Hi! My name is Jesper Juul and I’m a video game theorist, occasional game developer, and author of a bunch of books on gaming. Have you ever felt like stabbing your eyes out after failing to make it to the next level of a game? And yet you continued slogging away? I have. I even wrote a book about why we play video games despite the fact that we are almost certain to feel unhappy when we fail at them. I’ve also written about casual games (they are good games!), and I have one coming in September on the history of independent games — and on why we always disagree about which games are independent.

And I’m Mia Consalvo, a professor and researcher in game studies and design at Concordia University in Montreal. Among other books, I’ve written a cultural history of cheating in video games and have a forthcoming book on what makes a real game. That one is in a series of short books that I edit with Jesper (along with a couple of other game designers) called Playful Thinking.

Video games are such a flourishing medium that any new perspective on them is likely to show us something unseen or forgotten, including those from such “unconventional” voices as artists, philosophers, or specialists in other industries or fields of study. We try to highlight those voices.

We’ll be here from 12 – 2 pm EDT answering any and all questions about video games and video game theory. Ask us anything!

UPDATE: Thanks everyone for the great questions. We might poke around later to see if there are any other outstanding questions, but we're concluding things for today. Have a great end of July!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/ayvocay3ghc31.jpg

Comments: 394 • Responses: 67  • Date: 

initialzx559 karma

What’s your favorite Juul pod flavor?

uchuskies08189 karma

Thoughts on the microtransaction trends? Huge source of continual revenue for developers, but diminishes the gaming experience in a lot of the games.

the_mit_press164 karma

Jesper: I am torn on this: On one hand, criticism of microtransactions tends to be identical to common criticisms of video games in general: "they exploit the psychology of players, they are just about money, they have not redeeming value" etc. etc. etc... That make me suspect that complaints about microtransactions are just complaints about a new business model that we didn't have when we were growing up. And really: remember that the traditional game-in-a-box-for-one-price model has its own problems such as paying $60 up front for a game that turns out to be terrible, or when single player games are padded with 20 hours of dull content to justify the purchase price.

On the other hand, yes, there are microtransaction-games, especially geared towards children, that are pretty manipulative.

But in the end, I think it's just a particular business model that's not obviously better or worse than other models. I have happily paid €100 for items in Clash Royale because I felt it was worth it, and more worth it than some of the dull games I have on my shelf. So I feel the microtransactions may be better than their reputation.

inckorrect276 karma

Well, there is an obvious difference. Video games are all about managing frustration, but when you pay upfront that frustration is going to be set up by the developers so that you can have the best experience possible.

With the microtransaction model, that frustration if going to be set up so that you'll want to pay the most to complete your objective.

That's two completely different experiences with two different goals from the developers.

As customers, it's obvious that microtransactions are not in our best interests.

the_mit_press61 karma

Mia here- I would agree, BUT, since the opening of the app store on the iPhone, the predominant price for apps has become either free or 99 cents. More often free. This is people driving the market, and game developers must make money somehow. I still think they could do this more ethically, but places like the app store have normalized free-to-play and microtransactions for lots of things, unfortunately.

lazy_traveller21 karma

So microtransactions are bad for the quality of games but necessary for the developers to be able to make at least those?

the_mit_press12 karma

Jesper: You obviously have bad microtransaction games, but there are also good ones. I don't mean to declare that all business models are the same, but it's not obvious to me that any one business model leads to the best games.

Mateussf137 karma

Why do some people dedicate so much time of their lives on old video games, way past the point they were intended to be played? I'm thinking of speedrunners who try to find weird bugs that will save them 0.1 second and that guy that wants to play Super Mario 64 with no A presses, amongst others.

the_mit_press154 karma

Mia here -- I've interviewed several speedrunners for my research on livestreaming on Twitch, and asked them the same question. Mostly it's about wanting a particular type of challenge - we all want to be good at something, and for these folks, figuring out the inner workings of a game is their type of challenge. They enjoy practicing and improving their technique, and then trying to perform optimally for a new run record. It's almost like a sport - athletes train for years to increase their speed and reduce their completion times by 1.0 seconds too. Many of them also point out that the speedrunning community (while definitely not perfect) can be a very fun place, with people sharing tips and tricks for improvement, rather than hoarding their secrets. If you want to know more about the practice, Rainforest Scully-Blaker, my former MA student, wrote a great thesis about the practice of speedrunning. If you can't find it online I can send you a copy.

the_mit_press122 karma

Jesper here: I think there is an enjoyment in not only beating the game as it was meant to be played, but beating the idea of what the game is at all.
If we speedrun, we can feel that we are making the game into something entirely new, beating not only the regular challenge, but the programming, the design, everything.

mvanvoorden47 karma

Basically like Neo bending the laws of physics in The Matrix.

the_mit_press53 karma

Jesper: That's a good analogy: You definitely feel that you have transgressed the regular physics of the (game) world.

Mateussf71 karma

What makes most educational videogames so bad, and what can be done to help it?

the_mit_press128 karma

Mia here - early educational videogames were often terrible because they were mostly designed just as a way to push content into a person's brain. "Here, do this math problem and then you get the reward of fun gameplay for a few minutes" was often the approach. We're now seeing more educational games that try to do a better job. For example, games that teach about science and the scientific method by having players engage in figuring out how to solve problems using actual science. At the same time these projects don't have as much money as AAA games, and sometimes they run out of time/funding without being able to do the best possible job. People are also learning that these games are best used in concert with a dedicated teacher - not just on their own. So we still have lots of work to do, but I think they are slowly improving.

Someguy323928 karma

Do you have an educational video games that you felt did a good job? I particularly remember “M&M’s the Lost Formulas” from my childhood as a math game I played a ton of.

the_mit_press39 karma

I think the folks at Muzzy Lane (who do historical simulation games) have done a pretty good job with their titles.

g_jonsson23 karma

Games don't have to try to be educational to actually be educational. See Civilization, Hearts of Iron, Total War etc. What are your favourite examples of video games accidentally being excellent for educational purposes? Best wishes from Sweden!

the_mit_press31 karma

Mia here- good point! I mentioned it elsewhere but I enjoyed Okami in part for what I learned about Japanese mythology from playing it.

maydaymaster69 karma

Hi Mia and Jesper.

What are your thoughts about creating good research about video games? How do you prove points derived from playing a video game. Is it mostly about experimental designs, interviews or some other etnographical way you use when proving points derived from playing a game?

And lastly a silly question: How can we even derive theoretical standpoints when there often seems to be a lack of hard evidence or factual (not opiniated) concepts in video games studies? (Is it always gonna be down to arguments that are built upon other arguments, or are there some hard truths that can be used in video game research?)
Edit: typos

the_mit_press73 karma

Mia here - doing good research is a challenge in any field - not just in game studies. I usually gravitate towards player studies, and doing interviews, so I have some data to point to in order to back up assertions I make about how or why people play, for example. But you also have to be careful in that we can't generalize to 'everybody thinks this' as we just can't interview everybody. And often those who want to talk to us have strong viewpoints. The quiet and/or very casual people often aren't interested in taking part. So we always have to be cautious in our claims about 'what players say' for example.

In terms of theoretical standpoints and hard evidence, I'd say that game studies sits between the humanities and social sciences, where "hard evidence" is different from a place like the physical sciences. I am not interested in "proving" what effects games may have - instead I am interested in understanding how people make games a part of their lives; what they do with them; what they mean to them, and so on. Let me know if that answers your question or not.

vickylittle25 karma

Hi Mia, thanks for this answer. As someone who is knee-deep in a Master's project centering on the disruptive effects of participatory livestreaming on in-game play -- and preparing to apply for PhD programs this fall -- you've really nailed a lot of the challenges that video game researchers face. If I could piggyback on u/maydaymaster's original question, do you foresee a movement within higher education towards offering actual PhD in Game Studies programs? Or do you expect the current paradigm of game studies researchers working within interdisciplinary PhD programs to remain the norm? Thanks!

the_mit_press21 karma

I think we'll continue to see the latter, and I prefer it that way. The (few) decent academic jobs that remain usually center on disciplines, and getting a degree in Game Studies when there are very very few game studies programs/departments means graduates would have an even harder time finding a job. Some folks do create individual specialized degrees, but often they don't want to teach, and are interested in advancing their creative activity, or pursuing a very specialized field of inquiry that no one place can offer.

And I'd love to know more about your livestreaming research!

usbdongle-goblin52 karma

How many times a week do people make juul jokes to you?

the_mit_press71 karma

Jesper: About once. I wish I could get royalties.

6StringAddict35 karma

What's your opinion on the fact that people claim video games induce violence? I've been playing shooters or otherwise action filled games all my life, but never had the intention to hurt other people because of it.

the_mit_press56 karma

Mia here- I answered this in part elsewhere, but at BEST the evidence is mixed about games and violence, and much of the work is problematic for multiple reasons. Social science also deals with predicting the behaviors of populations (some X% will have problems) and not individual people. But either way - there's a great book by Barrie Gunter called Does Playing Video Games Make Players More Violent that I'd recommend. His tldr is that it is all very complicated, and even experts agree that there is no one "cause" that makes us violent or not. A game or a book or a movie or a bad friend even might contribute IF we already have personal problems, family problems, environment problems, etc, but no one thing will push a well adjusted person over the edge.

mistereousone34 karma

What goes wrong every time when developing a game?

the_mit_press72 karma

Jesper here: Most developers overscope - they come up with too many features, and end up not having time to implement them. You can usually see this if you follow the development of a game - lots of features end up not making it.

Also many developers just don't playtest enough, and you can tell.

the_mit_press48 karma

Mia here - probably underestimating how much time it will take to make it. Which is also true of games researchers, as we (or at least me) underestimate how much time it will take to analyze a game, or to conduct interviews, or do analysis, or whatever. Because every game and research project is unique, it's very hard to know how much time to budget.

mannyrmz12333 karma

What do you think of playing video game through streaming service (ie: Stadia), which is apparently the future of the industry?

the_mit_press74 karma

Mia here - I'm really concerned about this, actually. Lots of people don't have the extremely fast, cheap internet to support such services, and this places even greater control of the game in the hands of publishers and service providers. It also means they (publishers, cloud providers) can mine your data for all kinds of things and no one has really talked about the privacy implications. I'm watching how this rolls out with a lot of concern.

the_mit_press1 karma

Mia here - I'm really concerned about this, actually. Lots of people don't have the extremely fast, cheap internet to support such services, and this places even greater control of the game in the hands of publishers and service providers. It also means they (publishers, cloud providers) can mine your data for all kinds of things and no one has really talked about the privacy implications. I'm watching how this rolls out with a lot of concern.

hoerensagen31 karma

Are video game "specialists" like you, which do research and theory a lot, in demand in the industry in any way? Or in other industries? I noticed I might have an opportunity to study game studies but I think the job market for that kind of degree isn't too promising. Have you guys studied game design as such? What kind of work have you done and did it pay enough (to live)?

And Mia, where do your students usually go after studying? How is the job market?

the_mit_press22 karma

Mia here - I mostly teach graduate students and some of them want to become academics, while others go out and work in various media industries. Sometimes they work in player testing, and some big companies also are interested in having researchers on their team to test how various game/mechanics/moderation changes impact player behavior.

When I was an undergrad, studying game design was not a thing. I did video production, but then continued on for a degree in Mass Communication (basically media studies). Most of my students are in academia, but a few work in social media and other media companies. As with all things media-related, the job market has always been competitive in creative industries.

aParkedBlueCar26 karma

Growing up, my parents would avoid buying certain types of games for me because they thought the game itself would be a bad influence on me. Are there certain video games or genres that experts, like y’all, have concluded to be bad influence on kids or society?

the_mit_press50 karma

Mia here - there's no evidence that a well adjusted person with a strong social network of support can be 'turned bad' by videogames, or any other media. There have to be issues relative to a person's personality, psychosocial development, family background, and other factors for games to even start to contribute to attitudinal or behavioral problems. At the same time I think parents should definitely be active in considering what media they want their kids to consume. At a teenager I watched Salem's Lot at a friend's house and had nightmares for a while. I also can't play survival horror games for the same reason. That's just to say some kids may not be mature enough to handle the themes in certain games at certain points in their lives. But that doesn't mean that games are a 'bad influence' - they are only one thread in our complex lives.

JeffRyan122 karma

Hi Jesper and Mia!

Have either of you "gamified" an aspect of your life to make it more enjoyable than ti used to be? Like turning folding laundry into a series of minigames to be completed in sequence?

the_mit_press31 karma

Jesper here: Definitely. I break down my writing process into lists of small tasks. ("Make the transition between chapter 1 and 2 better", "double-check Consalvo reference", and so on.)When I write, I can then consistently experience a point-like progression by ticking of completed tasks. In a way, my writing more consistently gives me points than game-playing does.

I also do soft gamification like timing dishwashing or other mundane tasks to track my progress.

Mr_Veo20 karma

I've heard it said (by British parliament) that the W.H.O. has labeled video games as being 'addictive', but do you have theories as to why games are exclusively singled out and the same is never applied to other entertainment or media like TV, music, reading or internet surfing?

the_mit_press27 karma

Jesper: Other researchers have thoughts about the general structure of media panics, and remember that books, film, jazz, rock'n'roll, comics, have all been seen at dangerous at one point.

In general I think that the main finger-pointing shifted from video games to social media around 5 years ago. Notice how it's now Twitter and Facebook that we think are destroying civilization (I do kind of feel that).

But more speculatively: is there something particular about video games? Perhaps the fact that they are "interactive" leads to constant conceptual confusion when we say "I shot him", while referring to something that happened in-game, and then they easily get discussed as if it really happened?

impaly15 karma

What are some good games you guys would suggest?

the_mit_press29 karma

Mia here - total plug for games made by people I know and respect: The Church in the Darkness (a sim game about a cult); and Boyfriend Dungeon (a dating game where you date your weapons).

iamscythed13 karma

What do you think of competitive games and e-sport in general ? In most competitive games, the average win rate is around 50% (MOBA, RTS, FPS), and a lot of people get frustrated, yet they continue playing. What is your opinion on all this ? Do you think gaming, and e-sport in general, has a future ?

the_mit_press28 karma

Mia here - kind of a lot going on in this question. I'm not a big eSports person as I prefer single player games, but I definitely understand their appeal. I think eSports are here to stay, but also that the companies that create those games need to commit even more resources to making their communities decent places to hang out in for all types of players.

malseraph12 karma

Mia might have covered this topic in her cheating book, but have either of you look into the psychology of players who spend ridiculous sums of money on in game items? Just curious on the motivation and if these players bounce around a lot between games.

the_mit_press14 karma

Mia here - I didn't look at psychology specifically and haven't studied those folks specifically (when I wrote Cheating the free to play model wasn't really a thing). I'd recommend looking to research by Yvette Wohn - she might have some insights about that.

mildly_asking12 karma

First, thank you for this AMA. This is not what I expected when I peeked on Reddit while avoiding Uni assignments.

My question would be: any tips for a literature undergrad with interest in games?

I am an undergraduate student of literature, with a deep interest in game studies. For around a year, I've sought out anything I came across that was connected to the academic study of games, as long as it was vaguely in the humanities and vaguely in my area. I'd like to claim that I am aware of most literature that might come up in an introductory course, but I'm not exactly sure where to go from here and advice is always nice to scoop up.approaches I knew or know little about.

Bonus Question: is Davey Wredens The beginner's guide a game, and should one care about such questions?

the_mit_press14 karma

Mia here - there is a TON of literature out there so it's hard to make blanket recommendations. The journal "Game Studies" is open source and has lots of good stuff generally. Also looking at work by Celia Pearce, TL Taylor, Souvik Mukherjee, Adrienne Shaw, and Kishonna Gray would be good starting points. But if you tell us more about your interests I can further narrow the list.

LOL to your bonus question. I guess MY question would be, why do people feel the need to claim it isn't a game? What are the stakes when people make distinctions about what is or is not a 'real' game?

the_mit_press9 karma

Jesper re: Beginner's Guide.

Art forms evolve - remember that many people thought that sound would destroy cinema, so it's not productive spend too much time trying to freeze art forms in their current state. I think it is more useful to think about how (for example) Beginner's Guide is different than other games - how is it part of video game history?

When we think about walking simulators like Dear Esther, it at first seems different than other games, but then you realize that AAA single player often has lots of walking between action sequences, so walking is actually part of video game tradition.

It is quite similar to art history in that way - many now-canonical art works were considered outrageous when they came out, so the best question may be to think about how a new experimental game fits with the tradition, rejecting conventions, confirming them, or subverting them.

AnonymouslyJordan11 karma

Favorite games?

the_mit_press35 karma

Mia here- one of my favorite games of all time is Okami. It was absolutely beautiful from an art and music/sound perspective, I loved the story, and the interaction system was fun and unique. More recently I've been a fan of the Dragon Age series. I even like the second one.

e3m36 karma

Hey Mia I've recently started Dragon Age as well(nightmare) and I'm hoping to ask: What difficulty do you generally play long RPGs in and why. I myself generally play on highests as they tend to make me feel better about myself when I beat them.

the_mit_press13 karma

Mia here - I usually play on Normal difficulty. My life is busy and there are too many games out there in my queue to do otherwise. :)

the_mit_press27 karma

Jesper here: I like different games at different times. I was really into Mass Effect (pre Andromeda) and even liked the ending.
Right now, I am obsessing over Paper.io 2. I also had a Super Monkey Ball period. And I love co-op such as Guacamelee and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. And experimental games from Braid to EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK.

Trussmagic11 karma

Do you agree that Gaming is additive to some people? I am 60 years old and have been gaming since the early 90's. My behavior with playing Everquest cost me a marriage. I learned and grew from the divorce. I remarried and wife 2.0 is also a gamer. Now even with arthritis I still play a few hours each weekday evening and more on the weekends.

the_mit_press14 karma

Mia here - I hesitate to use the word addiction as it has a medical frame of reference. I have definitely known people that used games in problematic ways. But it was often due to their being unhappy with some element of their life, and the game became an escape. The current research on games and addiction is problematic for lots of reasons, but if you want to know more about it, check out the work of Andrew Przybylski at the University of Oxford.

mannyrmz12310 karma

What do you think of playing video game through streaming service (ie: Stadia), which is apparently the future of the industry?

the_mit_press16 karma

Jesper here: By now, it seems like it can technically work for most games, but the business issues remain murky. Does it just become another YouTube, where content creators are never properly paid? What happens to your purchases if the service shuts down? And so on.

Only4DNDandCigars8 karma

What are some of the worse qualities and issues in gaming in your opinions? How do you feel gaming will change in the next five years? I am mainly an old schoolgamer just from convenience, time and money; however, I love to stay in the loop with new developments.

the_mit_press21 karma

Mia here - there's a lot of toxicity in online games. The problem here (well there are many) is that players and developers often disagree about what toxicity even IS. To some players, certain behaviors or words are toxic, while to other players they are no big deal. But if those words and behaviors drive people away, there's a problem.

I also think large game studios still have workplace problems. This includes lots of crunch time (overwork) as well as lots of layoffs after games are completed. This means that lots of developers work very hard and then get laid off as soon as their current game ships.

I have no idea about the next five years although more cloud gaming will probably be a thing, whether we like it or not.

the_mit_press2 karma

Jesper here: For predictions - there is a big trend concerning how fast a game is supposed to become fun.

-20 years ago, we would say that the player should have fun within the first 15 minutes.

-With downloadable casual games, that went down to 5 minutes.

-With current "hyper-casual" games (.io games for example), the window seems to be down to 5 seconds.

So that is a clear historical trend. It also makes sense - with the increased availability of games, we can try more games, so games have to hook us faster. With streaming, that is going to apply to larger games too.

Perhaps future games will have to hook us in 500 ms? At least the pressure for quick enjoyment is going to increase across game genres.

gludion8 karma

I'm not sure if this question fits in the proposed scope, but I remember your fantastic diagram on incremental evolution in the match-3 genre (https://www.jesperjuul.net/text/swapadjacent/family_tree_19_1.pdf) Did you study further how creativity in general - I mean different forms like incremental, radical, and possibly other forms or objects of the creative process - operates in the videogame industry?

the_mit_press11 karma

Jesper: Thanks. I have since looked a bit more at match-3 games (https://www.jesperjuul.net/text/endlessriverofgames/ ) and how a newer game like Candy Crush works by incorporating patterns from what used to be different match-3 subgenres - say jelly, timers, counters, ingredients.

But today it would be very hard to make a diagram that feels as exhaustive as that diagram did at the time, because there are just too many match-3 games coming out! So what I've learned is also that your timing has to be right if you want to that sort of thing.

It's also interesting how a lot of video games don't feel like genres - what is Crossy Road? - but just collections of tropes (or "patterns") that constantly mutate when game ideas move between platforms and business models. In a way everything has become an RPG now, with upgrades and stats - in part to support microtransactions.

Apart from that, there is a field of game production studies, where researchers follow development at specific companies.

rainbowworrier7 karma

Hi Mia! I knew your name rang a bell from somewhere; it turns out I was interviewed for your paper "The sexi(e)st of all: Avatars, gender, and online games". It's really weird to think that comments I made over a decade ago are being used for scholarly research now!

At the time, one of the conclusions that your paper reached was that the women interviewed cared less about any inherent sexism in a game's available avatar/character/gear design, and more about the game itself. Since that study, there's been a much larger conversation regarding women in gaming, both as players and as characters, and also an increase in what types of characters can be made and used as an avatar. What sorts of trends have you noticed in avatar/gear design in the last decade or so, and have you noticed any interesting correlations between the advances in character-creation technology and the types of avatars that are being created?

Hopefully that question made sense. Thanks for the AMA!

the_mit_press10 karma

thanks for helping out! In terms of what is happening now, I have some RAs working on a project to assess top games and their playable and nonplayable characters - for gender, race, age, and appearance. We're still in the middle of coding but should have findings by the end of the year. Overall I think there has been an increase in the appearance of the 'strong female character' and a few less chain mail bikinis. We've also seen a TON more casual/mobile games get popular with girls and women, with very different kinds of narratives and images (I'm thinking of things like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and hidden object games). So I think there is much more diversity now overall, but I can tell you more about what's on console games later this year.

Regarding advances in character-creation tech and avatars that are created, I am not sure! One person to google for ideas would be Jamie Banks, who studied people and their relationships with their game avatars across multiple games. She's at Texas Tech now.

BeanManSupreme7 karma

How unfortunate is it to have the last name "Juul" in 2019?

the_mit_press9 karma

Jesper: Well, everybody is always hoping that you'll come to the party.

rynoschaseo7 karma

I’m convinced I’m sitting on a great video game concept, but I don’t have the skills to make it myself. Is there anyway to get it made if I’m not in the industry?

the_mit_press24 karma

Jesper: Most developers would tell you that ideas or concepts have nearly no value on their own. So your best bet would be either to learn to make video games yourself (pick up Unity or GameMaker), or to pay someone else to do it. I think you should just try making it.

DwightsEgo5 karma

What are your thoughts on the Dark Souls games and the almost new genre of punishingly difficult games that emerged since Demon Souls came out over a decade ago? I've been a gamer since N64 days, and have played tons of difficult games, but the Dark Souls games (and the other spin offs like Bloodborn) seemed designed specifically to punish the player. I have played and beat them all, loved them, but man there was some frustrating nights. It was almost as if the pain and frustration was an addiction. The euphoria of finally beating a boss on the 100th try was what kept me grinding away.

the_mit_press7 karma

Mia here - I think these games cater to a very specific market - like yourself - and do that very well. It's also good to see that they are honest about their difficulty, and that players have different types of games to try if that isn't their thing. I'd also say that the Souls games seem fair in their difficulty - they reward players who master them. They aren't just randomly difficult for no reason, or force the player to grind and then just let them randomly level up after a period of time.

Chayden1535 karma

What are your favorite types of videogames?

the_mit_press11 karma

Mia here - probably RPGs are my go to favorite. I just started Pillars of Eternity (it was in my Steam library forever). I like the mix of combat, leveling, the world building, the storylines, and the characters. After that I like some strategy/simulation games, action, and adventure. Probably my least favorite is platform.

the_mit_press7 karma

Jesper here: I return to single-player story-based games on a regular basis (from old text adventures to Mass Effect), but I can be impatient with grind, so I am not really an RPG or MMO player.
The last few years, I have been fascinated by games that surprise me radically. The Stanley Parable is a good example (commenting on game tropes, and on your feeling clever as a player), or Gris recently, or Florence, or Gone Home, or Dys4ia, or Oikospiel.

The experimental games are interesting to me because they challenge me in a different way: As game-players, we have our habits, and our ways of solving problems. When we meet a really experimental game, we have to question everything about what we usually do as players. If speedrunning (see the question about that) concerns using a game in a new way, experimental games concern the game using us, or making us, as new kinds of players. And that is always interesting to me.

asadwit3 karma

What can one do to improve their gameplay, besides practice and beyter equipment?

the_mit_press13 karma

Mia here - get a better ping rate/internet connection? :) Just kidding. I don't really know but if you do find out I would love to hear.

ColinHalter2 karma

I read Half Real when I was in high school and it really changed the way I look at the way games are defined. With the sudden rise of more experimental/highly cinematic games, do you think your model for games still holds up?

the_mit_press5 karma

Jesper: I think the model in Half-Real is sufficiently flexible to still hold up. I am explicitly saying that games can combine rules with fiction in a multitude of different ways, sometimes where things come together, sometimes where the fiction is a deliberately weird fit, etc...

Concerning experimental games, it seems that most experimental games are pretty open about being games - about the fact that the player has to do something. If you think if Florence, then the game works by giving you little puzzles that quite transparently stand for different emotional and social states. This is in a way weird and artificial, but we also accept it because it is clear about its own artifice, and invites us to make a conceptual leap when playing.

At the other end, the ambituous cinematic games also have to signal to the player what they can do, most jarring in David Cage games like Heavy Rain which are meant to be "immersive", but then places strange Guitar Hero-like screen overlays on top of the story that you were supposed to be paying attention to.

So, I think the model holds for talking about how things change. But I would say that, wouldn't I.

apost542 karma

Are you related to the Danish therapist and author Jesper Juul)?

the_mit_press3 karma

Jesper: No, we are not related. Both the first and last name are somewhat common in Denmark.

CamQueQues2 karma

Hey Jesper and Mia,

Are there any cool positive trends you see about gamers or game devs in your studies? Also, any fun facts you can think of sharing?

the_mit_press8 karma

Mia here - I've been interviewing lots of people who livestream themselves playing games on Twitch. Several have said the experience is like playing games together with siblings or friends growing up, and also that it's a way to be social when they don't have friends geographically nearby. So there's even more evidence that gameplay is a social activity for many people.

InGenNateKenny2 karma

What's your ideal video game? Or, to rephrase, if you had basically unlimited resources to create a video game, what would you make of it?

the_mit_press6 karma

Jesper: Unlimited? I always wanted to make a video game that involved other planets.

Tisorok2 karma

What’s the pain of playing video games? Thanks.

the_mit_press3 karma

Jesper: In The Art of Failure, I talk about how video game playing actually involves a lot of unhappiness, frustration, and pain, when we fail, when we perform less well than we hoped, when we are stuck.

I wrote the book because I found it weird that I claimed to enjoy something that involved me being unhappy for so much of the time.

GermanRedditorAmA2 karma

Hey, I'm currently in the process of defining the topic of my master thesis in game design. I am interested in how game design (as in system design) can reinforce or even serve as the sole way for "narration". My professor recommended me Half Real, is that going to help me in that regard?

What is your take on the topic? It seems most games use text, audio and film to convey their narrative, very rarely gameplay. Few examples that come to mind that aren't just power fantasies stem from team ico. I would very much appreciate your opinion and any pointers since I'm stuck on defining the topic for quite a while now.

the_mit_press3 karma

Jesper: I think that's a good topic, and I think Half-Real would be a good place to start.

I would suggest looking at a range of games, from AAA to indie games, and then picking 2-3 games that you can contrast.

mooleydurphy2 karma

I get the sense that your past disagreement on the (ontological status of the) magic circle may have been a byproduct of differing disciplinary commitments and being interested in games at different levels of abstraction. Thoughts on the magic circle in 2019...? (Sorry)

(Edit: Single word)

the_mit_press3 karma

Mia here - I think players *like* the idea of a magic circle for games, but in practice it (still) doesn't hold up well. People bring various forms of toxicity to games and that isn't going away. How would micro-transactions fit in the magic circle model? We seem to not mind them (other than the people on this AMA of course) as they are a huge money driver for the industry. Likewise in my research on players who enjoy games with moral and ethical dilemmas, I've found that many could not divorce their gameplay choices and styles from their personal sense of ethics or morality. If they tried, it was even painful for some of them. Of course this wasn't the case for all players, but it does demonstrate that for at least some of us, our personal values can't be left aside when we start to play a game, suggesting there is at most a porous boundary to that circle.

the_mit_press2 karma

Jesper here: I think this is the one place where Mia and I disagree a bit. I see the magic circle as a shorthand description of the general social and psychological phenomenon that we tend to assign different values to in-game actions than to out-of-game actions, and certainly that somewhat different norms govern game-playing than govern traffic.

baltinerdist2 karma

What industry could do with a little more gamification (and how would you do it)?

What industry could do with a lot less gamification?

the_mit_press12 karma

I don't know if gamifying doing your taxes would be a good thing or a bad thing, but it would definitely be interesting!

the_mit_press6 karma

Jesper: I tend to be skeptical of gamification, and I think my own life as a researcher is too gamified, with too many spreadsheets measuring my publication rates, graduation rates, and so on. (It is, for example, bad for our spreadsheets if a student gets a job just before graduating, even though we have essentially completed our mission.)

On the other hand, I think there are some useful game design lesson that can be applied to teaching, in terms of giving (undergraduate) students lots of smaller tasks, continuous feedback, and so on. After all, when education is not working for you as a student, it really does feel like a bad game, where you have no idea what to do, and no idea how well you are doing. So there are game design lessons that can be applied about how to make expectations clear.

chawbaka1 karma

Hey Jesper and Mia!

Feel this is a wierd question but; Why do i less and less get a feeling of satisfaction when i play games i like playing, but i find some games that i actually dont like to play gives me a 'warm satisfaction'? ( I'm a tedious perfectionist, it doesnt help.)

the_mit_press3 karma

Jesper here: This is the problem with us humans - we can get bored. If individual games are (often) about finding a pattern, then we also end up finding patterns between different games, and experience things as somewhat similar.

I would recommend playing some games that you have always dismissed, talking to people who like them, and try to get into these other games. This can be more interesting because you will be forced to think about your playing anew.

FormalyKnownAsFury121 karma

Hey Mia & Jesper really admire both your work in game studies!

I wanted to ask your opinion in quantifying approaches for game analysis from a media studies perspective. I'm talking about work similar to Fasterholdt et. al. in 2016. Can you see concrete applications (in other mechanics than physics based interactions) for this approach? Would you think it to be appropriate to integrate this approach to the field of media studies (long term) and if so how would you adapt it theoretically?

Edit: I just recalled - There is a paper by mia from 2006 I read once which goes in this direction. What's your thoughts on this in 2019?

the_mit_press2 karma

Mia here - I'm not familiar with the Fasterholdt reference. Could you be more specific about what you're asking?

absurd_olfaction1 karma

Hi Jesper,

As a table-top game designer, I've read your work to wrap my head around certain ideas from video games that could apply to table-top, and I wonder if video games could learn a thing or two from their table-top cousins.

Do you guys play analog games? And if so, what springs to mind as interesting to you about them?

the_mit_press5 karma

Jesper here: Yes, I wish I could play more table-top though. In practice, time and place end up dictating a lot, but recently I have been playing smaller games like Kingdomino, Forbidden Island, King of Tokyo, and Throw Throw Burrito (does that count?)

I think it's interesting when table-top games make you manipulate the deck in a way where probability becomes really tangible (Pandemic, Forbidden Island, Exploding Kittens). Table-top is interesting this way, because video games are often about hiding the underlying mechanics, whereas table-top is often about making those mechanics visible, and requiring players to understand them in order to play.

I think that's the reason we see card mechanics introduced into a lot of video games these days - it's a good way to conceptualize something very complex.

Table-top shows that many of the things we are afraid of in video game design, such as communicating the underlying rules, do not need to be a problem at all.

fireinthedust1 karma

Hi Jesper and Mia!
Would the field of game studies be related to “enigmatology”? A crossword expert made his own major, and as a game designer for table top RPGs I would like to have a degree for it. I know crossword and puzzle design is different from video games, or even escape rooms, in terms of medium used, but would they be that separate a discipline?

the_mit_press3 karma

Jesper: That's an interesting coinage. Obviously puzzle design is central to a lot of video game design, so there is a continuum, including books like Marcel Danesi's The Puzzle Instinct.

My vote is that it's one big enigmatic family.

sleepyeyed1 karma

What is your opinion on the quick-time events game mechanic as seen in such games as Dragon's Lair, Shenmue, etc..? Would they count as "real" games in your opinion?

the_mit_press3 karma

Mia here - why wouldn't they count?

peanutbutterfranklin1 karma

Games studies has perhaps moved from early ludology/structural/definitional approaches to more "games-in-context" approaches that are more about the sociological/humanistic/market contexts in which they sit.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this gross generalization, and do you see areas in the more structural/definitional areas that may yet bear fruit?

And as a followup, where do you think "games studies" as a discipline is headed?

the_mit_press3 karma

Mia here - folks like Espen Aarseth and his crew are still doing structuralist work in games but I agree there's lots of contextual work also going on now that is really terrific. I'm curious about the live streaming work that's appearing, and I'd love to see more on the business/economic analysis of games.

Game studies used to be pretty small but now it's a challenge to keep up with everything that comes out. I think we'll continue to see more specialization within subareas, but also I think that most academics working in game studies will do so within fields like Media Studies, Sociology, etc, and that only a few specialized "game studies departments" will exist. But you never know!