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05 Pleasure, Pain and Play. Fishy for All

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Presentation on theme: "05 Pleasure, Pain and Play. Fishy for All"— Presentation transcript:

1 05 Pleasure, Pain and Play

2 Fishy for All

3 Exercise: Gaming Pleasure and Pain Brief: Individually (no conferring), write down in the first column as many things as you can think of that you enjoy about digital games. Record in the second column as many aspects of digital games that you dislike. Then seal your list inside the envelope provided, and put your initials on the front. NB This is a difficult exercise. We’ll return to the envelopes at the end of the session.

4 Exercise: Plenary  How was Fishy?

5 Aesthetics  Huizinga: we must attend to the player’s experience  ‘Aesthetics’: 2 senses (1) Ancient Greek: ‘perceived by the senses’ (scientific) e.g. how do we experience sight, hearing, taste, etc? (2) 18th Century: ‘artistic taste’ (artistic) e.g. what makes a good piece of art, music, TV? e.g. why do we like certain films, plays, games?

6 Gaming Aesthetics  why are games fun?  why do we enjoy playing games?  what makes one game more enjoyable than another?

7 Media Aesthetics Games are similar to other media:  TV & film: visual spectacle, exciting action, sound effects and music e.g. DOOM  Literature: tell a story (sometimes) e.g. Manhunt

8 Aesthetics of Play Games are dissimilar to other media:  digital games offer distinct, unique aesthetic pleasures  you don’t read, or watch, or listen to games  game aesthetics located in play

9 Pleasure and Pain  aesthetics of play = why we enjoy games?  3 theories of pleasure of play  pleasure and pain of play closely related  thus, three theories of pain

10 Theories of Fun  investigating ‘pleasure’ or ‘fun’ = notoriously difficult  3 theories not exhaustive or precise  useful theories?

11 3 Theories of the Aesthetics of Play (1) reward (2) flow (3) iteration

12 1. Reward  Steven Johnson, Everything Bad Is Good For You (2005)  popular culture makes you smarter  e.g. Sopranos, Matrix, Desperate Housewives  require more from the audience  opens book with games…

13 Games Not Fun Shock Playing games is frequently not fun:  action games: playing same section repeatedly e.g. DOOM II  strategy games: mechanical repetition e.g. Civilization  adventure games: getting stuck e.g. Samorost 2 Games thus often ‘painful’ to play

14 So Why Keep Playing?  not the flashy graphics and sound (cf Fishy)  not the sex and violence (cf Fishy)  games tap into the brain’s natural reward circuitry…

15 Real Life Rewards  immediate rewards we give ourselves (easy to define): e.g. chocolate, food, cigarettes, socialising, etc  long term rewards (harder to define): e.g. promotion? e.g. a good grade for your Gaming Journal?  but how to get there? ~ background reading (but what and how much?) ~ thinking about theories (but how?) ~ applying theories to games (but how exactly?)

16 Gaming Rewards  games provide lots of clearly defined rewards: e.g. more lives, new levels, power-ups, different guns, extra equipment, better technology, etc.  always another reward just round the corner  you keep playing, despite the pain, for the next reward

17 4 Types of Reward  Rewards of Glory: no impact on play, but pleasurable e.g. score, collectables, cut scenes for completion  Rewards of Sustenance: character maintenance e.g. health packs, armour, ammo, carrying sacks  Rewards of Access: new locations and resources e.g. keys, lockpicks, passwords  Rewards of Facility: enhance or new abilities e.g. new weapons, magic items, technology (Hallford & Hallford, 2002)

18 Irrelevant Subject Matter  human brain is wired to seek out rewards  the actual reward is irrelevant  can even be virtual  thus, finding a ‘key’ or ‘password’ is irrelevant  what is important is that this is a reward  other media don’t provide this

19 Fishy  Reward of Glory: the score  has no impact on the game  you are constantly rewarded for your success

20 Summary  games often not fun  people keep playing for the clearly defined rewards  subject matter of reward is largely irrelevant  Any Questions?

21 2. Flow  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Hungarian psychologist  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1991)  interested in focus and enjoyment  discusses diverse activities: chess, rock climbing, playing music

22 Flow  a Zen-like state of total oneness with the activity  lose track of time, and your sense of self  total control of your actions, master of your fate  a feeling of freedom, enjoyment, fulfillment, skill, focus  exhilarating, ‘optimal experience’  ‘in the zone’ e.g. football or rugby e.g. painting

23 8 Components of Flow 4 prerequisites of flow: (1) Challenging Activity: you must be actively engaged in an activity, not passive (2) Clear Goals: you must have clear goals or objectives (3) Clear Feedback: must have clear feedback on how well you are doing (4) Control in an Uncertain Situation: there must be a chance of failure or degree of doubt

24 8 Components of Flow 4 effects of flow: (5) Merging of Action and Awareness: you become so absorbed that activity becomes spontaneous, automatic (6) Concentration: you achieve complete focus and concentration, no room for irrelevant information (7) Loss of Self-Consciousness: your sense of self melts away, not aware of yourself (8) Transformation of Time: your perception of time changes, it stretches or shrinks

25 Flow in Games (1) games are active, not passive; you must play a game (2) clearly defined goals: monsters to kill, keys to find (3) clearly defined feedback: score, health, ammo, etc. (4) uncertain environment, many factors you don’t control (5) actions become spontaneous & automatic: movement (6) total focus and concentration: completely absorbed (7) not aware of self, just the game play (8) time perception: whole evenings can disappear

26 Flow in Games  flow not unique to games  games can induce flow particularly well

27 Boredom and Anxiety  so what about the pain?  Csikszentmihalyi examines challenge and skill level  if game is too difficult = anxiety  if game is too easy = boredom


29 Tennis (1) limited skills equal to easy lessons = flow? (2) skills outstrip lessons = boredom (3) lessons outstrip skills = anxiety (4) greater skills equal to greater demands = flow?

30 Game Difficulty Levels  games get harder as they progress: game tries to accommodate your improving skills  difficulty levels: you adjust levels to optimise own flow

31 Fishy  active not passive  clear goals: eat fish, avoid fish  clear feedback: ‘burp’ sound, ‘Gulp!’ screen  control fish in an uncertain environment (other fish)  movement becomes spontaneous and automatic  total focus and concentration, especially later  lose sense of self, ignore class  lose track of time

32 Summary  flow is a Zen-like state of total oneness with the activity  flow has four prerequisites  flow has four effects  flow is not unique to games  games can induce flow particularly well  games that are too challenging lead to anxiety  games that are too easy lead to boredom  Any Questions?

33 3. Iteration  Barry Atkins, ‘The Aesthetics of Iteration’ (2003)  interested in narrative digital games, e.g. Manhunt  similar to TV and film, but different too

34 Knights of the Old Republic  a narrative game  Jedi Knight  involving story (based on films)  but what is its unique aesthetic pleasure?

35 Repetition  Atkins got stuck: killed by Sandpeople on Tatooine  played section over and over  from the outside this looks repetitive and tedious

36 Iteration  not repetitive: not exactly the same  tried something slightly different each time  not repetition, but iteration  ‘to iterate’ = to perform an action again, to redo something, to repeat or renew  repetition with difference, same-but-different

37 Why is Iteration Pleasurable?  player derives pleasure from varying their actions  can see/feel the difference it makes  repetition with difference gives your actions meaning  you choose the difference…

38 Playing is the Difference  film and TV = passive viewing  novel = passive reading  gaming = active playing  option to play again is what makes games different  playing = constant possibility of doing differently

39 Iterative Possibility  you are aware of the possible consequences of your own actions  even if you fail…  even if you don’t replay a section…  you are aware of the possibility of iteration  this imaginative engagement is pleasurable

40 Pleasure and Pain  dying isn’t a problem (just play again differently)  pain = repetition (tedium, non-imaginative)  iteration = pleasure  repetition = pain

41 Just Narrative?  Atkins discusses only narrative games  but most games have some narrative (even Fishy)  his ‘iterative’ approach has broader application

42 Fishy  appears repetitive, but is actually iterative  you vary your actions as you play  you know if you act differently you’ll do better/worse  your actions make a difference = pleasurable

43 Summary  game play is iterative because it is actively played, not passively consumed  good digital game play is thus iterative, not repetitive  aesthetic of play = repetition with difference  iteration = pleasure, repetition = pain  Any Questions?

44 Return of Fishy

45 Exercise: Reward, Flow & Iteration (1) In your groups apply these three accounts to:  DOOM II  Civilization II  Samorost 2 Do the three accounts of the aesthetics of play apply to each of the Module Games?

46 Exercise: Reward, Flow & Iteration (2) One at a time, open up your envelopes. In turn, explain each of the items on your list of pleasures to the other members of the group. How many of the items correspond to the three accounts of pleasure at which we’ve looked? (3) Next look at what you have put under pain. Explain each of the items on your list to the other members of the group. Do these items result from a lack or frustration of these three kinds of pleasure? (4) Are there other pleasures and pains of play?

47 Plenary: The Module Games  DOOM II  Civilization II  Samorost 2

48 Plenary  which of the three accounts do you find convincing?  what do the three accounts omit?  are there other pleasures or pains of play?  is it possible to account for ‘pleasure’ or ‘fun’?  Any Questions?

49 Gaming Journal  play: one or more games  read: background reading on the pleasures of play  describe: reward or flow or iteration  apply: one of these to your own gaming experience: ~ explain with examples the pleasure of satisfying rewards ~ explain with examples the pleasure of flow ~ explain with examples the pleasure of iterative possibility

50 Gaming Journal: Overview  due next week: 12.30pm, Friday 09.03.07   4 entries, 1 per week  1500 words total  spelling and grammar not assessed  SAE is you want feedback

51 Gaming Journal: Referencing 1 Use Harvard in text:  Tyler argues that digital games are great (2005, p. 7).  As Tyler argues, “digital games are great” (2005, p. 7).  It has been argued that games are great (Tyler, 2005, p. 7).

52 Gaming Journal: Referencing 2 Use Harvard for Bibliography/Works Cited/References:  Tyler, Tom (2005). I Love Digital Games. New York: SUNY.  Tyler, Tom (2004). Counter-Strike is the Best. Parallax 15(3), pp. 253-269.  See (online) Bibliography for more examples   Harvard variations : info. is what is important

53 Assessment Criteria: Playing  see Module Handbook, p. 12  scrape a bare pass: play three digital games  more games = better mark  any games acceptable  must discuss and apply (not just mention)

54 Assessment Criteria: Reading  scrape a bare pass: read one text  more texts = better mark  see online Bibliography  must discuss and apply (not just mention)  perhaps quote (but not from my PowerPoints)

55 Assessment Criteria: Describing  Week 1: Wittgenstein on ‘games’ (family resemblances)  Week 3: rhetoric  Week 4: magic circle and lusory attitude  Week 5: reward or flow or iteration  each entry: concise, succinct, clear account of concept  demonstrate you’ve understood concept  perhaps employ background reading  no need to assess or evaluate theory or concept

56 Assessment Criteria: Applying  most important part  apply theories to games you have played  demonstrate you can employ concept, e.g.  how did your games demonstrate Wittgenstein’s ideas?  how did your particular game illustrate the magic circle?  must discuss specific games and your own experience

57 Assessment Criteria: Conclusion  doing all this in 1500 words is difficult  clear and concise writing is a communication skill  no room for waffle

58 Further Reading  Pleasure: Salen and Zimmerman (2004, pp. 328-61); Poole (2000, Ch8).  Reward: Johnson (2005a, pp. 25-39); Salen and Zimmerman (2004, pp. 342-50); Hallford and Hallford (2002)  Flow: Csikszentmihalyi (1991); Salen and Zimmerman (2004, pp. 336-39, 350-53); Poole (2000, pp. 168-71)  Iteration: Atkins (2003b); Salen and Zimmerman (2004, pp. 340-42)

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