Blogpost #2: Rethinking sociality – a practical approach

Introduction

First we will present an overview of how sociality unfolds within a virtual reality experience using our product as a lens for this analysis. We will analyse how immersion is achieved through cooperation and how this affects sociality, we will use this chapter to lead onto asymmetrical gameplay, where we will, look at specific mechanics that utilises Virtual reality in a non contrived way, together they form the foundation from which we can introduce more theoretical approaches. Utilising our framework from Blogpost 1 we will introduce how narrative and spaces as a concept affects not only immersion but also cooperation. We will conclude the paper by analysing the interplay between the physical and virtual space, and through the acceptance of this interplay how a hybrid space can emerge.

This Blogpost aims to re-evaluate and reflect on our project as a lens through which we can address the notion of rethinking virtual reality.
We started out by exploring virtual reality at a Café in Aarhus called Limitless. providing us with a hands on experience as a means of gathering empirical data for our framework. Throughout the gameplay experience at Limitless, we took note of the lack of emphasis on the social context that the game was physically within. People who did not play were simply spectators.

In Warlock v Wizards, one player is the Warlock, wearing the VR headset, while the other players are Wizards using their smartphone as wands that casts spells. The Wizards are invisible to the Warlock, but their wands can be seen during movement. Spells are charged with movement of the wands. To win, the Warlock must spot the Wizards’ wands while the Wizards must cast spells to defeat the Warlock.

We believe this adaptation of sociality is important in understanding sociality within a game context. An acceptance and realisation that sociality has to be rethought and reapplied on a new technical field (virtual reality) if we wish to best create the boundaries for meaningful play.

We hope that through this work we will be able to create a practical understanding based on our theoretical framework of how sociality unfolds within a hybrid space, and that our work both theoretical and practical should be seen as a lens through which player, researcher and game developer alike is able to approach, reflect and rethink sociality in a virtual reality setting.

Table of contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Rethinking Sociality
  3. Rethinking Immersion
  4. Rethinking Asymmetry
  5. Rethinking Space and Narrative
  6. The Hybrid Space
  7. Conclusion
  8. References
  9. Games Cited
  10. Figures

Rethinking Sociality

(Emma Ottilie Arendal Odgaard, 6.795)

Our core concept is changing virtual reality into a more social experience. Keeping in mind the theoretical works of Goffman (1963) we set out to create a game that address the problematic situation of isolated game play in virtual reality. A game that can be used as a means to better understand this social issue.

One of the main elements that currently sets the tone for isolated gameplay in virtual reality, is that the virtual reality headset limits play to a single person. When that player is actively using the virtual reality, the headset absorbs that one player into the game world and leaves the physical world and the people in it behind. Multiple players could join the same world or game by joining in with their own virtual reality headset, but this is a not only an expensive solution, it also does not address the physicality of the space; it just transfers more people into the virtual world. In Warlock v Wizards, by including smartphones as controllers for the game, we have made it easier for everyone to join the game without having to provide additional technology. Today, most people have smartphones on them at all times, which mean they already carry the ticket to joining the game. It makes the experience more accessible to an increased number of people. Furthermore, by making controls that work outside of the virtual reality headset, it includes the physical space into the game. When the Wizards move around the Warlock, trying to sneak up on the Warlock while working together to cast spells, the physical room which the game takes place in, become a vital part of the game. The players have to be mindful of their surroundings and navigate the space according to what the gameplay requires of the players for them to be successful in that moment.

In a situation where one person is playing a virtual reality game and the remaining people in the room are not, there are implied rules of behaviour, as in any other situation (Goffman, 1963, 18). The issue with this situation is that the player stands out from the crowd. Regardless of the players’ level of immersion in the game, they will always be aware of their role as the performer in the physical space. The players’ focused interaction may be on the game, but they are simultaneously the focused attention of others and will behave accordingly. The surrounding peoples’ focused interaction is on the player, and they too will behave accordingly, possibly enjoying the shenanigans of the virtual reality player, but most likely also waiting for their own turn to play. Warlock v Wizards addresses this imbalance by including everyone in the game. The Warlock will not be as conscious of their role as performer (ibid, 24), knowing the people around them are performing as well, and the surrounding peoples’ focused attention on the Warlock will change from being purely spectating, to a challenge-based focus. This will affect the Warlock’s behaviour and shift their focus to not only include what they see in-game, but simultaneously be aware of their surroundings in the physical space. The Wizards focus shifts as well from being spectators or just awaiting their turn, they now have active roles in the game. They are performing on an equal level to the Warlock and have their own objective to focus on; taking down the Warlock. This requires cooperation and communication that in turn secures a sociality surrounding virtual reality play that did not exist before. The Wizards will be absorbed in the play experience just as the Warlock, which we argue will create a better experience for all participants, because they will not be as focused on what social behaviour is acceptable in the given situation, when everyone is participating equally. By including the surrounding people in the game, we argue that we have expanded the “magic circle” (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, 95) and moved the spectators from being playful or performing ludic activities into formalized Game Play (Sicart, 2014, 8).
When incorporating everyone in a game like Warlock v Wizards do, we tackle multiple issues with sociality in virtual reality; The physical space becomes an important aspect of the game experience, the surrounding people have equal opportunities of play as the one wearing the virtual reality headset, but most importantly, immersion and absorption increases for all participant. Gordon Calleja says:

“The cooperative aspect of shared involvement seems to become more engaging the greater the number of people working together. Much can go wrong, but, when the collaboration works, the efforts are seen as being more than worthwhile.” (2011, 106)

We have created a game that utilizes collaboration as an essential aspect of the game. This is not an easy thing to do withvirtual reality, that at its core is an experience for a single participant. Having this collaboration aspect in the game makes for deeper immersion (Cairns et al, 2013) and adds to the overall game experience. The Wizards are equal participants in the game, even without the virtual reality headset. In fact, because of the asymmetric nature of the game, they have the advantage of sight and mobility to use to their benefit when playing the game; they can communicate with each other. The Wizards can stand right in front of the Warlock in the real world, and not be detected. This creates the feeling of invisibility that absorbs them further into the game play. Taking advantage of this, collaboration becomes the best way to defeat the Warlock. Schemes of distraction, sneaking and simultaneous attacks quickly emerged when playtesting the game, creating a sense of togetherness that current virtual reality games lack.
The immersion benefits from this need for collaboration, not only for the Wizards but for the Warlock as well. Even though the game is a “versus” game where the Warlock competes with the Wizards, the social aspect of actual physical opponents surrounding the Warlock makes for a more real experience and deeper immersion. The Warlock has to be aware of both the virtual world where he “sees” the Wizards, but has to be equally aware of the physical presence of them. Sensing the Wizards movements and listening for clues of their whereabouts. One could argue that this need for attention in both worlds, and the mixture of real components with the virtual makes for a much more immersed feeling than the headset and headphones alone could ever do.
Warlock v Wizards tackles several issues with the current lack of sociality in virtual reality games. We have created a game setting that combines the virtual space with the physical. A hybrid space. This space allows for more inclusive virtual reality gaming with social play at its core. We argue that this type of game can fulfill a social need and further immersion.

Rethinking Immersion

(Mathias Oliver Jeppesen, 6.542)

One of the main problems we experienced in the field of virtual reality was the lack of empathy in the games. Through our own experiences at Limitless, we explored a range of multiple games and different adventures, but no matter how many participants that participated in the same game, we were ultimately alone in our experience. Empathy might occur during the game, but as soon as the virtual reality headset is removed, the player will not have anyone to share their tacit experience with. We are left behind with a feeling of an asocial context that leaves the player alone in the room only surrounded by sound and visuals that no one else can sense.
Therefore, we decided to rethink the game concept and use our skills within various disciplines to create a game concept that includes players across both the physical and the virtual space with the same purpose and the same commitment.

As described in Blogpost 1, immersion is a feeling of becoming physically or virtually a part of the experience itself, either if this occurs through realistic visualisation and sound effects or through connecting with the game in a particular action. Virtual reality has an advantage of creating immersion through visualisation and sound effects by bringing the player closer to the game. The virtual reality headset gives the player the opportunity to see the space in a completely different and realistic way. A view that traditional game experiences do not allow. However, virtual reality does not allow the player to feel immersed by the physical movement inside the game space. The players’ movement is registered by the console and transferred into the game. the movement cannot perfectly match the visuals, which leaves the player with an unreal experience that we believe lowers the immersion. Because of this, the physical movement was especially considered when we designed our game. We managed to create a social experience, where movement should not lower the players’ empathy.

Our game, Warlock v Wizards, has a long range of immersion based features. As described by psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2005) and filmmaker, Alison McMahan (2003), players will feel immersed by non-trivial impact in the game, and when challenges of the game and skills of the players are perfectly balanced, the players will feel flow in the game and experience challenge-based immersion. In our game the smartphones will have the exact same features as a wand. No buttons to click, only hand gesturing. By creating this feature, the players are connecting with their smartphones as if it were wands. Furthermore, the challenges of the game fits perfectly with the skills of the players, no matter who is playing. We have managed to create this balance between challenges and skills by supplying simple rules and different advantages when playing either as the Warlock or the Wizards. The features of the game are correspondingly easy to master, which provides every player with the necessary skills to win the game.

The players’ expectations of the game environment have to match the environments conventions closely. The environmental immersion means to be intrigued by the virtual space and the characters within (McMahan, 2003). In our game the environment takes place in a dark forest. Everyone is familiar with this environment, and everyone can associate with it. The characters in this environment are Wizards and an evil Warlock that use their wands to cast spells. The overall scenario is familiar to anyone who can refer to Harry Potter or other magical spaces. By creating a game environment that appeals to everyone, the immersion is easier to accomplish.

Immersion occurs by creating a game that drags the players into the virtual world. With only one virtual reality headset and at least three players in our game, we had to do something to achieve this feeling of being dragged into the same virtual world. By creating a game that implied both cooperation and competition, the players’ empathy would increase. Without competition between the Warlock and the Wizards, the game would not have a purpose, and the players would not have any interest in participating. At the same time, without cooperation between the Wizards, the game would almost be impossible to win. By creating this difficult task for the Wizards, we are encouraging them to play the game with passion to win. By driving the players to interact with their characters in their road towards victory, the players will feel more immersed. Our core problematic of virtual reality is the lack of social gathering, therefore by creating cooperation between the Wizards, the social context will improve.

Playing socially is a prevalent and important aspect of digital gaming which helps to form the enjoyment of the game through meaningful play. It has been proved that immersion increases from individual play to playing against other persons. Moreover, the immersion increases further going from online gaming to co-located gaming (Cairns et al, 2013). In our game, we emphasize the social aspect and the co-located game experience. By creating a game that involves three or more players, the social aspect is achieved. Furthermore, our game ensures the social context by creating a co-located experience that makes the players act in the same physical space.

In the process of rethinking the virtual reality experience, we discovered an issue in relation to maintaining the immersion equally for all the players. When experiencing a game that includes a virtual reality headset, it is likely that everyone wants to be in possession of the headset. Therefore, we had to make a game where all characters are enjoyable to play and different in their objective. In Warlock v Wizards, the Warlock has a visual experience and is in possession of a character that needs to be aware of surprises. On the other side, we have the Wizards that need to cooperate and move around slowly as if it was a game of hide and seek. Both characters are acting in different ways with different benefits that help to increase the immersion of all players.

Our game concept introduces hybrid spaces that place the players into both the physical and the virtual space at once. Even though the asymmetric gameplay leaves the players with different views, the players are still aware on a subconscious level, that they are within and outside of the virtual space. The overall problematic of enhancing the sociality across hybrid spaces has been solved by the application of immersive theory among other.

Rethinking Asymmetry

(Erik Høyrup Jørgensen, 6.874)

Like our research in Blogpost 1 suggests, the only way to make virtual reality and non virtual reality participants play together, is by utilizing asymmetrical gameplay. Without asymmetrical gameplay the virtual reality headset becomes an unnecessary gimmick that might aswell be removed. Warlock v Wizards tries to rethink playing with virtual reality in a way that is not contrived by using different elements of asymmetric gameplay. Therefore making both the virtual reality and non-virtual reality a necessity for the play experience. By analyzing these elements of asymmetric gameplay, we might further our understanding of what it takes to create a social virtual reality game that engages all participants.

On the spectrum, presented in Blogpost 1, which goes from symmetrical to asymmetrical, Warlock v Wizards is placed somewhere towards absolute asymmetry, but not as much as Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (2015, Steel Crate Games). Warlock v Wizards achieves asymmetry from variable player goals and asymmetrical objectives, difference in controls, and a difference in the actions the players take.

The Wizards’ objective in the game is to hit the Warlock a certain amount of times with magic spells. The Warlock, wearing the virtual reality headset, has to avoid these magic spells, by physically dodging, which the game recognizes and mirrors in the virtual space. The Warlock’s goal is to destroy the Wizards. The Warlock does this by looking at the Wizards’ magic wands. However the magic wands are invisible when the Wizards are not moving. The Warlock has to be alert and look everywhere for any kind of movement, while the Wizards have to sneak around, waiting for the Warlock to let their guard down. These variable player goals create the asymmetry in the game.

As previously mentioned, the Warlock controls their character by physically moving around with the virtual reality headset. Most virtual reality headsets provides some kind of head tracking, allowing this kind of movement in virtual reality. The Wizards have a different set of controls, still centered around movement. They move around in the physical world, attempting to remain silent and undetected. The Warlock moves around to locate the Wizards. This means that while both groups of players utilize movement in the physical space as a means of winning the game, but the way they achieve this, remains vastly different.

Given the degree of asymmetry presented, one might be inclined to ask whether the players are still playing the same game. This can be argued for by looking at the two teams’ mechanics and how they interact with each other. One mechanic of the game is sound. Physically moving creates sound. The Warlock can use the sound to get an indication of where to look for the players. This also means that if the players try to communicate, to execute a tactic, a plan or a strategy, they will have to do it nonverbally. As discussed in Blogpost 1, communication is a mechanic that aims to make the game entertaining and engaging, which the game utilizes on multiple levels to keep everyone engaged.

The goal of the Wizards, and the goal of the Warlock are mutually exclusive, meaning that if one team accomplish their goal, the other team cannot. This puts the two teams in competition with each other, creating play between the virtual reality players and the non-virtual reality players. This however can be a challenge for video game designers as balancing the game becomes a two pronged process.

Balancing the game is important for challenge based immersion. In order to keep all players engaged with the game, the game has to be challenging for all players (as mentioned in the previous section). However balancing asymmetric games can be complex (Fullerton et al. 2008, 291FF), (Sirlin, 2017). There are many elements of Warlock v Wizards, that has an influence on the game’s balance. One of the most influential elements is the amount of players on the Wizards’ team. Because of the games nature of all against one, where all can be anywhere from two, to many, the difficulty for the Wizards’ team will decrease with the amount of players involved, and on the other side, the difficulty for the Warlock increases by the amount players. This was a design constriction of the project and is therefore not configurable. However the amount of players will be confined to the physical dimensions of the play space.

Let’s look at some of the elements of Warlock v Wizards, that can be tweaked to accommodate this scale of participation. One thing that can be changed is the number of lives afforded to the Warlock. If the Warlock is able to take more hits, then they will be able to stay in the game for longer, so increasing the Warlock’s lives with the amount of players might balance the game. Another thing that can be changed is the amount of lives given to the Wizards. Each Wizard has a number that represents their health. This health decreases for each second the Warlock sees them, at the speed of how visible they are to the Warlock (which is determined by the speed of the Wizard’s movement). Dividing this number with the amount of players involved, might balance the game’s asymmetrical aspects.

There are also non-health related things that can be tweaked to make the game scale with the number of players. For example, the projectiles fired by the Wizards have a multitude of configurable factors: The speed at which they fly, the size of the projectiles, the distance they appear from, the time between they are fired and actually start flying, etc. The wand also has a few configurable factors such as the sensitivity of visibility and the charge speed (how much the player needs to move before they can fire a projectile). All these seemingly minor things can have an impact on the balance of the game, and can be adjusted dynamically with the amount of players introduced. The right balance is properly found in combination of the all these factors, rather than one specifically.

Some asymmetrical games employ different character roles to some (or all) players. This furthers the asymmetry of the games, but can also be used as a way to balance the game.
For example the social party game Mafia (Davidoff, 1986), where everyone is on a team, but some participants secretly get more abilities that shake up the play. Similar character roles might be applied to Warlock v Wizards to help scale the difficulty with the amount of players participating. If some Wizards were secretly working with Warlock to destroy the other Wizards, this would further the asymmetry and immersion of the game.

All of these elements brought together works to make the virtual reality of Warlock v Wizards a necessary part of the experience. Similar elements might be applied to other social virtual reality experience in order to incorporate all participants in non contrived way.

Rethinking Space and Narrative

(Rolf  P. T. Holm, 6.621)

Warlock v Wizards works within a game space, as described in Blogpost 1, in a three-dimensional game world, with a first-person view, in a semi-realistic art style based on the tropes of magic, wizards, and enchanted forests. Initially the first-person view is chosen because of the virtual reality headset, which sits over the player’s eyes and enables motion tracking of the head. The first-person view enables the Warlock to dodge the incoming spells from the Wizards and for the Warlock to spot the Wizards. Without the mobility inherent in the virtual reality, the mechanic of the Warlock dodging would drastically change the game, as it enables the headset to be used as one controller, enabling the asymmetric gameplay and thus the social aspects of the game, as it allows for more players to be included.

The characteristics of off-screen dynamics provides an additional insight into our primary issue of sociality in a virtual reality environment. The game depends on audible cues, sounds of movement and spellcasting, as well as visual cues, wands moving, from the game and the other players, to enable the Warlock player to interact with the game. This makes the game reminisce of “Kick the can” also known as “Tag the pole”. The audible cues leads the Warlock to search in the game world, while the Wizard players cooperate to distract and confuse the Warlock. As the off-screen is dynamic, because of the Wizards, the interaction between the Warlock and Wizards consists of “hide-and-seek” in plain sight and “kick the can”, making it a social game that cannot be played alone. The notion of sociality hereby lies within the playful nature of the game, mixed with its competitive element.
The art style of the game is tied to the choice of dimensions the game works within. From a mechanical point of view, the choice of art style is arbitrary, and only important because of the narrative elements inherent in, which helps to immerse the players in the game.
The three-dimensional world adds to immersion of the Warlock player, as their visual perception is limited to the game world, while still being able to audibly sense the real world. This hybrid perception of two spaces ties the playful interaction between the Warlock and Wizards together, as only the audible perception can be used for finding the Wizards and the visual perception for the Warlock can only be used to fulfill the win condition.
The space type of the game is in a grey area between abstract and free. The players are free to move within the physical confines of the game setup. This theoretically enables a large number of players to participate; an important element, as the game was made to enable as many participants as possible, using only their phones.
The game does not have any exploration elements, other than exploring tactics for winning. Exploration could have been added, as a way to change the virtual environment, and more importantly, introduce new game mechanics or make changes to old ones, which would add diversity to the game throughout multiple gameplays. This would make for a more socially unifying experiences, as all participants would be more challenged by the changes. The aim would be to make the virtual reality experience more social and more enjoyable through this.

Evoked Narrative
The art style of the game, the game world and the game mechanics all tie together to be the architectural foundation of the narrative.
The game relies heavily on magic tropes. Wizards, warlocks, magic, wands, spells, and invisibility are all keywords that describe the game. This association is chosen to evoke the relations and presumptions participants might have in regard to a game that plays on these themes. Because of the books by J. K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series (1997-2007) have heavily influenced the modern pop-culture with tropes regarding spells, wizards, and magic. The trope of the good guys and the evil guy is also a classic. From a social perspective, the use of these tropes help to make a common understanding between the participants and unify them as to what their role is, what they need to do and what their goal is.

The use of these magical tropes makes a narrative explanation for how the game works easily understandable; why the evil guy could not see the good guys; why spells were charged by movement and why guns were not used. In the magic trope, the justification is simply because of “magic”. This makes it an easily accessible game to participate in, by including a broader range of participants, minimizing the amount of people forced to be spectators and easing the social context, so everyone can participate.

Emergent Narrative
Within the game’s cooperative aspect between the Wizards, a micro narrative emerges of how they take down the Warlock. The Wizard players sneaks around the Warlock, but different methods of coordination and distraction emerges through play. Some gesticulated through the use of their hands and nonverbal communication heavily reliant on facial expression and non-audible word mimicry, while others had little communication, relying more on timing from each of the individual Wizards to act and react. This shows how the game mechanics fostered socially constructed implicit rules used for cooperation that adds to the social narrative of how the Warlock is defeated.

Arbitrary Narrative
The game mechanics of the Wizards having to sneak around the Warlock to charge their wands and to cooperate to not get seen by the Warlock, relies heavily on tropes to transfer the meaning of how the game is played. The narrative is however arbitrary. As a means to unify the understanding of the players to enable the social context and to make everyone aware that this is a game, the Wizard trope executes this task well. However, the narrative and tropes can be replaced without harming the game mechanics. If the evoked narrative had been in the theme of film noir, where the virtual reality player had the role of a mafia boss, who was blindfolded, and the non-virtual reality players took on the role of cops, with guns, the narrative trope of good guys versus bad guy had not been changed. The film noir genre and trope however is not ingrained in the same way in modern pop-culture, as the wizard trope is, therefore it would be harder to convey the mechanics of the game. Though the used theme and tropes of wizards and magic is arbitrary, its ability to convey the meaning of the game in a successful manner works, as it builds on common tropes, helping to unify the game participants, making for a stronger mental representation of how the rules work.

The Hybrid Space

(Jannik Østergaard Ibsen, 7.049)

Through this chapter we aim to critically reflect on the notion of hybridity within game spaces. We will re-evaluate and reflect on our project as a lens through which we can address the notion of rethinking virtual reality.
Our game remains, but one way of addressing this issue, and hopefully through reading this text we have managed to shed light on a much broader issue: sociality in games.

In order to understand and grasp hybridity within game spaces, it’s essential to first differentiate between the two, namely the physical and virtual space. Framing these spaces help us obtain a greater understanding of the complexity surrounding our interaction in such spaces, by revealing how operational, constitutive and implicit rules governing these spaces ultimately affects our behavior within a game context (Salinas et al, 2016, 115).
Our research, observations at Limitless and experiences acquired throughout this course has shown how virtual reality in the physical space can be a lonesome experience.(Fig 1)

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Figure 1 – Playing Virtual Reality at Limitless alone

When you put on the virtual reality headset you transfer part of your conscious mind into the virtual space, and leave behind the physical, and if the game proves successful you will feel immersed, accepting that you have just crossed the magic circle into the space of games.

“The notion of the magic circle should be seen as a mindset, a mindset players accept when they partake in a game experience, an acceptance that you are now actively “playing” a game, that a different set of rules apply and that in the blink of an eye, friend can turn to foe.” (Blogpost 1, 2017)

Accepting this mindset means accepting that a different set of rules apply, a set of rules tied to the virtual space of games, dictating not only what you can and should do in order to win, but also implicitly how you’re supposed to behave in the hybrid space.
On an abstract level you can make the distinction, that on one side you have the physical space (Implicit rules) and on the other the virtual space (Operational and constituative rules) (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, 130).
We have achieved a coherent hybrid space in which only one set of rules apply, a lens through which we can continue to research sociality in a game environment.
Exemplified, the implicit rules of the physical context might give the impression that sneaking around the player wearing the virtual reality headset is unacceptable conduct in the social situation, but the second you engage in the game as a Wizard, not only does it become socially acceptable in the physical space (Implicit rules), but a requirement to win in the virtual space (constituative rules).
This realization and acceptance of interplay is what we call the hybrid space.

“In this way, your actions, both in the game and in the physical environment, become a performance for an audience. This performer/audience relationship can also prompt players to perform in a way that is more appealing to the audience, thus shifting the focus from functionally goal-directed behavior to more visually pleasing or impressive actions.” (Calleja, 2011, 104)

As described by Calleja, being aware of the fact that you are being watched by an audience, will affect your decisions and ultimately affect your immersion.
By including the audience as active members in the game experience, unfolding with Warlock v Wizards, this drawbacks described by Calleja, is no longer relevant, as the audience has turned from spectators, into active participants.(Fig 2)

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Figure 2 – A game of Warlocks v Wizards

As described in blogpost 1 utilizing Juul’s framework, we aimed to move the spectators from the 3rd frame, that of desire for management of social situation towards the 1st frame, that of desire to win (Juul, 2008).

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Figure 3 – Three Frames for Every Game Action(Juul 2008)

Through Warlock v Wizard we have tried to achieve this, by actively including everyone as active participants in the play experience, removing the meaning behind general terms such as primary and secondary players. Warlock and Wizards alike should feel equally important within the game world, therefore moving the spectators across the barrier of the magic circle, into the play experience.
This move from the 3rd to the 1st frame, not only affects the spectators, but equally affects the Warlock in the virtual space, as this player is now actively playing with the spectators, he can now focus on winning rather than maintaining the social situation.
This approach is the first step towards a more immersive game experience, but it is essential to remember that no matter which desire a player decides to adapt in a given situation, that the player will be constantly reevaluating and adapting this desire.

“..and other such phenomena (e.g. computer games) are constituted of signs and are therefore already too dependent on our bodily experience in and of real space to be “hallucinated”” (Aarseth, 2001, 162)

Understanding the context is essential when discussing the physical and virtual space. While playing in a virtual world, you will always be aware of your surroundings, and try to adhere to these, for example by trying to make flashy and impressive plays rather than simply trying to win, when observed by an audience (Calleja, 2011, 104).
Exemplifying that the physical context always affects the virtual world and its level of immersion.

“..in which a digital counterpart (symbolic and rule-based) strongly affects our experience of the space.” (Salinas et al, 2016, 118FF)

Just as Aarseth argues for the interplay between the physical and virtual space, Salinas et al agrees on the notion that not only does the physical space affect the virtual, but also vice versa, that the digital and virtual counterpart affects the physical space. This notion of interplay means that one cannot make the claim that the physical and virtual spaces are separate within a game, while not claiming they can’t be interpreted independently.

No matter the approach, it is important to tell the virtual space apart from the physical in order to understand their. This interplay between these different types of spaces that help create a formal identity that allows us to distinguish a particular game as unique from other games (ibid, 119).

Understanding their differences is essential in understanding the possibilities when these terms are combined in hybridity, just as the rules governing the experience, are tied to the hybridity of the experience, and as such, a new approach and understanding of rules is required.

Up until this point, the physical space has not been actively included in the play experience. We hope that our research and findings will lead to game designers in the future better utilizing the advantages of the physical space within the virtual, the feeling of people surrounding you, the sounds they make, the movements they make, all aspects that can never be fully achieved in a virtual world (Aarseth, 150FF), all leading to a higher level of immersion in what we describe as hybrid space.

Conclusion

Through this Blogpost, with basis in game play theory and rethinking virtual reality, we have researched sociality in relation to virtual reality games. With an analysis of sociality through the lens of our game concept Warlock v Wizards, we have shed lights on how the current Virtual Reality experience greatly lacks in regards sociality. By applying theories on sociality, immersion, asymmetric game play, narratives and our concept of hybrid spaces, we can argue that the game Warlock v Wizards functions as a means to address and tackle this social void.

Sociality and the way we understand behaviour and interactions are crucial to the development of a game that strives to include sociality as a core element. By being aware of these intricate social rules and how people act around each other, we can create a game that works within these rules and does not interfere with how we perceive ourselves and others; thus making the game unappealing to play.

This social addition to the gameplay in turn creates another level of immersion that only cooperation can create. The sheer number of people involved in the game automatically creates a sense of togetherness that enhance immersion. The asymmetric nature of the game further increase the immersion of Warlock v Wizards. The fact that each character have their own advantages through this asymmetry makes for interesting gameplay, regardless of which role you play.

By creating a game that unfolds in a hybrid space we provide player, researcher and game developer alike with a lens through which we can approach, reflect and relate to the sociality unfolding around a virtual reality experience.

Based on this knowledge, we hope that we can better utilize the advantages of the physical space within the virtual to better accommodate sociality and cooperation in order to achieve meaningful play among all participants.

This process has been documented through our product portfolio, which include a presentation, a video pitch and an academic poster.
(Product portfolio)

References

Aarseth, E. (2001) Allegories of Space The Question of Spatiality in Computer Games. Finland: University of Jyväskylä.

Cairns, Paul. et al (2013) Who But Not Where; The Effect of Social Play on Immersion in Digital Games. Elsevier, Holland.

Calleja, Gordon (2011) In-Game; From Immersion to Incorporation. MIT Press. Cambridge, London.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009) Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Row.

FamSquatSquad. (2017, August 4) BlogPost 1: Rethinking sociality – a theoretical approach. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from https://famsquatsquadblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/rethinking-sociality/

Fullerton, Tracy et al. (2008) Game Design Workshop: a Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. p.291-292, 294 (ISBN: 978-0240809748)

Goffman, Erving (1963) Behavior in Public Places; Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. The Free Press, U.S.A.

Juul, Jesper (2008) The Magic Circle and the Puzzle Piece. Universität Potsdam

McMahan, Alison (2003) The Video Game, Theory Reader. Routledge, UK.

Rowling, J. K. (1997-2007) Harry Potter.

Salen, Katie. Zimmerman, Eric (2003) Rules of Play; Game Design Fundamentals. The MIT Press. Cambridge, London.

Salinas, L., Coulton, P., & Dunn, N. (2016) Using Game Design as a Frame for Evaluating Experiences in Hybrid Digital/Physical Spaces. doi:, DOI: 10.1080/20507828.2015.1094227

Sicart, Miguel (2014) Play Matters. The MIT Press. Cambridge, London.

Sirlin, D. (2017, Feb. & march). Board Game Design Day: ‘Puzzle Strike’: A Design Diary. Lecture presented at Game Developers Conference 2017 in San Francisco, California. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1024235/Board-Game-Design-Day-Puzzle

Games

Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes (2015) Steel Crate Games

Mafia (1986) Davidoff, Dmitry

Warlock v Wizards (2017) FamSquatSquad

Figures

Figure 1: Picture of FamSquatSquad Member at Limitless  7th of august 2017 Aarhus

Figure 2: GIF of a Warlock v Wizard game, recorded 9th of august 2017 at Schön Aarhus.

Figure 3: Three Frames for Every Game Action. Juul, J.  2008. The Magic Circle and the Puzzle Piece (61). Universität Potsdam.

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