Tag: VOL.5 NO.1 (2022)

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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