deliberately provide only partial reinforcement’. For the gamer to keep playing Poole believes ‘the gamer keeps hoping another one is just around the corner’.

Week 3

According to Huizinga playing involves a person entering a specific frame or context created uniquely by the game the person wishes to play, this is referred to as ‘The Magic Circle’. The Magic Circle is basically a safe environment where we can perform fantasies not appropriate or maybe not attainable in our society. Poole believes ‘the inner life of a video game and how it works is tied up with the inner life of the player’ therefore we can relate this quote back to the idea of the Magic Circle and how a video game can so easily become real to the player, we become at one with the game and find it is easy to believe that we are performing everything we do in the game on our own and in our own environment. This could be seen as a large reason as to why we find playing violent games acceptable as we are only playing them within ‘The Magic Circle’ we understand that what we are performing would be quite unacceptable in real life where as in our own ‘cyber like’ environment we are fine. Philosopher Bernard Suits also focuses on ‘the state of mind of the game player’ (Salen, Zimmerman, 2006) . This is where the Magic Circle is clearly affecting the gamers, in the mind.

Almost every game currently available to us offers the player a chance to act out things that would clearly be unacceptable in today’s society, or something that the player may believe to be unrealistic in their lives. I can relate the idea of the Magic Circle to numerous games I have played, including Medal of Honour, Grand Theft Auto, and The Sims. I especially found the FIFA games met the criteria of the Magic Circle well as the gamer is able to act as if a world famous football player, due to the fact FIFA use the official league names, and cups the game becomes realistic to the gamer. The gamer may feel more passionate about it as they can play out as a player of their favourite team, something that could appear hugely unrealistic if the player chooses to play as Southampton and goes on to win the Champions League.

Week 2

I found it extremely interesting looking at the ‘Ben these evil games’ lecture as it is something that I have always felt pretty strongly about. Although I feel strongly about the topic, I actually disagree with the title of the lecture and it does anger me when every game released now a days creates media frenzy, and moral panics.

The full and detailed description of a moral panic would be ‘a reaction by a group of people based on the false or exaggerated perception that some cultural behavior or group, frequently a minority group or a subculture, is dangerously deviant and poses a menace to society’. (Wikipedia, 2007). So basically a video game and especially violent ones can easily create moral panics all over the shop. As in the lecture we looked at the game ‘Manhunt’ a game banned from numerous retailers due to the HUGE moral panic the media created due to a violent murder, that many believed was due to the game but I just don’t see it? After the lecture I thought back to the games I have played in the past, and the endless amount of games my brothers, sister and me used to play round the Nintendo and Playstation. 8 years on the 5 of us remain to be pretty normal young adults, I mean we would throw the odd wobbly at each other but I doubt very much that is anything to do with the fact we used to spend hours in front of the TV playing each other at Street Fighter. I mean maybe we are different to others, but I know for one playing a video game really couldn’t influence me to the extent that the Daily Mail and others believed that ‘Manhunt’ influenced this 17 year old boy.

As well as looking at Moral Panics created by these violent games, we also assessed the idea of Rhetoric within video games. Rhetoric is basically a persuasive language, where the audience is exposed to values and beliefs. Salen and Zimmerman states how ‘play is adaptive or contributes to growth, development and socialization’ (2006).

I considered what violent games I could play, I chose to play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas which was released in 2004. Before playing the game I had in mind to watch for areas that could create moral panics, and the rhetoric i.e. the values portrayed throughout. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is based of a character that’s mother has been murdered, and his family are falling apart and friends are in trouble. The character has been framed by the police for a murder he did not commit, so therefore is determined to save his family and friends whilst running the streets. From this short background information of the story line, we can already see obvious signs of rhetoric i.e.the character has strong family values; although he is killing it is argued that he is doing it for un selfish reasons, and actually a good cause. During the game you, as the main character are required to complete a number of missions, committing murders involving guns, chain saws, baseballs. The game involves a number of issues that could create media frenzy, and therefore moral panics and worry for the players parents including drugs and prostitution, as well as the idea of women being objectified, this could infuriate women. I can completely see where parents, and the media are coming from, this game is very addictive I felt myself struggling to pull myself away. But I could not see myself commiting these crimes as they are fairly extravagent, most players I would expect understand the concept of beating old women up on the street as very wrong!

Week 1

Ludwig Wittgenstein is believed to be one of the twentieth century’s most influential philosophers, and wikipedia go as far as to say that Wittgenstein was ‘probably the first academic philosopher to address the definition of the word game’. Wittgenstein argued that elements of game such as play, rules and competition all fail to define what games are. In his ‘Philosophical Investigations’ (Philosophische Untersuchungen) he argued that ‘game’ could not be contained by a single definition, ‘but that games must be looked at as a series of definitions that share a "family resemblance" to one another’ (Wikipedia, 2007). A number of different philosophers have done the same as Wittgenstein trying to define ‘game’ including Bernard Suites states playing a game as ‘the voluntary effort to overcome unnecessary obstacles’ (Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia) (Salen, Zimmerman, 2006).

By looking at Wittgenstein’s idea of games sharing a family resemblance, it is interesting to not only look at different kind of games in a comparative manner, i.e. football and computer games, so the fact that both type of gaming give the player a strong sense of enjoyment as well as the fact that there is a sense of competition. Where as a video game may use the gamers brain, and concentration more and football game would clearly use the player’s athletic skills and fitness. We are therefore also able to look at how video games compare to each other, as they clearly all have underlining similarities and recurring characteristics but do not share all the same features i.e. this ever occurring family resemblance. To show this point I decided to think about the games Solitaire and WTA tour tennis, both games are competitive and you are playing to win, where as in Solitaire although the game is competitive there is no competition against players, but within yourself. But with WTA tennis you have the chance to be competitive against other players (or the playstation). So although these two games do not share many features they link in the fact that you are playing to win.