Friday, 9 March 2007

Gaming Blog 4: Rewards

People often play games to gain pleasure by seeking rewards. Playing games, however, is frequently not fun e.g. in Tetris you die eventually and have to start from the beginning. Thus it is ‘painful’ to play Tetris because you will never be able to progress or complete the game. People continue to play because games tap into the rain’s natural reward circuitry. Within games, there are clear rewards such as more lives, objects and progressing to the next level. There is always a new reward so people continue playing the game, even though it can bring pain and frustration.

According to Hallford and Hallford (2002) there are four types of reward, glory, substance, access and facility.

Applying this theory to Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone, it is clear that there are constant rewards within the game. In order to progress, you must learn a new spell so this can be viewed as a facility reward; you are enhancing Harry’s abilities to improve his magic. The newly learnt spell must then be practised in order to discover new rooms, collecting Bertie Botts beans, wizard cards and house points. These are access rewards, finding new locations and resources. Harry Potter must also learn how to play Quidditch, however, this does not help to win so is a glory reward; it is pleasurable for the player to do but has no impact on the game. In order to maintain Harry’s energy, you must find chocolate frogs so this is a substance reward.

People enjoy gaining rewards and the subject matter is usually irrelevant. Whether it is finding a new spell or learning Quidditch, this is irrelevant, what is important is that it is a reward, which is what the human brain is wired to seek out. Other media don’t provide this so playing digital games is important for people to gain satisfaction and pleasure from being rewarded.


Hallford, Neal and Hallford, Jana (2002). Swords and Circuitry: A Designer's Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games. Course Technology PTR.

Gaming Blog 3: Homo Ludens

Johann Huizinga has an understanding of play, the ‘magic circle’. He believes that play is an interlude outside ordinary life with fixed boundaries of time, space and rules. There is a clear line between the real world and playing a game, once you engage yourself, you step into the magic circle of that particular game. The magic circle is the game’s special context, either physical e.g. pitch, or psychological e.g. eye-spy. According to Salen and Zimmerman (2004), the magic of the circle is due to the new reality it creates. Once the magic circle is enacted, plastic pieces or digital media products start to represent something very specific, as they fall under the spell of rules. Once you are within the magic circle, you are able to do things which may not be acceptable in the real world, for example, shooting people and stealing cars in Grand Theft Auto.

The Lusory Attitude is the magic circle from the player’s perspective, choosing to engage in a game and cross the boundaries into the circle. In order to enter the circle, the player must have a certain attitude or state of mind; this is known as the Lusory attitude. Huizinga believes that there is no material benefit from playing a game and is a waste of energy. Applying this to a game of football, you win by kicking a ball and scoring goals. The rules of football are complex e.g. the off-side rule, there is artificial efficiency in order to enter the magic circle and participate in the game.

Applying these theories to The Sims, it is clear that in order to play you engage yourself in the magic circle and adopt the right attitude to play the game. It has fixed boundaries of time; you have to carry out certain activities within a time limit e.g. looking after a baby for three days. It has fixed boundaries of space; you can only build on the land you have bought e.g. you cannot decorate the street outside your house. It has fixed boundaries of rules, there are restrictions as to what you can do e.g. you cannot buy expensive items if you do not have enough money. There are cheats available, however, so the degree of the boundaries varies depending on how many cheats you use.


Salen, Katie and Zimmerman, Eric, (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT

Huizinga, Johan (1970). Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. London: Temple Smith.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Gaming Blog 2: Ban These Evil Games

Digital games receive bad press and people focus on the values that they believe the game demonstrates. According to Dr Spock, the only benefit of playing digital games is to help improve a child’s eye to hand co-ordination. He believes that games promote aggression and are a waste of time.

After the release of Manhunt in 2003, violence within digital games became a moral panic, especially after the case involving Warren Leblanc. It has been proved, however, that it had nothing to do with the digital game, so are games that evil? People may only believe they are as a result of moral panic and exaggerated media reporting.

Rhetoric persuasive language is present in anything which is being sold to the public. Brian Sutton-Smith, as cited in Salen and Zimmerman (2004, p.9) describes the use of rhetoric to “persuade others of the veracity and worthwhileness of their beliefs”. Rhetoric persuasive methods can be verbal, written, visual and behavioural.

Within digital games, there is rhetoric in the representations of the games i.e. advertising, and within the games themselves. This can be to convince the audience to purchase the game or to persuade their views and beliefs to be the same as the creators of the game.

In DOOM II, the objective is to shoot everything, emphasising combat and violence. It promotes the values that violence and weaponry is the solution to all and the rhetoric is that shooting things is ok. This relates back to digital games being viewed as evil, just because people play them does not mean they will become violent.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider has violence within the game because she kills people and creatures during her quest. The objective involves her travelling the world to find a certain object or artefact. There is puzzle solving to be able to get further in the game but also violence as Lara collects weapons and kills creatures such as dinosaurs, bears and people. It has the rhetoric that shooting things to get on and win is ok and using your brain also helps you progress. Although the game holds this view, it does not mean that people playing the game will become violent or more intelligent.

Playing digital games containing violence does not mean that person will become aggressive. The same can be said for games of expansion and acquisition such as Civilisation II, playing this game does not necessarily mean you will turn into a tyrant. The use of rhetoric in advertising and within the game itself is evident, but the attitudes it is trying to convey may only apply to the audience whilst they are playing the game. For example, Lara Croft promotes sexiness in advertising; people may feel sexy whilst playing it.


Salen, Katie and Zimmerman, Eric, (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Gaming Blog Week 1

There is not a clear definition as to what a game is; the word itself is a vague concept which covers any range of activity. When asked in class to define the word game in one sentence, it was difficult to identify what exactly it means.

Wittgenstein believes that games do not have a specific definition because they do not all share the same features. He has the concept that games are like a rope, twisted fibres connecting to each other, games have different features which twist together to create similar meaning which defines the word game. The concept of a game has blurred edges; there is no precise meaning which can be seen when you compare different games.

After playing DOOM II and Samorost 2, I can see how Wittgenstein's theory works. They are both computer games created for entertainment but they do not share the same features. Clearly, the games have different genres and target audiences but they have resemblances. For example, the goal in Samorost 2 is to rescue the stolen dog and in DOOM II the aim is to kill the enemies and work out secret areas to complete each level; they both have an incentive to play to achieve a particular outcome.

Applying Wittgenstein’s idea of family resemblances to Samorost 2 and Civilisation II, there is the same characteristic that you cannot loose, you continue playing until you rescue the dog and complete building the civilisation. This also applies to DOOM II and Lara Croft Tomb Raider, the game is continuing until you complete each level to reach the end. This does not apply to Tetris however; once you die you have to start again from the beginning.

Wittgenstein’s theory of games having vague concepts and the idea of a rope, continuing with different, twisted fibres does apply to all games. There are family resemblances between all games, some have similar outcomes, others have different motives, but it is fair to say that Wittgenstein has a successful theory which can be applied to any type of game.