ToDiGRA special issue: Physical and Digital in Games and Play

Spreading the word: we have now published the special issue of DiGRA “Transactions” journal (ToDiGRA), on Physical and Digital in Games and Play, many thanks to authors, reviewers and specially to my co-editors Anu Seisto and Katriina Heljakka:

Vol 1, No 3 (2014)

Special issue, chief editor Frans Mäyrä

Table of Contents

Special issue: Physical and Digital in Games and Play

Editors’ Introduction to the Special Issue HTML PDF
Frans Mäyrä, Katriina Heljakka, Anu Seisto
Building Material: Exploring Playfulness of 3D Printers HTML PDF
Stephanie de Smale
Game Design in an Internet of Things HTML PDF
Paul Coulton, Dan Burnett, Adrian Gradinar, David Gullick, Emma Murphy
From the board to the streets: a case study of Local Property Trader HTML PDF
Mark Lochrie
SimCity and the Creative Class: Place, Urban Planning and the Pursuit of Happiness HTML PDF
Frederika A Eilers
“That’s not a secure area”– physical-digital sound links in commercial locative games HTML PDF
Inger Ekman
The Case for Computer-Augmented Games HTML PDF
Karl Bergström, Staffan Björk
The Roll of the Dice in Warhammer 40,000 HTML PDF
Marcus Carter

Link to the journal site: http://todigra.org/index.php/todigra/issue/view/3

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Three invited talks

I will be giving three invited talks on games and culture this week:

There is also a public video stream available online for the last seminar, accessible from the above linked seminar pages. See you at the seminar(s)!

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Oppiminen pelissä

Oppiminen pelissä (Vastapaino, 2014).

Oppiminen pelissä (Vastapaino, 2014).

[In Finnish, new book on games, playfulness and learning] Vastapaino on julkaissut mielenkiintoisen teoksen Oppiminen pelissä: pelit, pelillisyys ja leikillisyys opetuksessa (toim. Leena Krokfors, Marjaana Kangas & Kaisa Kopisto). Kirjoitin kirjaan seuraavat alkusanat:

Oppimisen ja pelaamisen yhteys on toisaalta ikivanha ja perustava arkielämän ilmiö, toisaalta pelioppiminen on uusi ja nouseva tutkimuksen ja tuotekehityksen aihealue. Jokainen meistä aloittaa elämänsä oppimalla leikkien ja pelien avulla, ja kaikkeen uusien taitojen oppimiseen luultavasti sisältyy luovan kokeilun, leikittelyn sekä aihepiiriin liittyvien toimintasääntöjen omaksumisen ulottuvuus. Toisaalta esimerkiksi formaalisessa kouluopetuksessa pelien käyttö on edelleen kokeiluasteella.

Oppimispelien sekä pelaamalla oppimisen tutkimus on noussut vuosikymmenien kuluessa yhä näkyvämpään rooliin, osana ympäröivän yhteiskunnan ja kulttuurin laajempaa muutosprosessia. Digitaalinen tieto- ja viestintäteknologia on hiljalleen ujuttautunut myöhäismodernin yhteiskunnan ja elämän eri osa-alueille, joten teknologiaa on tarjolla arkikäytössä niin työelämässä kuin vapaa-ajalla. Digitaaliset pelit hyödyntävät tietokoneiden ja tietoverkkojen uusia ominaisuuksia elämyksellisillä ja mukaansatempaavilla tavoilla, jotka ovat usein vuosien varrella toimineet innovatiivisina esimerkkeinä tietotekniikan soveltamisen parhaista ratkaisuista. Pelaaminen on muuttanut muotoaan, ja perinteisten ulkoleikkien, urheilupelien sekä lauta- ja korttipelien rinnalle ovat nousseet video- ja tietokonepelit laajoine virtuaalimaailmoineen. Tampereen yliopiston toteuttaman Pelaajabarometri-tutkimuksen mukaan enemmistö suomalaisista pelaa säännöllisesti jotain digitaalista peliä.

Pelit ja oppiminen nähdään kuitenkin toisinaan myös toisilleen vastakkaisina ilmiöinä. Protestanttiseen kulttuuriin on syvään juurtunut käsityksiä siitä että työ, tai opiskelu hyötyrationaalisena toimintana ei saa olla ”liian” hauskaa. Otsasi hiessä on sinun leipäsi syömän. Kepeämpi, leikittelevä tai pelejä hyödyntävä lähestymistapa oppimiseen voi näyttäytyä uhkaavana esimerkiksi perinteisten, oppilaiden passiivista vastaanottajaroolia painottavien näkemysten kannalta.

Pelaamisen hyödyt voivat myös herättää kysymyksiä: kuinka tehokasta oppimista pelaaminen oikeasti voi tarjota? Myös kaupallisista lähtökohdista kehitettyjen ja markkinoitujen, yleensä vahvasti viihteellisten pelien kyseenalainen arvomaailma tai väkivaltaisuus voivat leimata peleihin liittyviä mielikuvia.

Oppiminen pelissä on tärkeä puheenvuoro, koska tämä kirja tarjoaa vastauksia ylläoleviin kysymyksiin – sekä moniin muihin. Kirjan artikkeleissa monipuolinen asiantuntijajoukko tarjoaa sekä tutkimustietoa siitä, miten oppimispelejä on järkevää suunnitella, sekä soveltaa osana laajempaa luovien oppimisympäristöjen kenttää. Pelkän yksittäisen pelin sijaan huomio suunnataan aktivointiin, osallistamiseen ja pelillisyyteen, jotka laajentavat perinteisiä opetustilanteita. Pelisukupolvien myötä niin työelämässä kuin oppimisen maailmassa keskiöön on astumassa aktiivinen toimija, joka kokeilemisen ja ongelmanratkaisun keinoin itsenäisesti ja ryhmissä rakentaa uusia taitoja ja tietämystä. Erillisten oppimispelien rinnalla ja sijaan kirjoittajat ovatkin kannustamassa soveltamaan pelillisyyden oppeja koulun ja oppimisympäristöjen uudistamiseen: jos koulu olisi peli, mikä on sen tavoite – ja onko tuo peli suunniteltu niin että juuri nämä tärkeimmät tavoitteet ovat kirkkaasti ja rohkaisevasti kaikkien toimintaa ohjaamassa?

Kirjasta löytyy sisällysluettelo ja lisätietoja täältä.

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iPhone 6: boring, but must-have?

iPhone 6 & 6 Plus © Apple.

iPhone 6 & 6 Plus © Apple.

There have been substantial delays in my advance order for iPhone 6 Plus (apparently Apple underestimated the demand), and I have had some time to reflect on why I want to get the damned thing in the first place. There are no unique technological features in this phone that really set it apart in today’s hi-tech landscape (Apple Pay, for example, is not working in Finland). The screen is nice, the phone (both models, 6 and 6 Plus) are well-designed and thin, but then again – so are many other flagship smartphones today. Feature-wise, Apple has never really been the one to play the “we have the most, we get there first” game, rather, they are famous for coming in later, and for perfecting few selected ideas that often have been previously introduced by someone else.

I have never been an active “Apple fan”, even while it has been interesting to follow what they have to offer. Apple pays very close attention to design, but on the other hand closes down many options for hacking, personalising and extending their systems, which is something that a typical power-user or geek type abhors – or, at least used to.

What has changed then, if anything? On one hand, the crucial thing is that in the tech ecosystem, devices are increasingly just interfaces and entry points to content and services that reside in the cloud. My projects, documents, photos, and increasingly also the applications I use, live in the cloud. There is simply not that much need for tweaking the operating system, installing specific software, customising keyboard shortcuts, system parameters etc. than before – or is it just that I have got lazy? Moving all the time from office to the meeting room, then to the lecture hall, next to seminar room, then to home, and next to the airport, there are multiple devices while on the road that serve as portals for information, documents and services that are needed then and there. Internet connectivity and electricity rather than CPU cycles or available RAM are the key currencies today.

While on the run, I carry four tools with me today: Samsung Galaxy S4 (work phone), iPhone 4S (personal phone), iPad Air (main work tablet device), and Macbook Pro 13 Retina (personal laptop). I also use three Windows laptops (Asus Vivobook at home, Vaio Z and Vaio Z3 which I run in tandem in the office), and in the basement is the PC workstation/gaming PC that I self-assembled in December 2011. (The video gaming consoles, alternative tablets, media servers and streaming media boxes are not included in the discussion here.) All in all, it is S4 that is the most crucial element here, simply because it is mostly at hand whenever I need to check some discussion or document, look for some fact, reply to someone – and while a rather large smartphone, it is still compact enough so that I can carry it with me all the time, and it is also fast and responsive, and it has large enough, sharp touchscreen that allows interacting with all that media and communication in timely and effortless manner. I use iPhone 4S much less, mainly because its screen is so small. (Also, since both iOS 8 and today’s apps have been designed for much speedier iPhone versions, it is terribly slow.) Yet, the Android apps regularly fall short when compared to their iOS counterparts: there are missing features, updates arrive later, the user experience is not optimised for the device. For example, I really like Samsung Note 10.1 2014 Edition, which is – with its S Pen and multitasking features – arguably a better professional tablet device than iPad; yet, I do not carry it with me daily, simply as the Android apps are still often terrible. (Have you used e.g. official Facebook app in a large-screen Android tablet? The user interface looks like it is just the smartphone UI, blown up to 10 inches. Text is so small you have to squint.)

iPhone 6, and particularly 6 Plus, show Apple rising up to the challenge of screen size and performance level that Android users have enjoyed for some time already. Since many US based tech companies still have “iOS first” strategy, the app ecosystem of iPhones is so much stronger than its Android counterpart that in my kinds of use at least, investing to the expensive Apple offering makes sense. I study digital culture, media, Internet and games by profession, and many interesting games and apps only come available to the Apple land, or Android versions come later or in stripped-down forms. I am also avid mobile photographer, and while iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have smaller number of megapixels to offer than their leading rivals, their fast auto-focus, natural colours, and good low-light performance makes the new iPhones good choices also from the mobile photographer angle. (Top Lumia phones would have even better mobile cameras in this standpoint, but Windows Phone app ecosystem is even worse than Android one, where at least the numbers of apps have been rising, as the world-wide adoption of Android handsets creates demand for low-cost apps, in particular.)

To summarise, mobile is where the spotlight of information and communication technologies lies at the moment, and where games and digital culture in general is undergoing powerful developments. While raw processing power or piles of advanced features are no longer the pinnacle or guarantee for best user experiences, it is all those key elements in the minimalistic design, unified software and service ecosystem that support smooth and effortless access to content, that really counts. And while the new iPhone in terms of its technology and UI design is frankly pretty boring, it is for many people the optimal entrance to those services, discussions and creative efforts of theirs that they really care about.

So, where is that damned 6 Plus of mine, again? <sigh>

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New research into ludification and gamification

[Reposted research news from the University of Tampere:]

“Pervasive ludification and gamification, as well as the spreading of interactive media and online services are changing social interaction and the practices of work, learning and leisure as we speak,” says Professor Frans Mäyrä from the University of Tampere.

“That is why we need wide-ranging interdisciplinary studies in this area.”

The research into ludification in the society includes research into playfulness as an attitude that is also possible for adults, as well as into the different applications of gamification meaning the application of game elements in non-entertainment contexts. These, and several other themes are investigated in a new research project that is carried out in collaboration between three Finnish universities. The four-year research project Ludification and the emergence of playful culture is a joint effort of researchers of the digital culture at the universities of Tampere, Jyväskylä and Turku. Professor Frans Mäyrä is heading the research that is funded by the Academy of Finland.

Ludification at a more general level, and gamification in its more specific applications is a direction of development that is renewing the culture, society and businesses and it is also the common theme in three other research projects, which Professor Mäyrä and his research team have started.

Gamification is analysed in more detail in the research projects called the Neuroeconomics of Gaming and Koukku, which are collaborative efforts with the researchers at the Aalto University. In these projects, the focus is on the psychological aspects of buying and selling games and of the ethical issues involved. These projects are a part of the Skene Research Programme funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

OASIS is a project that applies games as an integral part of university research and instruction and develops and studies a novel, playful and creative learning environment that supports a culture of informal information sharing and sense of community. This project is funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund.

For more information, please contact:
Professor Frans Mäyrä,
frans.mayra@uta.fi, tel. +358 50 336 7650
School of Information Sciences, TRIM / Game Research Lab

Source: http://blogs.uta.fi/news/2014/10/08/ludification-renews-the-culture-society-and-businesses-a-wide-ranging-new-research-project-starts/

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Books or Papers?

I was delighted by the recent publication of Jill Walker Rettberg’s book Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves. This is partly due to the interesting discussion of phenomena like use of filters in Instagram photos, diaries that write themselves automatically for us, and affective ties to other data, quantified and used to organise and make sense of our “gamified lifes”. But another part stems from the fact that this was a book, a monograph, and also one that was made available under Creative Commons as a digital download.

For us educated in the Humanities, book-lenght studies carry intrinsic value that is hard to explain and measure. Books are works of sustained scholarship, and their hard-copy form is designed for permanence. While I was still actively working in literary and textual studies fields, I was routinely making references to studies in Poetics or Rhetorics, authored originally over two thousand years ago. Making that historical treasure trove to relate and connect with in dialogue with the more recent phenomena from digital culture was a source or enormous thrill and pride. Contemporary papers and articles published only in various, semi-permanent digital archives simply do not fulfill similar function in long-term historical and intellectual perspective.

There has been talk about the “death of the monograph” for several decades already, but somehow the book still survives. The imprints are small, university libraries carry smaller numbers of physical copies, and there are increasing “productivity” and “impact” pressures to publish and read shorter texts online. However, there is also actual research into how a monograph is doing, like “The Role and Future of the Monograph in Arts and Humanities Research” by Peter Williams & co, or Alesia Zuccala’s recent paper on evaluation of Humanities in Research Trends, which point that monographs continue to be essential for Humanities scholarship. The hybrid forms of publishing both a (typically small-print or print-on-demand) hard copy, alongside a searchable and freely available digital version, appear as the most prominent ways towards the future.

Links:
Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: http://www.palgraveconnect.com/pc/doifinder/10.1057/9781137476661

“The role and future of the monograph in arts and humanities research”: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00012530910932294

Research Trends, Issue 32: http://www.researchtrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Research_Trends_Issue32.pdf

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Keynote on Pervasive Play & Social Media

This Friday I have been invited to present the keynote in the Social Media in Education seminar, organised by TAOKK & TAMK in Tampere. My title is “Mobile and Pervasive Play – the New Potentials for Communication, Information Seeking and Learning” (Mobiili ja kaikkialle levittäytyvä pelillisyys – viestinnän, tiedonhankinnan ja oppimisen uudet mahdollisuudet). You can find the seminar program from here: http://www.tamk.fi/cms/tamk.nsf/($All)/B33A81D7444E0FA7C2257D46001F9A05?OpenDocument .

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