Paper on role-playing game communication out

I wrote a paper with Anders Tychsen, Michael Hitchens and Susana Tosca which is now published:

Tychsen, Anders & Smith, Jonas Heide & Hitchens, Michael & Tosca, Susana. Communication in Multi-Player Role Playing Games – The Effect of Medium. Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment (Lecture Notes in Computer Science). Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Abstract: The Pen-and-Paper role-playing game is a successful example of collaborative interactive narrative. Meanwhile, computer-based role-playing games, while structurally similar, offer quite different narrative experiences. Here results are presented of an experimental study of role-playing gamers in Pen-and-Paper and computer-supported settings. Communication patterns are shown to vary significantly on measures such as the share of in-character statements and the share of dramatically motivated statements. These results are discussed in the light of differences between the two gaming forms and finally some design implications are discussed.

Find it at Springer or, if you don’t have access, try this version.

The Nielsen Numbers Part 2

OK, the Nielsen report (the third annual Active Gamer Benchmark Study) must be purchased. That we can’t read the details is problematic, but let’s say it does not totally invalidate the findings.

From what I’ve found the report concludes that

  • There are 117 million Active Gamers (one who owns a console and spends at least one hour per week playing it) in the U.S. in 2006
  • 56% of those play games online
  • 64% of those online gamers are women

… by surveying 2200 active gamers between July 3rd to July 9th. I take it this means asking them to fill out a questionnaire, i.e. they were self-selected.

See for instance DailyTech – Women Outnumber Men in Online Gaming; Nielsen Talks About the ‘Active Gamer’; Report: Social Aspects of Gaming Increasingly Important

I’m going to e-mail Nielsen to see if I can get more methodology details. To be continued.

Sing, O goddess

All good things – and apparently also the barely bearable ones – must come to an end.

As implied, my dissertation was sent on its merry way through the labyrinthine ways of the Danish PhD system, beyond human interference. That is well and good.

In recent weeks I’ve been in recovery spending much-appreciated (by me, at least) quality time with the family. Venturing a premature diagnosis, I’d say I’ve come through with only curable wounds (but the dreams! the dreams!!!).

The old “What now?” question rears its head. From now on I’ll focus on embedded gender values in late modernity leisure practices in a strictly hermeneutic pperspective. No seriously, here’s what: From 1 Sep I’ll return to the ITU to co-teach the “Digital Media” course and to head (in practice from October-November or so) the Digital Design and Communication study line. Formally, I’ll be a member of the Innovative Communication research group but I will of course stay closely in touch with the illustrious Game Center.

I guess all these changes makes this a good time to take stock. This blog, I believe, has suffered from a lack of focus. Rest assured this will only get worse. I will be finger-thinking about new topics and generally allow myself the luxury of constraintlessness. On the other hand, I will be more systematic with entry categorization so it will be possible to RSS-read more specifically.

And so, I need only say welcome back to TDSoTit’s not new, but it’s not very old either.

(I’ll be uploading the dissertation here as soon as I can create a web-friendly PDF).

Dissertation abstract beta

The Necronomicon

Here’s my current thinking on what it is I’m doing…

Working title
Plans and Purposes: How Videogame Goals Shape Player Behaviour

Games shape player behaviour by presenting goals which players attempt to fulfil. This is the most common “folk” theory of the relationship between game design and player behaviour. It is also one central to most game design literature and to much work within the game studies field.
And yet, it is also clear that it is at best an approximation. Players will often behave in ways contrary to their objective interests as defined by the game goals. This may happen to satisfy social norms of fairness, to keep other players interested in the game, to avoid losing face by showing one’s disrespect for the stated goals and for many other reasons.

This dissertation is an examination of the “Rational Player Model”: The idea that players try to win. The model is applied and discussed in two capacities:

A) As a model for aesthetic analysis which can used to understand and categorize formal aspects of games related to goals. Here, video games are studied through the lens of (economic) game theory in order to determine, for instance, the types of conflict dynamics the games will elicit given Rational Player assumptions.

B) As a predictive model of actual player behaviour. Here, the model is used to derive concrete predictions about video game player behaviour which are then tested in an empirical study of multiplayer console gaming. The study shows that the model accurately explains behaviour inside the gamespace but does not explain (indeed, is often contradicted by) the verbal behaviour of the players.

Structurally, the dissertation consists of three main chapters. First, four different models of the relationship between game design and player behaviour are identified in the games literature and discussed. It is shown how the “Rational Player Model” is the predominant model within game design although one which often operates at so deep a level as to be unstated. Second, the model is discussed in more theoretical detail and employed in the analysis of games by drawing upon economic game theory. Besides categorizing games and suggesting methods of analysis based on existing concepts, the chapter also introduces a way to understand the extent to which games are strategic. Third, results of previous studies of player behaviour are discussed as an introduction to the empirical study of player behaviour in a multiplayer console game context.

The dissertation contributes by elucidating often implicit player models inherent in much games scholarship, by showing the exact analytical and predictive implications of applying the highly common “Rational Agent Model”, and by testing the explanatory strength of that model as regards actual player behaviour. Through the latter, the dissertation also contributes to a limited pool of knowledge on video game player behaviour more generally.

Today's motivational

Pascal Boyer, in his Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought
notes (loosely rephrased) that there are questions which, to appreciate their importance, require years of dedicated study. A good point, I think.

(The context is Boyer wondering about how we are able to move our limbs by willing them to do so – a question which few people lose much sleep over; it seems unimportant)