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Friday, October 26, 2007

DiGRA notes day 3 Edward Castronova: Perfidious Oeconomy

Edward Castronova: Perfidious Oeconomy

Castronova's keynote the third day of the DiGRA conference stirred up reactions among the audience. The rhetoric of the performance was threefold.
First Castronova enacted a series of games played by people in the audience who went up to the stage. For each round a rule was added, and in a very neat way illustrated a way of statesmanship.

In anarchy the resource pool was depleted.
In the dictatorship one can take tax and make sure the pool grows.
In democracy players could also negotiate so the pool would grow.

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Then he went on to show some slides with the bottom line that the magical circle should be protected - in this specific case by not allowing real money trade in MMOs. After this he went on to describe the tragic childhood of an unknown person that we in the audience then recognised as JR Tolkien. It was a very effectfull speech, and it became personal when Castronova showed a picture of himself with his baby child, there is no distance in the eye in a situation like that. Bottom line: protect the magical space of escapism. Or Refugee from this harsh world. I got totally immersed in his speech, it felt very emotional. So when the speech was done I almost got annoyed when people in the audience questioned the personal approach, and how he could make that bridging. Several colleagues pointed out that the rhetoric used was very inspired by preaching, and so the response. I don't have much experience of being preached to, so I didn't recognise it as a pattern. It was interesting to first be so emotionally immersed and then immediately getting to question this feeling. One friend also made the argument that one does not make the world better by not engaging in it, by fleeing into a refuge of fantasy. This in relation to Castronova's reference to terrorism.
EC said, showing terrorism slide: “This is not how we were supposed to live. The road to middle earth is the way to home. Is not an escape.”
Then, referencing to real money trade in MMOs:”We have to protect the forest from the shopping mall, not the other way around. It is the market that invades. Fantasy too needs to be protected.”

I haven't made up my mind about the speech as a whole, and I probably won't. I, like many others, use fiction as a refuge and I have done so as long I can remember. But it doesn't mean that I spend all my time disconnected from others and the societies I'm part of. Thus a refuge - not a permanent withdrawal.The line of course has changed the past ten years since we have started to spend time in shared fantasies (stolen expression from Fine). Protecting this refuge from the power of market - I saw that as EC's main point, and I agree with that. But I think he would have gotten the point across also without being so personal. On the other hand I had an immersive experience while listening, and that was nice. I think what one can react to is that the same patterns of rethoric' has been used to manipulate large groups of people.

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He also made a disgression from the magic circle of the DiGRA conference, which is about game research, by bringing in the explosive subject of terrorism, unavoidably colored by subjectivity.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

DiGRA notes Day 2 - Player Character Dynamics in Multi-player Role playing games.

Player Character Dynamics in Multi-player Role playing games. Anders Tychsen, Ken Newman, Thea Brolund and Michael Hitchens.

This paper is of immediate use for my own research.

The empirical study supports that the player’s engagement in the player character is key for enjoyment in a multi player role playing game that highly complex player characters are not a problem for the player, and that players in fact, despite complexity, tend to use all features of the player character. Furthermore the results of their study indicate that likeness between the player’s own personality and the avatars doesn’t have impact on the experience: both avatars very alike the players themselves and very different was fun to play. That’s something I have wondered for years, if it is so or not. There are studies showing that people tend to create avatar that are visually alike themselves in virtual worlds, though but that trend doesn’t say anything about the actual enjoyment. I have used the design stance to let the player choose whether s/he makes the character alike or not, assuming that it depends on the mood of the day, the game, and on whether the player want to role play or not.
I’m happy that this study was made – now I can lean on it and make my previous assumptions to more supported statements. Whee!
I realize thought, after having read the paper in the proceedings, that I took for granted that the personality was actually implemented into the character stats, but in the paper it says it was used as role playing notes and as material in the description part of the character sheet. (//meaning I can’t use the results straight away since didn’t use a functional integrated avatar personality in the CRPG) So ill need to email Anders about that, and also ask him about some figures in the tables to make sure I haven’t misunderstood their findings.

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Freeform notes I threw down while listening:

Results of the study. Focusing on typical games.

Using EPAQ model for defining personality (of the real player? How use. Ok – just said: using those in the game story in the game world. Then exactly the same character template. D20.

Example characters. Polarised and rounded.

Tried different model, long evaluation. FUN model modified from Newman worked best in their setting.

No correlation between personality of character and player!

Not negative if very different!

No indication that complexity was negative!

Player-character relationship is key influence!

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Use: they used all features they could find.

No role play in the digital setting. However! If there is background info on character it is always used!

When they communicate with gm in digital – then they role-play! Only lasts as long as gm is present.

Larger set of character features enhances engagement.

//actually: Maybe make a GM:d test of WoM?


Q: you mean game designers are wrong.

A: nonono

//..But how transcribe EPAC model to d20?

Michael Nitsche: to what extent did the study look at the quality of the RPG? Abstraction layer?

Jaakko: how do you measure player-character relationship?

A: in the paper. We tried to capture as many variables as possible.

Tanya: Fable. Would be interesting to look at single player games too.

Michael, yes Planescape Torment

The slides I photographed

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

DiGRA notes Day 2 - Cross-format analysis of the gaming experience in multi-player role-playing games.

Anders Tychsen, Ken Newman, Thea Brolund, and Michael Hitchens:
Cross-format analysis of the gaming experience in multi-player role-playing games

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Freeform notes I threw down while listening:

Statement by Crawford – is it true, investigate.

Game masters. NWN.

Also recorded chat logs.

Players enjoyed pen and paper more than the digital.

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GM presence enhances the game. Age and gender not an important question.


Marcus M: How did you recruit test players? Differences re Australian and Danish players?

Anders: 8 of the ten people who had most fun were girls.

MH: some players limited experience of the forms, but it didn’t have a statistical impact.

Jaakko Stenros: In what order did they play? Digital or pen and paper first?

Anders: We put it on different days to avoid influence.

JS: Cultures emerging, transported to platforms?

MH: yes, different playing styles.

Michel Nitsche: fun-model of questionnaires across different games?

…use of the questions.

Link to he slides I photographed, uploaded to Flickr.

Monday, October 08, 2007

DIGRA notes Day 2 – mad dashing between sessions

I spent part of the second day of the DiGRA conference madly dashing between sessions in a futile attempt to catch all that I found interesting. The notes I took in the sessions I only heard parts of doesn’t make sense to me, but I post them here anyway, giving into my obsessive documentalist side and in the unrealistic hope they may make sense to someone else.

Petri Lankoski and Staffan Björk:
Gameplay Design Patterns for Believable Non-Player Characters

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Intentional Stance.

Pattern example //photo

Emotional Attachment. An example from the paper.

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//sentiment. Must remember to ref this.

2 screenshots.

Conclusion: different games need different stuff.

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Jose Zagal: but believable characters and narrative?

Guy in green t-shirt: prioritising of goals for NPCs? Could take oblivion and add that, see what happen?

Petri: hmm. Events in past doesn’t affect the NPCs in oblivion.

Green: annoying they don’t have individual memory of player.

Staffan: we looked at the shopkeepers in the different games and also looked at what they didn’t do.

//….session clashed with:

Deborah A. Fields and Yasmin B. Kafai:
Stealing from Grandma or Generating Cultural Knowledge? Contestations and Effects of Cheats in a Tween Virtual World

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//loved the title’s ref to Turkle’s stuff, but only saw a few minutes of the end of the QA.

Martin Pichlmair and Fares Kayali
Levels of Sound: On the Principles of Interactivity in Music Video Games

//missed largest part of the talk again.

Lots of games based on music, ddr, guitarhero singstar, various DS games. The guitar hero controller. Not about making music, rather letting the music continue. Guitar freaks (Japanese original). Synaesthesia. Kandinsky. Electroplankton.

Magy chairing.

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Simon Niedenthal
Real-Time Sweetspot: The Multiple Meanings of Game Company Playtests

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QA //I missed out the actual talk

Q: differences in the testing of single-and multiplayer?

SN: in the sweet spot test there were to teams of four.

Q: one can read it in two ways. Using it as part of game design, and also demonstration to publishers marketers etc. Designer might want to keep it private in certain stages.

SN: There is definitely that kind of tension. Big awareness about this. Scepticism of the rating of the success of the test.

TL Taylor: you said testing facilities were moved off site: effects?

SN: security issue, good question, not sure.

Clara: What about focus tests, other kinds of test? What about testing levels, smaller tests?

SN: no in-house test except everyone playing it.

Q: what perspective did the designers have on the play testers? Did they tell the players what to look for?

SN: testing now in this company’s culture. Didn’t tell the testers, just listening. New for them.

William Huber: Unit values, behaviours, was the UI fixed after this testing?

SN: they had it quite far at the test for the level, almost finished, more a test bed for trying the other features. No big changes in UI. No deliberate usability testing.

Q: Other genres of play testing? The halo 3 play testing. Millions into it. And players saying its “too tested”.

Panel Session : Women in Games 2007

Suzanne de Castell, Jennifer Jenson, Helen W. Kennedy, Doris C. Rusch, Marianne Selsjord, Emma Westecott

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// I missed out the presentations but heard the discussion.

Emma W: Future directions?

Jennifer Jenson: What happens if we don’t ask what women and girls want? What if we do it in another way? Players constrained by work, family regulations? Guilty pleasure taking time for playing? Inverse promise?

Helen Kennedy: Emerging now girls do do. Engendered taste. Keyed to understand. Is girls play novice play?

Susanne de Castel: Maybe stop being surprised. A feeling of repetition. What prosthetic devices to use to see world differently. Leftoutness. Trap.

Marianne Selsjord. Both men and women. Share same future. Concerning aesthetics. The trend of production in same aesthetics. TV show were discussion was that the more realistic characters are, the more zombie like that Are: aerie, corpses. Now to make people cry, to really feel. Only emotions fear and aggression. What about sympathy and love? Maybe an awakening now?

Barry: as a father of daughters. Not the male gamer I used to be. To what extent has the industry surprised us? Particularly Nintendo. No need to say what if anymore.

Jennifer Jenson: Tournament, girls playing with boys, girl outplayed the boys on guitar hero. The controller made it possible.

Susanne de Castell: Jenkins said digital games more important since we don’t have the space. The 50 hour games not available for girls that are constantly interrupted and don’t have the option to say no.

Emma W: play of a lifetime. Times, as when adolescent. Patterns in lifetime, generational difference.

Q: if girls and boys play different, how does it apply to you and your work?

JJ: Range of behaviour for cooperation for example. Attributions of novice play.

SdC: configurations depending of year one two three. Not paid enough attention to the conditions of people. Not just how ppl “are”. Different behaviours dependent on conditions.

Celia Pearce: Space, rotation… “girls not good at space” Not what the data says, rather which tasks they prefer in games. Alzheimer’s test on men and women, finding the same thing. Baby boomer gamers. Differences go away after a certain age. Big differences in adolescence, but they lessen.

Emma W: industry efforts to involve women. Women put in positions of power at publishing companies. Wider work force. Attract and retain.

Symposium : Tokyo Drift: Imports to the Japanese Developer Community (IGDA Session)

Jason Della Rocca, John Abrehamson, Dylan Cuthbert, Robert Ota Dieterich, Kees Gajentaan, Bart Sekura, Colin Williamson

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Male domination in comparison?

- DS has changed a lot. A game for girls and their moms. Team at Sega who makes it is mostly women.

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- Nichannel

- Going to siggraph and gdc.

- Industry and government. Rating system. Cero. Restrictions on violence.

- Decapitation of limbs. Ninja Gaiden. Soul and body as one.

- Psp konami game…

- Lots of educational titles for the ds.

- Glass ceilings?

- No reward of success, instead punishment of failure.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

DiGRA notes day 2: Creating Multiplayer Ubiquitous Games using an adaptive narration model based on a user’s model.

Stéphane Natkin, Chen Yan, Sylvie Jumpertz, and Bernard Marquet:
Creating Multiplayer Ubiquitous Games using an adaptive narration model based on a user's model

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It was interesting to see the progress of this work that I found to bee one of the highlights of the ACE2006 Conference. They have kept the three layered narration structure as presented a year ago, but this presentation focussed on the user model, which also was presented in a three layered model. Dividing things in three seem to be a meta-narrative of this interesting research project.

Freeform notes I threw down while listening:

The designer thinking of the implied player.

On the three personalities of a player,

Good idea to divide it into layers (3).

Using 5 factor model, based on Myers Briggs

Instantiation of quest according to the player’s current state. Adaptation of the player model according to the chosen quest.

Short video of a racing game, built at the university. Wheelchair race.

Needed budget, 50 – 100players playing 2 weeks, give them clients etc,

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Staffan B: Single player?

AN: It is multiplayer. Assign roles to each other. But this doesn’t work in ubiquitous games due to RL obligations. Instead have alternate ways to complete the quests. 15 possible quests that can be assigned to each player.

Q: why do you call it a narrative structure rather than functional?

SN: Narrative as a series of quests. More complex sequences. Level design in the real city.

Q: we are building an ubiquitous game with a feedback loop for actions. If I understand right you have an avatar. We use the god model instead. The general purpose model tends to be generic. In our games we need specific information about what the player is doing RL, is he brushing his teeth… sitting on a char?

SN: There is an individualization of each player. It is between having an avatar and playing a role. On the second point. It is difficult to adapt a design for all different real world situations. Depends on actuators and actors. Difficult to have a model that fit every game.

Here are the photos of the slides I posted on Flickr

DiGRA notes day 2: Gambling is in My Genes by Byungho Park

Byungho Park, University of Singapore:

Gambling is in My Genes: Correlations between Personality Traits with Biological Basis and Digital Entertainment Choice

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Freeform notes I threw down while listening:

Gambling part of Chinese culture, the important concept of luck.

Sensation seeking, Marvin Zuckerman, 1994, lots of talk about it in the 70ties.

Controversy if gamblers are ss or not. Could depend on treatment program: in depression ss goes down. So Park looks at normal population, i.e. not in treatment programs.

Data: no significant correlation of SS and gambling, and even less in the amount of money spent.

Motivational System (i.e. other system than traits). Biological. Lots of studies in Psychology on this. Activation rate (//cmpr my sys with trait nodes but activation and decay rates in the spreading activation NW)

//BP good at explaining his research.

Individuals have different activation rates.

Positivity offset. In a neutral environment appetitive system is stronger than the aversive. Cave man example. PO differs in individuals. Tied to how much seeking of novelty.

MAM. In test showing ppl photos and asking about aversion, positiveness, and arousal.

Using this got a stronger correlation in the Park’s data. Strong PO ppl prefer FPSes, while those with less may prefer solitaire or slow paced/turn based board games.


Aki Järvinen: …

P: in clinical psychology… skill level

//I remember the presentation at the SvS symposium where someone from Karolinska showed cat scans (or was it MRI?) of brains of ppl who were addicted to drugs and gambling. Damaged/changed areas. Saying it was permanent. And the other presentation where a therapist said that is not permanent at all. Wonder what his take is…?

…I asked… long good answer, hypothalamus.

Frans: poker play study.

Photographed slides from the paper session that I uploaded to Flickr.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

DiGRA notes day 1: Symposium : DiGRA Present and Futures

The 2007 DiGRA Conference started with a discussion. What I found especially interesting was Bob Appelman’s summaries of what subject areas have been submitted historically to the conference. As a few in the audience pointed out it would have been interesting to see the acceptance rate in the different areas. A bit worrying that there is a trend of fewer and fewer papers on design and implementation. (See photos of slides i put on Flickr)

My take on the discussion in retrospect of the panel is that members need to take more ownership in the organisation. The suggestions to have local geographical chapters and SIGs (special interest groups) seem good. Marinka Copier’s and other’s work in the Netherlands is a good example of how beneficial it can be with local geographical chapters. They meet on a regular basis to discuss and do interesting seminar-stuff. I mostly meet other Scandinavian game researchers at international conferences on other continents. SIGs would be good too. Anders Tychesen, Petri Lankoski and me discussed one regarding player character design (which would have to be a very sub-sub-sig, sine it's so specialised) in the breaks. Emma Westecott suggested having an additional discussion board on Facebook which I think is an excellent idea since it would give an air of casualty to discussions. For some reason, at least for me, the threshold for writing and posting on Facebook is lower than on any other web forum.

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Tanya Krzywinska (chair)

Bob Appleman

Helen Kennedy

Douglas Thomas

Frans Mäyrä

Esther Maccullum-Stuart.

Jason delarocca

Patrick Crogan

Freeform notes I threw down while listening:

What is DiGRA?

TK: together.... interdisciplinary... important in continues being ID. Diversity. Serve research community. New executive board.

BA: //showing slides.

BG in filmmaking. Games industry adding interactivity. Creating stories. Looked at DiGRA past, taxonomy of papers into different baskets. //photographed.

1st showed papers 2005. …comparison of the 3 years. //design and development has gone down. BA says it bothers him, and I agree.

Delivery modes gone up. Young discipline. A responsibility to bring maturity.

JDL: it’s not the research that should pick the focus; it’s the DiGRA that should. Other organisations that covers what is missing here?

BA: need to put in research from other areas

TK: Inclusively is important. If one narrows too much one could loose enriching diversity.

JDL: Audience?

A1: did that slide show the submitted or published?

BA: Submitted. Does not know how acceptance was

A1: would be interesting to see acceptance rate in comparison to submitted themes.

BA: Agrees.

A2: …

JDL: DiGRA can’t touch so much on tech stuff, so many other venues for that.

A3: there is a split between ppl who work in technical area and those who study critically. I would like to see crossings between that would be better, DiGRA could look at that. Wider grouping. Discussion between those areas.

TK. Good point. Move on. Inclusively. I want to encourage national chapters of DiGRA. One in Japan now and one in Holland. Local chapter that can make conferences, such as post docs. How can we encourage ppl to form new chapters?

FM: I have my own. Future challenge. Incredible what has happened the last years, gone all over the world. Now improve what has been going on. Learning experiences. 27 countries attending this conference. How create more sense of community and contact? Breed cross-fertilization. Important to do it on a national level. Needs identity shift? Main threat currently is to be so thinly threaded that we do not reach a critical mass in any area. Need to have professors in key positions. Junior people now pushing it forward. If everyone spread the work and distribute knowledge reputation will grow within own university structures. Cross fertilisation, new research areas, learning from the existing. That is my take on this.

Julian K: Interesting to talk about organisational structure, and critical mass. But I wonder, could we not be more innovative? We are still thinking in terms of top down organisation in national chapter. Network structures. Message to use to grow DiGRA. Not necessarily grow individual nodes but increase the networkness of DiGRA. Quicker ways of dissemination that the traditional. DiGRA has indeed increased the networkness but is still rooted in the top down view of organisations. We could send out pre conference papers for example, and the DiGRA website is underused. Just an idea.

TK: good point. People still do want to meet in person. Presence in the network, there is work to be done.

Kelly: Hi i'm a developer, new to DiGRA. What kind of activities do you have?

Marinka Copier: We in Holland meet 4 times a year, very interdisciplinary. Bring into practice. Not yet talked about SIGs, but I think those are two ways. I think we need more focus.

JDL: lack of definition what a SIG is. List of tools and resources. In IGDA its totally bottom up, people voicing their needs for SIGs. For chapters though, I do not recommend national chapters. City based is better, so people can meet.

FM: well in Finland its different, basically ten people that met…

JDL: a commute metric. If one can get to a meeting point in one hour for example… //I agree. See Malmö and Copenhagen for example.

TK: Move on now. To Esther.

Esther: Hardcore. It is a short column, aims to come out every month. 1500 words. Make a point. Game studies. Have some kick in it. Pose a challenge. Different ways of looking at games. We want to open this up. We have invited before, but there are so many more with things to say. …that’s Hardcore.

TK: Please submit! So it’s not just from people we know. And if you have suggestions we welcome them.

PC: And do post your comments.

TK: we will end now with Helen. //Helen showing slides.

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Helen Kennedy: DiGRA future.

Many of us are quite isolated in research. Needs to address this. SIGs.

Context specific challenges. Address by sponsoring smaller conferences. Building awareness and recognition in academia. Quarterly month letter. Want to transform it. Chapter reports and SIGs. DiGRA Journal.

TK. Open floor to questions.

A4: echo Julian. Doing quests together. Go back to where the passion exist, not blog to the ether. Tricky to start. Look to central point. Little more organisation. Past list. Passion. Make things happen. I think the conference is enough.

PC: as soon as you have a board you have a symbolic master. Difficult from board perspective to proclaim that we are now a great network. We don’t get together often enough to form a hierarchy.

DT: suddenly faced with things that have come together, alienated. Disciplinary foundation of knowledge. Lot of books coming out. Canonising certain books. Getting to be a discipline. New comity this year. Struck by a cpl of tings. When submissions came: what are we doing? Categories. Scholarship in game studies. Ask people in review board to pick people to make reviews of papers, have the right people reviewing the papers. Organic development flow. If we have a sense of what DiGRA is it might become exclusive.

TK: facilitating more conversation.

FM: GS can be many things but a certain combination of humanities and sciences. That will continue, it not just game studies. A body of knowledge have organisational issues and shifts of paradigms. Whenever talking about DiGRA its bottom up and network structures. When in need to appear to the outside, then good to appear traditional and hierarchical, look solid. But it is as important to have the coffee room conversations. If we close down DiGRA someone will demand its rebirth, what form would it have.

A5: The conference is the most important thing. People outside the area don’t know that this research is going on. Ppl working in close areas need to know. Need to be promoted.

HK: had a similar experience at a film conference where ppl didn’t know about the research that is going on, but that’s downright sloppy. It takes five minutes on the internet to find out.

Torril Mortensen: work has to happen in smaller groups. AN example from Norway. Of telling people about it and how to find it. What search words people use.

Regional thing important. The joy of talking to someone who understands what one says. That’s why we all are here. What we share. This is what is so important with DiGRA.

BA: You bring up the education of others. Basis in experience of play. True essence. If people have never played games it is difficult to communities. At our universities we invite them to come and see what we do. A huge work to educate the environment around us.

FM: we are working on a Finnish website. Writing basic facts about game studies for a broader audience. I recommend to do it nationally had been really good.

A6: Is DiGRA reaching out into the industry? I represent the serious games institute. Also UK Government. R&D. Collaboration between DiGRA and industry, how much collaboration is there between academics and industry?

TK: It is happening locally. Situated. A key thing that needs to grow.

HK: It’s not a one way street. What partners do you have?

A6: Several universities. Learning, Animation, Interactive Design. Complementary skills. When companies go out and pitch they have an academic ground.

DT: this question comes up on most conferences. Industry saying: help us sell more games, and researchers saying: give us more data. We need a space for this discourse. Our function is not only to make better games.

EMS: many games researchers wearing many hats. Local structures often randomly deciding what kind of departments they are in.

TK: function of DiGRA to facilitate conversation.

JDL: can DiGRA serve its members by creating those bridges? Comes down to what DiGRA is, what is most important; publishing, networking, contact with industry…. Bottom up organic nature. The board already don’t too much. There was a sense of need for a board, and then every one else just stepped back. Should I be doing it or should someone in the board do it? I would also want to know if you are members… half of the room not members. (Hands in air). That needs to chance. //am I a member? I cannot remember. I must ask.

Ren Reynolds: DiGRA a thing of identity. But we do some things…. We had a symposium in Edinbrough with academia and industry, but I didn’t think of asking DiGRA… now i’m setting up a think tank, but should I talk to DiGRA about that. What could DiGRA do for me?

Michael Nietche: But maybe DiGRA shouldn’t facilitate everything. Are the DiGRA and the conference the same thing? Maybe you should rule us more…?

JDL: what is holding people back?

FM: DiGRA is on Facebook…RSS feeds.

HK: in response for Ren: it’s a chicken and an egg thing. Members paying there fees would give us some recourses for helping and sponsoring. Hooking people up, finding expertise.

JDL: is there a Wiki set up?

Petri Lankoski: I can put it up as soon as someone has something to put there…

JDL: a Wiki alone can be used for much.

A7: I used to go to the kay conferences and hci and exactly the same issues are addressed there. Design, theory and practice feeding into each other.

A8: Are any of you in the board students?


A8: how can DiGRA help students?

HK: there are student places on the board.

JDL: help students in what context?

A8 (Anders): Any!

JDL: help them become researchers?

A8: a page for job search?

A9: the path to a discipline. Students coming out of masters and PhD… and focus only on games. A problem with being not such an established discipline. Is it important to establish game research as a discipline?

TK: ppl coming from different areas may not stay. It is a discipline when it suits us. It can be an aspect of something else in some contexts. I want both! Multidisciplinary. Not a monolith.

A9: are you saying there is no need for it?

PC: we will have a post doc symposium on publications and publication venues.

TK: running out of time. Thank you so much