segunda-feira, 31 de julho de 2017

The importance of studying games, or why I travelled half of the world to attend a gaming conference

From July 12th until the17th, I was in one of the world’s most relevant gaming conferences: DIGRA 2017. It took place in Melbourne, Australia, in the fantastic Swinburne University. I attended this event in 2011 in Netherlands (by the way, it was the first time I was in an international conference) and it was a transforming moment in my professional/academic life. This year was not different: another great experience.

When I tell people about a gaming conference, they ask me how this works. First idea that comes to their minds is a place to play the newest games from big publishers, or an event full of gaming events. Well, the idea is very different from that. In a conference like DIGRA, we talk about the game industry, game design and tendencies, but the discussion goes beyond those subjects.

This year, we had excellent debates about sexuality in games, gender in games, gaming classification, historical contexts in ludic experiences, sound design, game design, interfaces, analogic vs. digital games, philosophy inside games, social contexts in games – these are just a few examples of the whole content. How is it possible? Because games – in the contemporary scenario - became a potent media and a very important platform to socialize, interact and cast messages.

DIGRA main panel (july 6th - 2017). Pic by @vincevader

In a conference like DIGRA, the specialists are discussing all these points inside a greater subject: games. One thing is a common sense among all the researchers: it is very difficult to study it, but all of us are trying to create a more serious space to debate this. As a Brazilian researcher, I understand the importance to be part of the gaming studies field, not only in my country, but also in other parts of the globe. Networking is another important keyword in this context.

So, answering the question on the title above: I travelled half of the world to “power up” my knowledge and reach a new level in my academic research. On the next months, I’ll try to write and produce more about all that I have experienced in this event.

Next year, the conference will be in Turin, Italy. Follow the DIGRA Twitter for more information. Keep your eyes open.


domingo, 9 de julho de 2017

Time, entertainment and the state of flow

When we are experiencing certain activities, time passes differently. Time can go fast when we are playing an interesting game, or slowly if we are watching a boring movie. It varies from person to person, but all of us have different perceptions of the time passing. In this context it’s important to highlight that there’s one chronological time (seconds, minutes, hours etc.) and a subjective time (one that affects every single individual in an unique way).

This is a complex subject to discuss in a short post, so I want to talk about these perceptions related to the gaming field. To help me in this mission, I’ll summon the ideas of the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This researcher (1975) has developed the idea of flow to explain some time lapses we can experience when we are involved in some specific activity. Csikszentmihalyi (1975) explains that “flow” is a state in which a person is fully immersed in an action and highly focused to the extent that one can experience, for example, a loss in the feeling of self-consciousness and time experience. To help us visualize this concept, Csikszentmihalyi created a graph to visually explain the idea of flow:

Source: Tolstoy Therapy

In a synthetic way, we can observe that there are two axes in the graph above: one shows the degree of challenge and other shows skill and confidence levels. When we are experiencing a very stressful situation (like an emergency surgery, one very difficult test or a complex work to be done in a short period) we can enter a zone of panic and anxiety. On the other hand, if we are experiencing a very boring situation (a monotonic class, an annoying movie or a non-challenging game) we can enter a zone of complete boredom. Both extremes lead us to states of attention that - potentially - are harmful to our minds.

But there’s one zone of perfect balance between a stressful situation and a complete boredom state: the flow. When we experience a state of flow, we immerse ourselves in a state of mind that we can even feel the passing of time differently. Have you ever played videogames for three hours but inside of your head, only one hour has passed? This is one situation when a flow happens.

Games are excellent examples to illustrate this discussion. When we like the experience of playing certain games (analogic or digital), we can feel immersed in the state of flow. So, one important component of game design is how to engage players in the game experience so that they potentially access the flow state. There’s no recipe for this, but to test a lot of games with different beta testers that could show some interesting ways to do it.

I want to dedicate this post to all gamers that need to wake up early, but instead say “just ten more minutes” (and play for another hour). =)



CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, Mihaly. Play and intrinsic rewards. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol 15(3), 1975, 41-63. Online >> click here.