Actionable vs. Emancipatory Game Design Research

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My keynote at the Games: Design & Research conference at Volda, Norway, June 3rd, 2010, discussing the challenges of building bridges between academic game research and game design & development.

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Actionable vs. Emancipatory Game Design Research

  1. 1. Ac#onable  vs.  Emancipatory     Game  (Design)  Research   Capturing  Game  Design:   Who  Should  Care?   Aki  Järvinen   Lead  Social  Designer,  Ph.D.   May  31,  2010  
  2. 2. Aki  Järvinen,     Social  Game  Developer,  Ph.D   Aki Järvinen has a unique mix of experience from: Mobile game design Online & Social game design Online gambling design Board game design User experience design Business development Academic research & development Since 2009, focusing on Social Games: •  first doing contract work for startups both in the US & Scandinavia •  from January 2010, as the Lead Social Designer at Digital Chocolate Helsinki Studio
  3. 3. DChoc:  From  Mobile  to  Social  Games  
  4. 4. The  Problem   and  puPng  it  into  context  
  5. 5. Goals  of  the  talk   •  The  talk  discusses  the  different  interests  for  knowledge   between  those  researching  game  design,  those  prac#cing  it,   and  those  doing  both.     •  What  are  the  key  pragma#c  aspects  of  game  design  in  a   commercial  context  that  o/en  make  it  theory-­‐aversive?     •  Can  game  design  ac#vity  be  captured  for  research  purposes,   and  more  importantly  what  domains  of  knowledge  would   that  serve?     •  What  is  the  role  of  design  management  in  this?     •  The  talks  aims  at  giving  researchers  sensi#vity  towards  the   challenges  game  designers  face  daily,  and  places  game   design  prac#ces  into  the  contexts  of  design  management.  
  6. 6. Problem  formula#on   •  How  can  game  studies/research  produce  results  that   are  ac9onable  for  game  design,  and  who  are  the   stakeholders  in  this?   •  Caveat:  Not  all  game-­‐related  research  needs  to   contribute  to  prac#cal  game  design  –  but  be  honest   about  it!   •  Yet:  Ac#onable  results  best  emerge  from  the   prac#cal  experience  of  design  within  marketplace   and  management  constraints;  when  academic   problem  formula#on  combines  with  the  tacit   knowledge  of  game  design  prac#ces    
  7. 7. Contextualiza#on  of  the  problem   •  Jürgen  Habermas:  Knowledge  Cons#tu#ve   Interests   •  ’Habermas'  basic  claim  is  that  different  forms   of  knowledge  with  different  object  domains   and  standards  of  validity  are  cons#tuted  by   different  interests  that  are  founded  in  dis#nct   forms  of  human  ac9vity.’    
  8. 8. Design  &  Research   Clarifica#on:     I  do  not  believe  that  only  u#litarian   research  is  useful;  I  do  believe  in  the   tradi#onal  role  of  academia  
  9. 9. Design   •  ‘Every  problem  posed  to  a  designer  demands   that  the  constraints  of  technology,   ergonomics,  produc#on,  and  the  marketplace   be  factored  in  and  a  balance  be  achieved.’   •  ‘Design  [...]  is  a  process  of  crea#on  and   decision  making.’     •  Design  and  corporate  strategy:  Design  is  a  tool   for  making  strategy  visible   (Borja  de  Mozota:  Design  Management,  2004)  
  10. 10. Design  management   •  ‘Design  management  is  the  planned  implementa#on   of  design  in  a  company  to  help  the  company  achieve   its  objec#ves.’  (ibid.)   •  Academically  studied  by,  e.g.,  Brigije  Borja  de   Mozota  in  Paris   •  Why  is  this  important?   –  because  the  game  designer  reports  to  whomever  is   responsible  for  design/studio  management   –  thus  the  knowledge  gained  from,  e.g.  research,  is  subject   to  evalua#on  in  an  organiza#onal  structure  
  11. 11. Design  as  Process:  The  4  Cs   •  Crea.vity   •  Complexity   •  Compromise   •  Choice   •  =  Design  is  both  a  crea#ve  and  a  management   process   •  Which  of  these  does  your  research  address?  
  12. 12. Design  Research   •  Three  possible  dimensions:   –  Research  for  design   –  Research  into  design   –  Research  as  design     (Lunenfeld  in  Laurel  [ed.]  Design  Research,  2004) •  Q:  In  your  work,  do  you  explicitly  iden#fy  your   work  belonging  into  one  or  more  of  these   dimensions?  
  13. 13. Who  are  the  actors  in  GDR?   •  ‘designer  is  an  entrepreneur,  an  authority  in   aesthe#cs,  and  an  ini#ator  of  change  in  the   society’   •  players  –  the  ones  who  want  to  have  fun   •  researchers  –  those  who  try  to  observe  and   understand,  from  various  perspec#ves?  
  14. 14. Game  Design  Researcher’s   posi#on?  
  15. 15. How  to  be  cuPng  edge?   •  E.g.  with  the  metrics-­‐driven  development  in   the  social  games  industry,  it  is  very  difficult  to   do  academic  research  (outside  technology)   that  is  cuPng  edge   •  -­‐  from  afar!   •  Poten#al  of  methods  such  as  Ac#on  research   and  Ethnography  
  16. 16. Gallup  part  1   •  Q:  How  many  of  you  do  research  with  the   inten#on/belief  that  it  can  contribute  to/ inform  game  design  in  prac#ce?  
  17. 17. Gallup  part  2   •  Q:  How  many  of  you  do  research  with  the   inten#on/belief  that  it  can  contribute  to/ inform  commercial  game  design  in  prac#ce?  
  18. 18. Ac#onable  or  Emancipatory?   Ask  this  of  your  research;  which  kind   of  knowledge  is  it  targe#ng?  
  19. 19. The  Ques#on  of  Ac#onable   •  How  to  surpass  the  insufficient  ‘theory  vs.  prac#ce’   dis#nc#on?     •  How  about:  research  that  either  creates  ac#onable  vs.   ‘non-­‐ac#onable’  results?   –  Ac#onable  implies  immediacy,  applica#on   –  Non-­‐ac#onable  implies  reflec#on,  emancipa#on   •  Yet  ‘non’  is  a  nega#on  with  connota#ons   •  Therefore  let’s  call  it  Emancipatory:     –  Emancipa.on:  ‘set  free,  esp.  from  legal,  social,  or  poli.cal   restric.ons’  
  20. 20. Habermas’  categories  [reference  (.doc)]   Academic  Game     Research   Commercial     Game  Design  
  21. 21. Emancipatory  research  results  tend  to  be:   •  Descrip9ve  –  rather  than  prescrip#ve  –  in  tone   •  ‘Packaged’  into  academic  discourse   •  Non-­‐specific  in  terms  of  demographics   •  Or,  too  specific  to  the  point  of  being  marginal   •  At  best  inspira9onal  for  ac#onable  purposes,  yet  may   demand  an  extra  layer  of  interpreta9on  (i.e.  a  specific   skillset)  in  order  to  be  ac#onable   •  Example:  ‘Game  layers  of  DJ  Hero‘  -­‐  Games  as  Services   project,  University  of  Tampere,  Finland hjp://futureplayproject.wordpress.com/resources/  
  22. 22. Ac#onable  results  tend  to  be:   •  such  that  relate  explicitly  to  a  specific  design  domain  &   problem  –  note  the  parallel  to  crea9vity  oren  being  domain-­‐ specific   •  prescrip9ve   •  tangible  –  repackaged  for  the  design  stakeholders   •  such  that  discuss  consequences  for  exis#ng  business/ educa#on/development  models  or  methods   •  pragma9c:  Something  you  can  sell  to  your  boss  in  commercial   contexts   •  Example:  Gamespace  project  -­‐   hjp://gamelab.uta.fi/gamespacetool/  
  23. 23. Conclusions   •  Claim:  Any  research  that  does  not  aim  at  ac#onable   results  cannot  call  itself  ‘design  research’  or  anything   ‘design’  for  that  majer  –  even  ‘design  theory’   implies  prac#ce!   •  If  your  goal  is  to  produce  emancipatory  knowledge,   just  call  your  work  game  studies  or  game  research!   •  Whichever  road  you  choose,  in  the  process  you  will   come  to  define  your  primary  audience   •  ...and  it  is  them  who  should  care.  
  24. 24. Thank  you.   http://www.facebook.com/socialgamesbook Emancipatory  contact:   Ac#onable  contact:    aki@gameswithoutron#ers.net   ajarvinen@digitalchocolate.com  

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