PhD thesis: D. Pinchbeck, Story as a function of gameplay in first person shooters and an analysis of FPS diegetic content 1998-2007

Dan Pinchbeck, famous for his Dear Esther experimental game, wrote a PhD thesis titled “Story as a function of gameplay in first person shooters and an analysis of FPS diegetic content 1998-2007”.

Abstract: The relationship between game content and gameplay remains underexplored. High level debate about the relative narrativity of games remains common, but there is a gap in the understanding about the particularities of how diegetic objects relates to the business of managing player experience and behaviour at the heart of gameplay. The first half of this thesis proposes a new model for understanding gameplay as a network of affordance relationships which define supported actions. The theoretical focus upon supported actions rather than object characteristics enables a better understanding of the framework of gameplay created by a complex system of interrelated objects. In particular, it illustrates how the essential ludic structure of first-person games can be described in very simple terms, thus defining a discontinuity between complexity of experience and simplicity of structure. It is proposed that story is a primary means of managing this discontinuity to provide an immersive and seamless experience.

Download: (free registration required)

Game: NothingElse – A Macabre Tale

A new Android version of “NothingElse”, a short narrative/horror game by indie developer Ivan Zanotti, is out. From a review: “Your relaxing escapism takes a turn for the terrifyingly surreal when you find yourself pulled into another layer of reality that seems to resemble your own… only more warped and unsettling” (link)

The new version on the Play Store:

The original version for Windows:

Article: American Psychological Association revises its opinion on video games?

The February 2014 issue of the newsletter of the American Psychological Association newsletter (“Monitor on Psychology”) contains research findings on the effects of violence in video games. This is especially relevant because, until recently, the American Psychological Association was a proponent of the adverse effects of computer games. In general, the article is pretty positive for games, noting the violent video games can be as effective as academic courses in teaching spatial skills, that playing role-playing games is associated with increased problem solving skills and school grades, and that games like Angry Birds can improve mood and reduce anxiety. It also highlights that social isolation and status as a “gamer” are not synonymous, contrary to stereotypes.

Read the short article at

With many thanks to Richard Landers for posting this news on the Gamesnetwork mailing list.

Review: Chromaroma (urban game, London, 2010)

Jemima Kiss reviews Chromaroma, a playful experience for the London Underground public transportation system – a game that was criticized by Steven Poole in the article I linked yesterday. It was designed by Toby Barnes and Matt Watkins of Mudlark, and it was launched on 30 November 2010. The game tracks the players’ tickets to map their movement and assign them points on a leaderboard – the experience itself is not terribly complex, but the logistics and data visualization are smooth and compelling.

My favorite quote from the article: «[Toby Barnes] does believe that gamification is important, but that it has to be done by games designers, and it’s not just about points and badges. “It needs to be playful, about exploring things, a sense of achievement and building things. There are strong emotions you can only have with an interactive game”.»

Read the full article here:

Article: Nil point. Steven Poole on gamification

“Nil point”, Steven Poole, An hard critique of simplistic gamification, written some time ago but always good to read and to think about.

Nil pointDoes something in your life suck? Then turn it into a game! This is postmodernism’s infantile version of the consolatory techniques of stoic philosophy. Digital technology may now be used to project a virtual skin of motivation and delight over the real world.

Embedly Powered

Read the full article at

Article: Turning the Classic Snake Mobile Game into a Location–Based Exergame that Encourages Walking

Journal Paper: “Turning the Classic Snake Mobile Game into a Location–Based Exergame that Encourages Walking”, by Luca Chittaro, Riccardo Sioni

Abstract: Exergames (video games that combine exercise and play) could encourage physical activity by making it more enjoyable. Mobile devices are an interesting platform for exergames because they can support outdoors activities such as walking and running. Different mobile exergames have been proposed in the literature, and typically evaluated with informal interviews and ad–hoc questionnaires. The research we present in this paper had two main goals. First, we wanted to design a fun and easy-to-use mobile exergame to encourage walking. To this purpose, we propose a location–based version of the classic Snake mobile game, in which users can control the snake by walking. Second, we wanted to introduce important measures (such as users’ attitude towards walking) in the evaluation of exergames, by adopting validated questionnaires employed in the medical literature. The results of the study presented in this paper shed light on how differences in users’ lifestyle can be related to exergame enjoyment and to attitude change fostered by the exergame.

Gabriele’s notes: this is an interesting game-design approach, but I’m not fully convinced about using questionnaires to evaluate motivations. I need to think more about it.

Download PDF:

Serious game (genetics): “Ralph’s Killer Muenster”

To celebrate the discovery of the double-helix, IDEO and Genentech bring hardcore genetics to life with Ralph’s Killer Muenster, an iPad game inviting the science-curious to save San Francisco from mutant cheese.

This article details the game design, its development, and its didactic effectiveness.

Read the article:

Play the game:

Article: The Role of Micronarrative in the Design and Experience of Digital Games

Conference paper: “The Role of Micronarrative in the Design and Experience of Digital Games”, Jim Bizzocchi, Michael Nixon, Steve DiPaola, Natalie Funk. DiGRA 2013 Conference.

Abstract: Designing robust narrative experience in games is a complex and demanding task. The need to balance authorial control with player interactivity necessitates structurally flexible storytelling tools. One such tool is the micronarrative – an internal unit of narrative progression and coherence. This paper explicates relationships between the size, form, and experience of narrative units within electronic games. It identifies three design properties that enhance the utility and effectiveness of micronarratives within game experience: micronarratives are hierarchical, modular, and accumulative. The analysis is based on close readings of two commercial game titles, NHL 12 (Electronic Arts Canada 2012) and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Eidos Montreal 2011).

MA Thesis: The Cross-Media Journey of Muddle Earth. Design, Narrative and Brand Consistency in Game Adaptation

MA Thesis “The Cross-Media Journey of Muddle Earth: Design, Narrative and Brand Consistency in Game Adaptation”, by Claudio Franco, University of London

Abstract: A study of game production in the context of cross-media strategies, it follows the adaptation journey of the Muddle Earth IP from a book, into a TV series, and finally into a game.

Free download at: