Papers from Gaming 2008

Although overall I wasn’t too impressed with Gaming 2008 (mainly due to the poor organisation and lack of session chairs with any notion of timekeeping) I saw several interesting and insightful papers. These are two that particularly appealed to me.

In the first, Kolo and Baur (2008) looked at the mobile gaming market – concentrating on mobile phone games – and highlights that it has not reached its expected potential (outside of Asia, anyway). They present a typology of mobile phone gaming applications:

  • messaging-based games – simple text-based games like quizzes or puzzles;
  • browser-based games – that run in mobile web browsers and require continuous connectivity;
  • downloadable games – to be installed on the phone and played offline;
  • interactive games (they note that this is a misleading name) – a combination of a downloadable game with additional services such as high-score submission, real-time multi-player modes, or downloading new levels.

They make the point that mobile phone games cannot compete in terms of user-interface, graphics, processing power or memory but instead need to focus on what they do best: “new ideas that exploit the unique properties of mobility, time, location-awareness and instant connectivity, along with the ability to deliver on-demand content to a device profoundly linked to a single person and usually being carried at all times” (p29).

Kolo, C. & Baur, T. 2008. Homo Ludens going mobile? Perspectives on mobile gaming. In Proceedings of Gaming 2008: Designing for engaging experience and social interaction, Amsterdam, July 22-27.

For the second paper, Dormans (2008) gave what I thought was a really thought-provoking talk on the importance of realism (or iconic simulation as he calls it) in games. He argues that it is not the function for games to be as realistic as real-life (if you had to spend five years learning how to drive an accurately-simulated racing car where would be the fun in that?). He suggests that there are two other forms of simulation that are useful to game designers: indexical and symbolic. Indexical simulation is where there is a relationship between the real world and the item represented but this may be simplified (e.g. the inventory system in Diabolo that uses visual object size as a single limiting factor that represents all the limiting characteristics). Symbolic simulation is where the link between the real world and the game environment is “arbitrary and based on convention” (p54); the example given is the convention in platform games that walking into an enemy will kill you, jumping on it will kill the enemy.

Dormans, J. 2008. Beyond iconic simulation. In Proceedings of Gaming 2008: Designing for engaging experience and social interaction, Amsterdam, July 22-27.

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