Game and Movement

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Art in Action: Transformative Power of Gaming from a Neuroscientific Viewpoint by Pinar Yoldas/ NeuroBodyGame: the design of a wearable computer to playing games through brain signals by Rachel Zuanon and Geraldo Lima/ Playground Gaming with Wii, Kinect and Processing by Grethe Mitchell and Andrew Clarke/ Play and Counterplay in Urban Spaces: Exploiting the City through Location-based Gaming by Dale Leorke/ Playing with the city by Iouliani A. Theona and Dimitris Charitos
Monday, 19 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:25
Chair Person: 
John Anderson
Pinar Yoldas
Rachel Zuanon
Grethe Mitchell
Dale Leorke
Iouliani Theona
Geraldo Lima
Andrew Clarke
Dimitris Charitos

Art in Action: Transformative Power of Gaming from a Neuroscientific Viewpoint

by Pinar Yoldas

Of all the subfields of digital media, gaming and game design is specifically important for multiple reasons : “Games can’t be listened to as music or read text , they must  be played” says Espan Aarseth  . The act of playing is in itself a heightened version of interactivity . Again within the scope of “algorithmic games” as Alexander Galloway describes computer based games , play is a collection of interactions , interaction with the game ,  through its rules, connection between player and the game, such as challenges  and overcoming them or player's connection with the plot  , interaction between the player and the machine , social interaction between players etc . Interaction is based on action , the machine and the player has to “act” to create and sustain the play .

 The act of playing also involves a heightened version of multimodality . Vision, audition and haptic modalities are constantly at play to facilitate the gaming experience. Feedback, navigation, core elements of the narrative structure such as characters are generally conveyed through a sensory cocktail of sounds, changing imagery , vibrations on game controllers etc. From a bare biophysical viewpoint , one can claim that this heightened version of multimodality activates a denser network  of neural connections , a larger section of cortical areas than just reading a text or listening to music.
In his book “Gaming” Alexander Galloway calls algorithmic games an “action-based medium” . According to Galloway what used to be primarily the domain of eyes and looking is now more likely that of muscles and doing , what used to be the act of reading is now the act of doing or just the “act”. This marks a paradigm shift not only conceptually but also physically  , with gaming we’re moving from the sensory domain of singular modalities that are sensed/perceived passively to multimodal experiences where active participation through neuromuscular activity is a must.
In this paper , the transformative potential of gaming as an expressive medium will be discussed from a neuroscientific viewpoint.

NeuroBodyGame: the design of a wearable computer to playing games through brain signals

by Rachel Zuanon and Geraldo Lima

This paper has as a main objective to present the design aspects involved in the development of the NeuroBodyGame that consists of a wearable computer that allows the user to play games using their brain signs. It is a wireless interface for brain interaction with games loaded into the system. Both games and wearable computer react to the emotion of the user at the moment of interaction.

The playability can get easier or more difficult according to the brain wave frequency of the user at that very moment. The wearable computer interprets the brain activity of the user and reacts to it by changing the colors (back and front) and by applying vibrations (back). A really calm user, extremely careful and focused will have its playability enhanced and the NeuroBodyGame will mostly react by showing the color blue. If the user is just calm and focused, the color displayed is green. A tense user, if a bit unfocused or even nervous, will have his playability worsen and the NeuroBodyGame will react to it by turning into yellow and applying a soft vibration in the area of the back. However, a really tense and unfocused user will have its playability worsen and the NeuroBodyGame will react by changing its color to red and by vibrating really intensively. The cardiac sensor also incorporated to the wearable computer analyses the blood flow; functional oxygen; cardiac frequency and sympathetic and parasympathetic activity of the user.

The design of the NeuroBodyGame is adjustable to different body types. It means that the wearable computer can be expanded or contracted in order to fit the user’s body. Its main challenge lies in the fact that it tries to reserve the user’s comfort, in other words, it is ergonomic. Once each and every possibility of discomfort may alter the neurophysiologic signs and by doing so, it would compromise the biometric information.

In order to achieve all ages, two games that are being used with the NeuroBodyGame:one which aims at a low user and has a less complex playability and other which aims at a more experienced user and present a complex playability.

Playground Gaming with Wii, Kinect and Processing

by Grethe Mitchell and Andrew Clarke

This paper is a case study in the design and development of an interactive application produced as part of an AHRC “Beyond Text” Large Grant project. It uses open source software (Processing, libfreenect, Darwiinremote, OSC) and hacked games hardware (both the Microsoft Kinect sensor and Nintendo Wiimotes) to create a low-cost motion tracking system that allows the recording, playback and analysis of children’s playground games in 3D.

By doing this, the application provides researchers in the humanities with a new and innovative way of analysing and archiving these  games. The paper covers both the technical aspects of the project and the academic/editorial challenges in making the application enjoyable to children as a game and useful to researchers as an archiving tool. It also provides insights into the potential for hacking videogames hardware (particularly motion-sensitive hardware such as the Kinect and Wiimote) for artistic purposes.

The application presents children with an attractive and intuitive interface, which they can use to record and replay the sound and moves of their game. As the child performs their clapping game, the computer tracks their hand movements and displays them as two animated hands on screen (which mimic their real hand movements realistically). Both their moves and their song/rhyme are recorded. Once they have finished recording, they can replay their own recorded movements – or those of any previous player – which are shown as two additional on-screen hands. As a result, the child can play with/against the recording, with the computer detecting when the player’s real hands “clap” with the virtual computer-controlled ones.

Every game is archived and researchers can examine and analyse this raw data. The application provides various ways doing this – ranging from simple playback to complex visualisations which show the path taken by the hands throughout the entire game.

T his 3D motion tracking system provides significant advantages over conventional archiving techniques, such as video recordings, which only allows the action to be viewed from a single angle (possibly omitting significant details). There is also the potential for the movement data to be analysed by computer (e.g. to identify similar patterns or rhythms).

Play and Counterplay in Urban Spaces: Exploiting the City through Location-based Gaming

by Dale Leorke

Over the last 5 years or so, there has been growing scholarly interest in the potential for players of mainstream, commercial videogames to intervene in or ‘exploit’ the algorithmic architecture or code which structures gameplay. In particular the concepts of counterplay and countergaming are used to characterise gameplay practices that run counter to the intentions of their designers. In this paper, I argue that these terms also provide useful categories for evaluating the objectives of ‘location-based games’ which aim to challenge and disrupt the policies and rules imposed by the authorities of cities and public space. Location-based games use networked technologies such as mobile phones, WiFi, GPS tracking, and smart phones to enact fictional game scenarios and rules within a physical location – the streets, shopping centres, and public spaces of cities. Although they have not come remotely close to matching the popularity or commercial revenue of the mainstream videogame industry, location-based games occupy a notable niche with their goal of taking games to the streets and embedding them within the public spaces of cities and urban areas.

With a few exceptions, most studies of location-based games have focused on their potential to ‘disrupt’ public spaces and extend digital gameplay into the physical environment. As a result, they overlook the formal elements of the game itself and the relationship between participants of location-based games, established via ‘rules’ imposed on them both by the goals of the game as well as the material conditions of the physical locations in which they take place. In this paper, I argue that Alexander Galloway’s claim that videogames can be read as ‘allegories for our contemporary life under the protocological network of...control’ (2006: 106) can be extended and adapted to location-based gaming projects, and explore the implications the concepts of counterplay and countergaming may have for studies of locative media and urban play.

Playing with the city

by Iouliani A. Theona and Dimitris Charitos

Pschychogeographers proposed drifting as a method of urban exploration. The flâneur experiences the city through a detached observation. Respectively, skaters and traceurs, contest spatial constrains and try to overcome obstacles, thus utilising, the built environment in a more physical way. Recently, pervasive games have taken ludic action into the streets yet again, invading the urban realm and claiming the city as their playground. Analysing the nature of the spatial experience of a pervasive game participant, is the main goal of the paper.

Pervasive games constitute a distinguishable category, their main characteristic being that of blurring the magic circle. In a pervasive game the participant can play with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Focusing on the spatial expansion, these games can be staged in prepared locations, or can unfold within any place, in the real world. Moreover, they can generate a mixed reality by infusing digital content in certain locations, thus augmenting physical space. The player can participate while on the move, or in many cases can be asked to move, so as to play. Pervasive games most often rely on the use of locative media and while location, proximity and spatial distance are of primary importance, it is not uncommon for such a game to occur in different cities or countries concurrently, undertaking a global scale. All these properties determine -to an extend- the spatial experience afforded to participants.

The paper regards pervasive games as a means of urban re-discovery and spatial exploration. Approaching the built environment through such a playful context can lead to revealing appropriations, changing of perception and destabilisation of spatial preconceptions. The player can make use of the architecture and the technological infrastructure of the city in original, unforeseen ways. She can play with the city itself. The paper seeks to categorise pervasive games in terms of their spatial characteristics, the manners in which they incorporate the urban landscape into their design and the forms of interaction with the built environment that the players engage in. By referring to a series of relevant examples, the paper aims at investigating how such playful activity transforms and enriches spatial experience.