Some notes about the freedom of expression, games & critique

(I was first thinking to write a short essay with this title, but this turned to be loosely related thoughts about the topic.)

  • Freedom of expression has newer covered using expression to harm someones reputation and slander a person.
  • Freedom of expression is threatened if people are afraid to express their opinions, even if they don’t need to be afraid of a government prosecution.
  • While companies should have right to choose what publish (and sell), there are cases where this is not so. Monopolies (even de facto monopolies) or utilities are different when their choices can control what others can publish. For example, Comic Book Association was a in practice working as a censor even the US government was not giving them legal power to prevent certain kinds of expressions in comic books. That said, a website does not need to publish what they don’t want. It would be stretching the concept of censorship to call all editorial decisions not to publish (or edit something out) as censorship. However, there are plenty of cases where editorial rights can be used unethically.
  • A mob going after publication or reviewer when the mob disagree with the reviewer’s opinion (especially if someone in the mob threatens the reviewer) can be part of creating an atmosphere of fear that threatens the freedom of expression.
  • It should be natural that developers can create games as they like and critics can criticize the games as they like (as long as they don’t break laws). Also it is ok to disagree with a critique. However, spamming, threats, and name-calling are not productive forms to show the disagreement. Freedom of expression does not include name-calling (in many cases) or threats.
  • A review is an opinion. A good review provides well-argued point of view to a game. The review is not meant to be a product description. This is how reviews of literature, film, music or comics are by tradition. Game criticism is a young (compared to,especially, literature criticism). The language and approaches used are still developing.

My experiences with censorship & media panics

I grew up with books and comics. Big part of comics available in Finland were translations of European comics such as Asterix, Yoko Tsuno, Spirou et fantasia, Blueberry, Tex Willer, Judge Dredd (and bit later Valerians, Canardo & Bilal, Tardi, Comes), but also US superhero comics.  At that time I was not even aware that US comics were influenced by comic code (the old EC comics pieces where published and available in Finland), but US comics got more interesting with Miller’s Daredevil and later with Vertigo’s pieces (when mainstream publishers started to abandon comic code).

I got into gaming when I got my first game console (don’t anymore remember what that was, but a friend got a Colecovision console). Later I got ZX Spectrum (and a friend had Commodore VIC-20 and bit later C-64 and Amiga). That time Nintendo’s Watch & Game was rather big. Many in my class have those and we traded machines when we got bored to that one game that was in. Authorizes or media were not interested during 80s and 90s console and computer games had rather low profile.

On the other hand, Washington Wives raised some media panic about heavy rock. Of course that was something I listened. Finnish tabloids repeated US stories, but in Finland that was rather low key. Mostly we had fun with those stories and all possible ways to connect bands such as W.A.S.P and KISS to Satanism.

I found also role-playing games via an advertisement in a sci-fi fanzine at early 80s. We played some time before Finnish tabloids started to reproduce US stories how role-playing games related to suicides, Satanism, occult etc. Role-playing games were not very big thing in Finland and those things were very annoying, but newer became something to be taken too seriously. Role-playing games were small thing. Those things were much more serous and annoying because many cases larpers needed to rent places and role-playing moral panics made that harder.

As a media nerd, I also got into horror & splatter film. Finland introduced video censorship law at 80s which meant that one cannot legally sell films on video that were R-18 (Film theatres could continue to show those). Video censorship meant that the most horror films were not available in Finland (many newer came to theatres). During that time we smuggled horror to Finland or bought them from some friend of friend. Finland was not the only country that censored film, but UK did that also. So it was somewhat hard to get uncut films (unless one owned NTSC video player and television) that had were not dubbed. Despite the law, it was not that hard to get Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, The Thing, Videodrome, Reanimator or The Day of the Dead etc. It was harder to get them in good quality.  Finland relaxed in film and video censorship laws at 2001. Lawmakers probably at that time even did not know that computer and videogames existed, sot games distribution was not controlled.

While access to horror films and comics got better, videogames got in spotlight when games where connected in school shootings and Jack Thompson started to attack on games by arguing that murder simulators are not protected speech. I would be devastating to games in US (and probably also elsewhere) if Thompson would have succeeded in selling his argument to US court.

Echoes on Thompson’s high profile litigation, moral panic on games and media effect claims have been constant companion throughout my time as a game researcher. Now moral panics are more annoying than ever: evaluators of funding applications has been rejecting application because game effects are not considered in application and so on (as this has been case all my career there we include always text pointing out the problems with media effect claims and cultural importance of games etc., but that has been too rarely enough to secure funding).

Then games got again in spotlight when some gamers were threatening game critics. And gamers got plenty of negative publicity.

Models for Story Consistency and Interestingness in Single-Player RPGs

Petri Lankoski

Published in Academic MindTrek 2013

(c) Petri Lankoski 2013. This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here for your own personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Academic MindTrek 2013. http://dx.doi.org/ [LINK TO BE ADDED]

ABSTRACT

What are the elements that aect story interestingness or consistency in single-player videogames? The question is approached by comparing player evaluations (N=206) of 11 videogames against a set of features derived by formal (qualitative) analysis. Ordinal regression was used to analyze the collected data. The study posits that dialogue system, romance, moral choice, appearance customization, and support for dierent play styles relate to story evaluation. Females tend to judge game stories more favorably and those with doctoral degree less favorably than players with other education.

Categories and Subject Descriptors K.8.4 [Personal Computing]: General|Games

General Terms: Experimentation

Keywords: ordinal regression, games, storytelling, story consistency, story interestingness

Continue reading

Character-Driven Game Design & Lies and Seductions

Lies and Seductions

The game can be downloaded for free at www.liesandseductions.com or get with the Character-Driven Game Design. OSX and Windows versions available. Works also in Linux via Wine.

Lies and Seductions is a single player game about seduction, lies, and betrayal.

Are you able to guide Abby to seduce a rock star, Chris, promised to stay virgin untill marriage? In order to success you need to gather dirty little secrets, use those secrets in your advantage, and make an impression on Chris.

Features:

  • four seduceable characters
  • flirt, mislied, eavesdrop, and pump information
  • persuade characters to help you to reach the goal
  • play Texas hold’em poker
  • dance to impress
  • non-player characters forms opionnions based on your choices they perceive
  • three different endings

Character-Driven Game Design: A Design Approach and Its Bases In Character Engagement

| Buy the book | Free PDF |

Back cover says:

In the Character-Driven Game Design, Petri Lankoski presents a theory that illuminates how game characters contribute to shaping the playing experience. Based on this theory he provides design tools for character-based games which utilize methods and theories derived from dramatic writing and game research.

“The use of Lajos Egri’s bone structure for a three dimensional-character and of Murray Smith’s three levels of imaginative engagement with characters allows the candidate to expose the full complexity of the imaginary persons represented and controlled in a single-player game. What makes his design-center approach even more interesting is that gameplay is an integral part of it.”
Bernard Perron, Associate Professor, Université de Montréal

“Lankoski does a great job laying out the theory of primary interest to him, and making the case for the need to tether character design to game design more tightly than has been the case in the past. Certainly, too, putting attention to social networks of characters and finding useful design patterns to guide this level of game design is also of great value, and underexplored in the field.”
Katherine Isbister, Associate Professor, Polytechnic Institute of New York University

CONTENTS

List of Publications 9
Acknowledgements 10
Introduction 11
– Characters as Facilitators of the Playing Experience? 12
– The Context of This Study 13
– Game Design 14
– Game Research 15
– Cognitive Sciences and Film Studies drawing on Cognitive Sciences 16
– Dramatic Writing for Theatre and Film 17
– Goals 18
– Methods 18
– Qualitative Analysis 19
– Gameplay Design Patterns 19
– Structure of This Thesis 20
Game Characters 21
– Understanding Other People 21
– Mimicry and Empathy 22
– Person Schema 22
– Player Characters 23
Game and Gameplay Design 29
– Game Design Approaches 29
– Game Design and Character Design 30
– Missing Link: From Character Design to Gameplay Design 33
Character Engagement and Game Design 35
– Characters in Computer Games: Toward Understanding Interpretation and Design 35
– Player Character Engagement in Computer Games 35
– Gameplay Design Patterns for Believable Non-Player Characters 36
– Gameplay Design Patterns for Social Networks and Conflicts 37
– Lies and Seductions 38
– Character-Driven Game Design: Characters, Conflict, and Gameplay 38
Conclusions 41
– Characters and the Playing Experience 41
– Game and Character Design 44
– Concluding Remarks 46
References 47
Appendix 1: Research Material 57
Appendix 2: Gameplay Design Patterns 61
– Actions Have Social Consequences 61
– Character Defining Actions 62
– Detective Structure 63
– Enforced Character Behavior 64
– Faction 64
– Information Passing 65
– Internal Conflict 66
– Internal Rivalry 67
– Loyalty 67
– Melodramatic Structure 68
– Outcast 69
– Player-Designed Character 70
– Social Gatekeeper 70
– Social Maintenance 71
– Social Norms 71
– Traitor 72
– Trait Regulated Behavior 73
– References 74
Appendix 3: Lies and Seductions Credits 75
Articles
– Article 1 76
– Article 2 92
– Article 3 116
– Article 4 132
– Article 5 156
– Article 6 162
Abstract 182