April 2017 archive

Why are digital games so enjoyable?


Playing Candy Crush on ipad flickr photo by m01229 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


I enjoy reading fiction in my leisure time because it is relaxing and allows me to leave my ordinary world behind and enter another. I empathise with characters, learn new things and experience a range of emotions through language and narrative. When I am immersed in an enthralling storyline nothing else matters. Reading is mostly a solitary activity for me but can also be social through discussions of books with family and friends either face-to-face or online.

While reading the article The structural characteristics of video games: a psycho-structural analysis (Wood, Griffiths, Chappell & Davies, 2004) it struck me that game players enjoy video games for many of the same reasons that I enjoy reading fiction. According to the article the following psychological features contribute to the enjoyment of games:

  • ability to enter a fantasy world and escape from our ordinary lives
  • losing track of time when playing
  • impact on our mood, emotions and arousal levels

These psychological features sound very familiar to me as a fiction reader and help me to understand why games are such a compelling leisure activity for so many people.

I spoke to three mature digital game players (40 years plus) about the features of digital games that were important to them. Two played various games on Facebook such as Candy Crush, Farmville and Criminal Case and the other played chess online against other people. The chess player was competitive and wanted to achieve a high ranking, while the other two said competing or interacting with/against friends was most important to them. This illustrates the importance of the social side of games that Wood, Griffiths, Chappell & Davies allude to in the aforementioned article (2004). Realistic sound was a high ranking feature in their study, closely followed by graphics. Neither of these characteristics were deemed important to the three players I spoke to. Interestingly the two players of Facebook games mute the sound when they play as they find it annoying (and I would suggest unrealistic). All three said games were an enjoyable leisure time activity that they experienced daily if they had the time, just like I do with my reading.

References

Wood, R. T. A., Griffiths, M. D., Chappell, D., & Davies, M. N. O. (2004). The Structural Characteristics of Video Games: A Psycho-Structural Analysis. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(1), 1-10. doi:10.1089/109493104322820057

 

Ingress

This blog post documents my experience with the digital game Ingress. Ingress is a multiplayer location-based mobile game (LBMG) that utilises the features of mobile devices such as GPS and location data and adds augmented reality (Hulsey & Reeves, 2014). These technical features are combined with a detailed narrative supported by websites, videos and social media. The Ingress app requires the player to get outside and explore the real world using their mobile device to discover “portals” located at significant landmarks. The following beginners guide video explains Ingress in more detail.

Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HgvHV155gvo

Resistance Agent kleem9’s experience with Ingress

Here is a timeline of my first encounter with Ingress. I was quite pleased that I figured out the basic features of the app and looked forward to having more time to explore the game over the Easter break as Resistance Agent kleem9.

My second attempt took a more targeted approach and I was so immersed that I lost track of time. I was thrilled when I levelled up and captured portals but disappointed that my attacks on enemy portals were unsuccessful. How could I improve?

I decided to utilise the community aspect of Ingress and joined the Resistance Melbourne Community. I participated in a new agent chat and found out that I was on the right track by hacking as many portals as I could and by capturing neutral portals. I also found out that I probably would not be successful in attacking enemy portals until I was level 6. I did a walk along the Yarra River at Heide and Fairfield with my sister (who was not interested in the game at all despite my attempts) to get more resources and access points.

I am already intrinsically motivated to exercise so I incorporated my play into my usual daily exercise routine and was was playing alone. I intended to keep playing the game for a few more days but I got sick and did not have the energy. Playing Ingress is time consuming and other interests compete especially when you are working full time and studying part time. The gaming experience was initially compelling but my interest waned as it became a bit repetitive.

Positive aspects of Ingress for me

  • physically active
  • enjoyed discovering new things in my neighbourhood
  • improved my navigational skills
  • could be played with family or friends
  • ability to connect to a community of players

Negative aspects of Ingress for me

  • resource heavy – battery life and data
  • Narrative did not appeal to me and was intimidating for a new player
  • Security – could I be tracked?
  • Time consuming

Educational applications

While playing Ingress it is clear that it could have educational applications in almost every subject area. Without much thought the following came to mind:

  • Geography – navigation, mapping and spatial skills
  • Mathematics  – measurement and geometry
  • History – stories behind landmarks, exploration of conflict
  • Art – study of landmarks artistic qualities, creation of artistic works based on the game
  • English – creative and non-fiction writing
  • Physical Education – exercise program
  • Online safety

A secondary school teacher at Eltham College in Melbourne has documented his experience in a blog post Ingress and education: The experiment

The article Ingress in Geography: Portals to academic success by Michael Davis describes a study done using Ingress with first year university students.

 

 

References

Hulsey, N., & Reeves, J. (2014). The gift that keeps on giving: Google, ingress, and the gift of surveillance. Surveillance & Society, 12(3), 389-400. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1556332658?accountid=10344

Augmented Reality

I don’t know much about augmented reality, the technology that augments the physical world with information, audio, vision or GPS data from virtual sources (“Augmented reality”, 2017). I have heard the term and read a few articles about it in the news but only have a basic understanding of it. Last year I watched on but didn’t get involved with Pokemon Go. I chuckled as I walked past people glued to their phones and wondered what all the fuss was about.

Last week I downloaded Ingress to my phone, put my headphones on and took a five kilometre walk around my neighbourhood figuring out how to hack portals and deploy resonators. To my utter surprise I really enjoyed the experience. I discovered places close to home that I didn’t know existed with the aid of the Ingress app that uses geo-location technologies of GPS, Google Maps and Google Streetview to guide you to portals within the game’s science fiction narrative. Stay tuned for more about my experiences with Ingress in a later blog post.

Now I can see the appeal of games that use augmented reality. Augmented reality can show you things that you are unaware of. I was excited by the application of augmented reality outlined by Jay David Bolter  (Art Line, 2013, June 3) where the physical and virtual world combine. Museums, galleries and sites of historical or cultural heritage can be enhanced using your own personal device using augmented reality technology. The video below shows one such example.

Augmented Reality Museum Mobile Application @ Stanford University from Sid Lee Labs on Vimeo.

It is difficult to predict what the future will hold for augmented reality and virtual reality but it looks exciting for games and education, as long as we are willing to accept change. This idea is explored in the following Ted Talk, Will virtual and augmented reality move us into the knowledge age?

References

Art Line [User name]. (2013, June 3). Jay David Bolter [Video file]. Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O53ey5EYeVU

Augmented reality (2017, April 1). Retreived from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality