Category: Game studies (page 1 of 5)

Pen & Paper & Xerox: Early History of Tabletop RPGs in Czechoslovakia

ABSTRACT: The study presents preliminary research focused on the history of tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) in the former Czechoslovakia, especially Dungeons & Dragons (1974) and its local clone Dračí doupě (transl. Dragon’s Lair, 1990). Based on theoretical literature, period sources and semi-structured interviews with first-generation players, it gives an overview of the first contacts with RPG in the specific post-communist cultural and economic context, focusing on the distribution and reception of Dragon’s Lair, mainly in the Slovak part of the former common state. As a partial outcome of an ongoing research into the local gaming experience, the focus is not on the game itself or its commercial success, but rather on its players, their characteristics and initial experiences with tabletop RPGs in the early 1990s.

KEY WORDS: Dragon’s Lair, Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy, participatory culture, post-communist transformation, tabletop role-playing games.

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Fortnite as Bildungsspiel? Battle Royale Games and Sacrificial Rites

ABSTRACT: This article examines the online multi-player game Fortnite: Battle Royale as a modernday representation of sacrificial rites. It is argued that Fortnite: Battle Royale constitutes a simulation of a sacrificial rite due to its gameplay mechanics. In the game, the players need to kill each other off and come out victorious. As such, the players need to recognise themselves in opposition to others, exterminate those others, and sacrifice their innocence in the process. As conceptualised by R. Girard, this experience of a sacrificial rite constitutes a form of social education and conditioning. Such experiences are predominantly represented in the genre of Bildungsroman: coming-of-age stories that concern a literal or metaphorical rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. In Fortnite: Battle Royale, the psychological effect of this conditioning is amplified due to the medium-specific affordance of having the player as both the spectator and the spectacle of the sacrifice; namely, the player watches themselves being offered as a sacrifice while trying to overcome the trial. In this regard, Fortnite: Battle Royale follows and expands on the tradition of the Bildungsroman establishing a new take on the genre that is thereby termed Bildungsspiel – a coming-of-age game.

KEY WORDS: battle royale games, Bildungsroman, Fortnite, mimetic desire, René Girard, sacrificial rites, spectacle.

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The Gamification of Conspiracy: QAnon as Alternate Reality Game

ABSTRACT: This article takes a ludological approach to QAnon and investigates the conspiracy phenomenon as an Alternate Reality Game. Drawing extensively on media reportage of QAnon and reviewing its discussion in the domains of digital culture, media scholarship and game studies, connections between the QAnon conspiracy movement and digital game rhetorics in far-right online spaces are highlighted, with attention to the notions of Gamification and Dark Play. Exploring the intersection of digital game cultures, online conspiracy movements and political extremism, this paper invites scholarly attention to various aspects of QAnon from the fields of games studies and play studies. With the QAnon phenomenon highlighting the significant political impact and import of games culture, this paper shows that the field of ludology has much to offer a range of researchers in interpreting the motivations and meanings of the online communities from which QAnon emerged.

KEY WORDS: alt-right, alternate reality games, conspiracy, dark play, game studies, post truth, QAnon.

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Gender, Stress, Satisfaction, and Persistence: The Complex State of Digital Games as Leisure

ABSTRACT: Digital games have long been investigated for links to negative influences, but they exert a range of impacts on players. A variety of factors can contribute to stressful experiences in play, including game content, player interactions, and gender. This project uses qualitative methods to better understand how players experience and perceive these stressors and why they persist despite them. There are a surprising number of ways that players’ experiences align in spite of gender. Players encounter stress with both design and social experiences, are inclined to “rage quit” if stressors are substantial enough, and are increasingly averse to toxic communities. However, there are also gender-specific experiences. Men are much more concerned with the skillsets of other players, while women worry about their own performance. Further, these experiences of stress complicate our understandings of distress and eustress, with players less motivated by stressors than they are by the anticipated future relief from distress.

KEY WORDS: digital games, gender, persistence, qualitative, stress.

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The Narrative Effects and Value of Memory Discrepancies in Digital Games

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the aesthetic relevance of divergences between player and avatar memories in the context of digital gameplay. Drawing from a Waltonian framework and the notion of the virtual subject, we discern three kinds of memory that are involved in digital gameplay: the avatar’s represented memory, the player’s actual memory, and the memory about the gameworld the player pretends to have when taking on the avatar’s position within the gameworld. Many gameplay situations cause these different kinds of memories to diverge and misalign with one another. When players die and must repeat parts of games, for example, they have memories about the gameworld that are rooted in their previous playthrough, but to which their avatar cannot or should not have access. Several game scholars have noted how such divergences cause narrative conflicts, create inconsistencies within the fictional world, or can even have detrimental effects on players’ enjoyment of the game. In this paper, however, we draw from gameplay examples to show how the unique structure of memory in play can also engender unique and valuable narrative experiences. Indeed, we argue that discrepancies between player and avatar memory can be, and often are, used in games as unique narrative devices to create suspense, surprise, or other aesthetically relevant effects.

KEY WORDS: avatar, dramatic irony, fiction, imagination, memory, narration, paradox of suspense, virtual subject.

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Performance-Based Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment and Player Experience in a 2D Digital Game: A Controlled Experiment

ABSTRACT: Dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA) in digital games involves altering the difficulty of a game based on real-time feedback from the player. Some approaches to DDA use measurements of player performance, such as success rate or score. Such performance-based DDA systems aim to provide a bespoke level of challenge to each player, so that the game is neither too hard nor too easy. Previous research on performance-based DDA shows that it is linked to better player performance but finds mixed results in terms of player experience (e.g., enjoyment). Also, while the concept of flow is regarded as an important aspect of digital game experience, little research has considered the effects of performance- based DDA on flow. We conducted an experiment on the effects of performancebased DDA on player performance, enjoyment, and experience of flow in a digital game. 221 participants played either the DDA version of the game, a control version (difficulty remained constant), or an incremental version (difficulty increased regardless of performance). Results show that the DDA group performed significantly better. However, there were no significant differences in terms of enjoyment or experience of flow.

KEY WORDS: adaptive software, digital games, dynamic difficulty adjustment, flow, game balancing, performance.

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I Passed Away, but I Can Live Again: The Narrative Contextualization of Death in Dead Cells and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

ABSTRACT: In digital games, the player’s activity often includes a necessary repetition to achieve an
appropriate knowledge of the game’s mechanics and dynamics. This process can involve various failures of the player. Even if a digital game can be theoretically completed without failures, the player must practically learn from every mistake, which often corresponds to the death of the main character. Every avatar constantly lives in a vulnerable existence that includes its death during the gameplay. If a character can be vulnerable, the player can be inadequate, but digital games always provide a chance of redemption, and a failure becomes a necessary step on the path to further growth. On the basis of various Italian and other international scientific contributions on the themes of failure and death in digital games, the following essay will analyse two different case studies: Dead Cells and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. In these titles, death is not only a necessary part of the gameplay, but it also becomes a focal concept of the storytelling thanks to two different principles which will underline specific modes to emphasize the narrative importance of death and failure in the digital game medium.

KEY WORDS: death, death in Dead Cells, digital games, emerging elements, environmental storytelling, failure, hidden fragments, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

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Restoration, Reflection, and Nostalgia for the New in Yakuza Kiwami and Final Fantasy VII Remake

ABSTRACT: This study applies concepts of restorative and reflective nostalgia to ‘remake’ titles for
eighth-generation consoles (here, PlayStation and PlayStation 2 titles remade for the PlayStation 4). Retro-game scholarship has considered 8 and 16-bit titles and fan practices through the concept of nostalgia since the mid-2000s. However, increasingly AAA game publishers have begun to remake and remaster more recent games. Given the potential for nostalgia to be either an oppressive or resistive set of interactions between object-game and subject-player, this paper analyses how restorative and reflective nostalgia is manifested throughout the narrative and gameplay mechanics of Yakuza Kiwami and Final Fantasy VII Remake, alongside players’ and digital game journalists reactions to the titles. This study utilizes a qualitative analysis of the remade titles, user comments from the E3 trailers posted to YouTube for each game, and digital game popular press articles to approach nostalgic reactions. Ultimately, the potential for both modes of nostalgia coexist as each of these titles are consumed and exist alongside other consumer goods.

KEY WORDS: digital games, Final Fantasy VII Remake, nostalgia, remade games, remastered games, retro games, Yakuza Kiwami.

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“Table Talk”: Defining Metadiscourse of Analog Games

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the communication in tabletop role-playing games that we call metadiscourse. Prior study of gaming and the act of play prove that the space is inherently social. However, we speculate that, through metadiscourse, the social aspect of the tabletop role-playing game is central to group cohesion and perpetuation of the gaming subculture. Metadiscourse involves conversation not linked to the current game but could be cordial and relational, critical, or completely unrelated to the game. However, it is an informal conversation that would not occur if there was no game. In metadiscourse there are determinations of gaming capital, or elements of value. Participation in metadiscourse allows an individual to feel included in the game and gaming subculture. However, metadiscourse demonstrates a level of gaming capital through situatedness and affordances that can act as a gatekeeping function for individuals.

KEY WORDS: discourse, game capital, popular culture, sociology, tabletop role-playing games.

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Stereotypical Negative Female Gender Roles in Digital Games

ABSTRACT: Digital games represent a new media form dominated by men, either as characters or as players. The perception of digital games as ‘Boys’ Fun’ has been denied by the latest research that points to the fact that women are increasingly accessing this medium. But the analysis of digital games shows that gender roles appear in this media as real-world stereotypes. It means that there is discrimination against women who often have a passive role, whether they appear as victims or as sexual objects. When they are not damsels in distress helplessly awaiting their saviour or playing heroines, then, they are most often portrayed as rebellious beauties with oversized dimensions. The subject of this paper is female representation in digital games. Authors used content analysis of 30 digital games with female protagonists, published at J Station, to examine the female gender roles in such digital games. The aim of the empirical study is to demonstrate that the elements of gender discrimination are present in digital games and that they can lead to the creation of harmful stereotypes against women.

KEY WORDS: digital games, discrimination, female, gender roles, stereotype.

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