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  • Writer's pictureDaniel J. King

Dissertation Blog #17

Citation of the Day

Flanagan, Mary, and Helen Nissenbaum. Values at Play in Digital Games. MIT Press, 2014.

This book sets the standard for conscientious design: "Conscientious designers are ethical (they are truthful, factual, and alert and have the player’s best interests at heart) and also strive to make a difference through their work" (p. 13). "For conscientious designers, a game’s values are a core focus of the design of the game, because they understand that each of the myriad decisions that go into the design of a game create constraints that define the range of plausible interpretations within a game" (p. 16).

Flanagan and Nissenbaum's Values at Play method iterates through three components: discovery, implementation, and validation (p. 75). "Sometimes you personally can have very strong values, yet still you might resort to caricature and stereotypes. Values at Play offers a way to put a check on your process. This systematic check is a way to avoid unintentional biases from creeping in" (p. 100). Conscientious designers must:

  1. Pay systematic attention to every element of a game as a potential vehicle for values implementation, including narrative, character representation, game actions, and even the substrate of game engines and hardware.

  2. Consider what you are trying to achieve and how your game conveys values to players, bearing in mind that because players may not experience a game in the ways a designer intends, an iterative design process that includes values in playtesting is essential. (p. 101)

Design and Mechanics

The overall value I aim to imbue into Field of Cures is a love of science. That includes the values of:

  • Openness to experimentation

  • Confidence that the workings of the world can be learned and mastered

  • Conviction that truth is more important than expediency

  • Appreciation that seemingly disparate phenomena are often interconnected in surprisingly ways

  • Resolve to use research and technology to benefit humanity

Every element of the game should convey at least one of these values.

Current Events

I have a meeting with my advisor later today to discuss the first draft of my pre-proposal. Though I am committed to working on Field of Cures, the shape of my dissertation study design is still up for debate. Should I do participatory design, or should I do design research based on the literature? How far into implementation should I aim to go? I'm hoping to have these questions answered by this afternoon.

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