Category: Game studies (page 2 of 5)

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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Marketing Semiotics in Digital Games: Myth´s Analysis in The Walking Dead and Heavy Rain

ABSTRACT: The paper analyses the significance of the role of parenting and guardianship in the digital games The Walking Dead and Heavy Rain. The aim is to present, analyse and explain the phenomenon of myth, mythical structures in digital games, culture, and brand identity. R. Barthes’ semiotic theory was used, which analyses constructs through denotation, connotation, and myth. The units of research analysis are scenes from the games that will be presented, described, interpreted, and understood by deconstruction analysis. In the first part, the phenomenon of myth is theoretically elaborated, and then the mythic structure in digital games is analysed. The focus is on myth as a phenomenon, which from a pedagogical point of view, shows the role of parenting and guardianship. Also, the analysis of the connotative sign shows the influence of the media on digital culture, but also on the creation of elements of brand identity of digital games. We will confirm these theses by analysing the content of the mythical structure. The unit of analysis is the mise-en-scène and refers to everything that interacts with the digital game and the player. The central concept is a semiotic analysis of the psychological concept of fidelity that is connected to the model of brand identity through the model of attachment. Finally, through a semiotic analysis of the attachment construct, the attachment construct from the aspect of brand identity is also presented. The brand was observed according to J. N. Kapferer’s theory and analysed at the message and sign level. The contribution of this study is manifested in an interdisciplinary approach to work through marketing, psychology, pedagogy, media theory and semiotics.

KEY WORDS: brand, digital game, Heavy Rain, marketing, myth, semiotic, sign, The Walking Dead.

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Concept Art: The Essential Part of Visual Pre-production in the Entertainment Industry

ABSTRACT: The study defines the role of concept art in the process of creating big visual projects. It intends to fill the gap in the academic field and to describe the process of creating concept art from start to finish, considering its theoretical as well as practical outlines. The theoretical part of the text is based on various concepts and lines of thinking, including analysis and synthesis of the obtained knowledge, as well as comparison of differing scholarly opinions on the discussed topic. Concept art as an art phenomenon of the 21st century is one of the most respected creative activities in the visual entertainment industry. Creating concept art has become one of the best paid work specialisations within the various processes of artistic and media creation. The meaning of concept art lies in the creation of ‘blueprint’ images and designs, based on the given concept’s purpose. Concept art serves a whole team of creative individuals as a reference allowing for the further development of a creative project. It is mainly used in projects based on key visual features such as unique environments, characters, design and fantastic stories. Therefore, each individual part of the given complexity must be ‘brought to life’ by properly trained artists.

KEY WORDS: concept art, design, digital games, entertainment industry, fantasy, image.

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Difficulty as Aesthetic: An Investigation of the Expressiveness of Challenge in Digital Games

ABSTRACT: Difficulty is the personal experience of a subject facing resistance that prevents them from reaching a goal or desired state. It is an experiential part of everyone’s existence. In digital games, difficulty is strongly linked with designed challenges and obstacles that must be overcome by physical effort, manual skills, coordination, and dexterity. But this widespread perspective is a reductionist categorization of the expressive possibilities of difficulty. Because as experiential, difficulty is aesthetic expression and therefore it is much more than the mere skill challenge. The difficulty experience that emerges from an opposing force between object and subject, between game and player, can be interpretive, poetic, narrative, ethical or atmospheric among other expressive forms. Understanding difficulty from these broad parameters, we pose it as an aesthetic expression, which forges multiple experiences at the intersection between mechanics, fiction, and the player’s performance. This study analyses, drawing from philosophy, postphenomenology, and game studies, some aspects of two contemporary games, The Last of Us Part II and Death Stranding from the view of difficulty as aesthetic experience perspective, considering the significant and discursive tensions beyond purely ludic and mechanical elements

KEY WORDS: aesthetics, difficulty, digital games, emotions, experience, challenge.

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More-than-Human Game Design: Playing in the Internet of Things

ABSTRACT: The design of objects requiring human interaction often revolves around methods such as Human Centred Design (HCD). Whilst this is beneficial in many cases, contemporary developments of technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), which produce assemblages of interactions, lead to the view that human centred approaches can prove problematic leading to the proposal of adopting more-than-human perspectives. This study discusses the creation of a novel board game designed to explore a more-than-human design view for IoT products and services by addressing problematic issues in relation to user data privacy and security within the IoT which arguably arise from the application of traditional HCD approaches. By embracing Object-Oriented Philosophy, The Internet of Things Board Game creates an ontographic mapping of IoT assemblages and illuminates the tiny ontologies of unique interactions occurring within these digital and physical networked spaces. Here the gameplay acts as metaphorism illustrating independent and interdependent relationships between the various ‘things’ in the network. The study illustrates how critical game design can help develop potential new design approaches as well as enabling users to better understand the complex digital/physical assemblages they create when utilising IoT products and services in their everyday lives.

KEY WORDS: board game, design research, game design, internet of things, metaphorism, more-than human.

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