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  • Writer's pictureDaniel J. King

Dissertation Blog #28

First Citation of the Day

Anderson, Barrett, Christopher Karzmark, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. "We Don’t Play As We Think, But We Think As We Play: Evidence for the Psychological Impact of In-Game Actions." In International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, pp. 1-11. 2020.

This article reports on the results of an experiment in which the authors made four versions of a city management game with variations in narrative framing and game rules.

  1. Containing escaped wild beasts

  2. Preventing spread of a virus

  3. Managing crime (wild beast mechanics)

  4. Managing crime (virus mechanics)

The authors investigated how these variations changed the way players perceived the rhetorical argument of the game.

Key findings:

  • It is possible to create a game that makes a rhetorical argument players can recognize, but even after expert feedback and design refinement, it is challenging to anticipate each individual player's personal interpretation of the game.

  • The actions players take are predicted by a game’s mechanics more than by their real-world beliefs.

  • After playing a persuasive game, players' beliefs can be shifted in ways consistent with the game mechanics they learned, but only if the game's narrative framing makes a direct connection between the mechanical incentives and a clear and unambiguous theme. Procedural rhetoric is most effective when supported by other ways of conveying meaning.

Second Citation of the Day

Phelps, Andrew, and Mia Consalvo. "Teaching Students How to Make Games for Research-Creation/Meaningful Impact (Is Hard)." In International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, pp. 1-7. 2020.

This article reports on the experience of developing two graduate courses about using game design as a research method. One course was aimed at doctoral students, and the other was aimed at MFA students.

The authors explain that teaching traditional game design at the same time as game design for research can create challenging situations. Students without a foundation in traditional game design faced a heavy workload to be able to learn enough to produce a prototype. On the other hand, students with traditional game design experience sometimes struggled to let go of their assumptions about what a good game should look like.

It was also difficult for students to understand how a game prototype could have merit as a research project if its design has not been refined and polished. Students also had a tendency to try to compare game design to more traditional forms of research dissemination, which misses the point of embracing the uniqueness of the medium.

Design and Mechanics

These readings prompt me to reflect on the following issues.

Connecting game mechanics to a clear theme: I am confident in regard to supporting procedural rhetoric with other ways of conveying meaning, because the rhetorical mechanics of Field of Cures will be simple and clearly integrated with the game's dialogue and narrative framing.

How much polish is enough? I tend to agree with the concern that an unpolished game prototype isn't good for much. My strategy is to use casual game design principles to limit the scope of the design challenges I will face, making it more feasible to produce a product with at least some polish.

Game design versus more traditional research methods: The goal of my dissertation is to create an activist framework for casual game design. While I could try to accomplish this by simply synthesizing two literature reviews, making the extra effort to try to apply and validate my framework through a game design project will lend it more credibility.

Current Events

Pao and I finished watching The Good Place this past weekend, and it helped me reconnect to a higher state of self-awareness. I'm going to try to meditate on a picture of the Last Door every day as a way of preventing myself from becoming consumed by stress.

Life is short, and there is peace for all of us in the end. Knowing that, we should be grateful for each day of life, and focus on deciding what good things we can do. What can I do today that I could look back on happily at the end of my life?

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