Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From Audience to Users in Computer Gaming

In 2006 Erik Kristiansen from Performance Design on Roskilde University wrote a paper on MMORPG’s and pervasive games in relation to the role of the players. Kristiansen arguments that computer games are mass media, though they are different from other mass media in one respect: In computer games the audience are not just reacting but actually interacting with the media.

Kristiansen states that the player’s engagement in the game even goes beyond interaction, as the player is creating a game performance. Kristiansen make a distinction between three different types of games:
  1. Reactive games: These games are in a way passive as the game play is in control of the computer, the player is not.
  2. Action games: The player can act and have full control of the game though the player is bound to use the state of the game as basis for choosing the actions.
  3. Creative games: The player has full control over the game and is even creating game play by combining game elements which alters the game.
Games are more and more offering creative possibilities to the players so that the players can play on the third level. According to Kristiansen pervasive games are mass media in a new way as they can embrace many people at one time, and at the same time they take computer gaming to the streets. Also they make it possible to promote collective intelligence in solving the games and therefore they offer creative games to the public.

Media is thought as a part of our everyday life whereas play takes place in a separate space, Kristiansen writes, and at the same time play is a core activity of everyday life. In other words media is the everyday site for play. The boundary between play and seriousness is also less distinct than earlier according to Kristiansen. This makes it even more relevant to talk about pervasive games.

I find it quite interesting to discuss if player freedom is actually adding to the game experience. I am not quite sure that self configurable games are better games. This is not What Kristiansen is saying, but the theme is here.


KRISTIANSEN Erik. (2006) From Audience to Users in Computer Gaming. The MMORPGs and pervasive games as mass media. In Publics, audiences and users: Theoretical and methodological challenges in a multidisciplinary field of research, A NordForsk doctoral course, Hotel Niels Juel, Køge, Denmark.


Rasmus Boserup said...

I would definitely say that player freedom does add something to the experience of a game. However i would not automatically assume that it improves the game. I believe that some players actually find more enjoyment in linear single-player narrative games. I think that some of these players would probably enjoy MMO's that was designed with this linearity in mind, more so than they would enjoy regular MMO's. A good example of such a linear MMO would be the first 20 levels of play in the Age of Conan game. Here you play a "weird" mix of singleplayer and standard MMO - giving you the social elements of an MMO while making you feel that the game is about YOU and your story.

In Kristiansens text i feel that he does make some pretty broad generalizations of the MMO genre. As mentioned, in some MMO's you don't actually have the creative element at all.

But looking at the text as a description of how computer games can be thought of as mass media - i think that he does have some good claims.

Agent Nifty said...

I appreciate your comment and I agree to some degree.

Player freedom is not an optimum, as players want different things depending on their mood, player-style and the situation. For instance when I am tired I can be bothered playing some game with loosely defined rules - but I will take pleasure in it at other times.

Though I do think it makes sense to distinguish between re-action, action and creation games. Both when designing and analysing a game.