home from a mixed reality castle trip

I have just got home from a series of connecting flights (and taxis and bus trips) that were needed in order to transmit me from Castle Birlinghoven, Germany to Tampere. We had really interesting and intense week in launching a major new European games initiative. Titled IPerG, it stands for “Integrated Project on Pervasive Gaming” and it aims to understand the future of digital games as more physical and “surrounding” experiences. While it is easy to come up with examples of location aware mobile game concepts or games based on gesture recognition or some other sensor technologies, it is much harder to define what is a “pervasive game”, what are the guidelines for designing those things, and how to evaluate the quality of pervasive game play experience. Heading the work-package on those issues, our Tampere team will have to work hard in the next three and a half years (yep, it is a major research project) to come up with some answers. (There is a temporary website.)

While I was away, there was some glitch in my home network (or, in the ISP side), and there was about three thousand mails in line (most of them spam, of course). Luckily, it seems that the unet.fi server was not affected.

good games, bad theory?

Bought a mini-arcade console with Pac-Man and some other Namco classics (from Jakks TV Games) yesterday for our Lab. It is definitely fun and also educational visiting those early 1980s games with a joystick and button that at least tries to emulate the original arcade experience. And these actually also can be classified into “casual games” under current standards. Particularly Bosconian (which I had never before played) had some genuine holding power.

There has been lately discussions in the DiGRA’s free mailing list (Gamesnetwork@uta.fi) on the value of “theory” for game studies. If you are interested in those lines of thinking, you might consider subscribing (link). But here just a snippet: this is part of what I mailed there today:

IGDA uses great motto, “Make Better Games”, and I have sometimes suggested that in DiGRA we could adopt something a bit similar, “Make Better Game Research”. There are numerous questions that our researchers, for example, are currently working on: Who are actually playing games? What games they play? Why they play those games? Are there some fundamental cognitive and emotional elements, or modes of visual aesthetic, “grammar and syntax” of interaction, or something from narratology, media studies, cultural studies etc. that we can identify, analyse and describe in games and game playing? And when we have some fundamentals like that in our hands, then we need some meta-level constructs, theories that help us to discuss how all these things relate to each other. In the long run, all this will advance science and our understanding of this odd thing, “games”, and what kind of beings we are as we enjoy and invent them.
And, I suppose, we need not only games-informed games designers, but also researchers, teachers, critics, and even school-children who are given tools that help them to put into words and analyse why certain games might carry value and significance, why some others are problematic, and precisely in which terms. I am not sure if the only thing we’ll say in academia to those teachers is “design, design, design”, that we’ll do the job we should.

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