In The Game

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An examination of the possible limits to embodiment within digital worlds which uses Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology as a critical framework. Three important aspects of primordial subjectivity are …

An examination of the possible limits to embodiment within digital worlds which uses Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology as a critical framework. Three important aspects of primordial subjectivity are identified: touchant/touche; virtual polymorphism and intersubjective lifeworlds.

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  • NB Synaesthesia
  • detailed worlds with convincing characters and storylines where the paths of action chosen by the protagonist(s) may be morally ambiguous and have lasting consequences  
  • detailed worlds with convincing characters and storylines where the paths of action chosen by the protagonist(s) may be morally ambiguous and have lasting consequences  
  • Edge rates Dark Souls highly for multiplayer mechanic – but there’s something paradoxical about this... Maybe this is the right kind of existential angst!!

Transcript

  • 1. ‘In the game’? EmbodiedSubjectivity in GamingEnvironmentsDr. Robert FarrowThe Philosophy of Computer Games Conference,Madrid, January 2012
  • 2. The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 3. Tendencies in Games Design• Digital interactions are increasingly using more/all of the body as a control device• Human-computer interaction increasingly based on natural or mimetic forms of movement• Increasing accessibility by lowering learning threshold• Convergence between everyday bodily actions and activity within digital environments The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 4. The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 5. Whole Body Interaction• Motion sensors• Gesture recognition Should we use the• Natural user interface language of• Facial/vocal recognition ‘embodiment?’• Touchless interfaces The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 6. ‘Embodied’ Interactions• “Offer control devices that allow for a more natural type of interaction”• Guitar Hero “facilitates the feeling of presence in the digital environment” and helps provide a “stronger affective experience” Bianchi-Berthouze, Kim and Patel (2007:102) The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 7. Presence, Habit & Learning• The anti-representational (i.e. anti-Cartesian) turn (Dourish, 2001; Dreyfus 1996)• Dreyfus (1998; 2001) argues that we can only progress beyond rote learning in digital environments when we experience ‘full- bodied presence’• Is presence is what makes us care about success/failure?• Action as habit, acquired through experience of the world: knowledge in the hands” (Merleau-Ponty, 1962)• Better games, better learning within and through games The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 8. Embodiment: Perspectives• During play, we employ virtual, surrogate bodies, “taking a projective stance” (Gee, 2008)• “Total immersion is presence” (Brown and Cairns, 2004)• Immersion, engagement or presence? (McMahan, 2003)• Bayliss (2007:5) argues “though the sense of ‘being there’ may seem to be a direct experience of the game-world for the sufficiently competent player, it is intrinsically mediated by the complex relationship between the player and their locus of manipulation, a relationship based on the distinction between embodiment as a state of being and embodying as an act.” . The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 9. Embodiment: Incorporation• The “metaphor of immersion as deep absorption *has become] conflated with a metaphor of immersion as traversable space habitation”. We should speak of incorporation as a precondition for the sense of inhabiting a digital world• Incorporation: “the subjective experience of inhabiting a virtual environment facilitated by the potential to act meaningfully within it while being present to others.” (Calleja, 2007; 2011) The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 10. Examples
  • 11. Half Life (1998)The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 12. Medal of Honor (1999/2010)The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 13. The Legend of Zelda:Skyward Sword (2011) The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 14. Ōkami (2008)
  • 15. Rez (2001) The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 16. Flower (2009)The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 17. Avatars and Digital Worlds• Talk of embodiment is more plausible when dealing with certain kinds of games – 3D games with avatars – Virtual Reality• Some avatars are more ‘human’ than others• Some games don’t have avatars at all• Are there limits to digital embodiment? If so, what are they? The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 18. Thesis• We need better ways of understanding and describing the experience of game play and activity within digital worlds• This line of thought is developed here with reference to Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (nb. Dourish, 2001; Crick, 2011; Calleja, 2011) – Touching and being-touched – Virtual Polymorphism – Intersubjectivity/Lebenswelt The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 19. Phenomenology of Perception (i/iv)Why Merleau-Ponty?• Many theorists in both HCI and games research have used Merleau-Ponty to explore issues around embodiment• Emphasis on the centrality of the body and the embodied nature of human experience• The sensory information we receive from the body enables us to place ourselves in “a world of implicit relations and movements” The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 20. Phenomenology of Perception (ii/iv)Touchant-touché• We cannot touch ourselves or others without becoming aware of our own corporeality, our capacity to be touched• The dual-aspect of touching and being touched is part of the primordial experience of human subjectivity• Bodies within game worlds cannot conform to this duality• Asymmetrical relationship between the touch of the game player and the digital world The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 21. Phenomenology of Perception (iii/iv)Virtual Polymorphism• Incorporation of technology into the perception of the body (Grosz, 1994; Murray, 1999)• Mimetic game interfaces are designed to facilitate this sense of polymorphism through incorporation of controllers and avatars into the phenomenological body• Contra Crick (2011) embodiment is a necessary feature of all human activity: implied distinction between embodied/cerebral experiences is unsafe The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 22. Phenomenology of Perception (iv/iv)Intersubjective Lifeworlds• Action and perception are intertwined with one’s existential condition (nb. Stimmung)• Embodiment is bound up with practical context• Embodiment is also a source of meaning• Tetris might present a visually coherent representation of space, but there’s no intrinsic meaning in destroying blocks The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 23. LA Noire (2011) The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 24. • Convincing characters • Compelling narratives • Moral ambiguityHeavy Rain - image of bodily movements • Mimicry Heavy Rain (2010) The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 25. Mass Effect 2 (2011)• Lasting consequences to choices• Detailed worlds, culturesMass Effect - image• Investment The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 26. I finally realized the problem I was having with Skyrim: It feltsoulless. I may as well have killed Agnis and taken her stuff,because what did it matter whether she was there or not? Isuspected that nothing I did would ever matter,and that hasbeen my experience as I’ve progressed through the game.Skyrim is a huge world drawn with a level of detail that enticesus to lose ourselves there, and is filled with things to do,enough to keep us occupied probably for years. But it alsofeels empty and pointless.Skyrim (2011) Scimea (2011) The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 27. Dark Souls profoundly understands online play’s definingfeature: humanity. Though there’s an in-game mechanic thatDark Souls (Graphic)shares the name (a typically deft touch, blending concept andlore), the focus is always on others. Dark Souls’ multiplayerruns alongside its single player, but not always in parallel:asynchronous messages left for you offer hints or tricks, whilebloodstains and ghosts flicker in and out of reality. The key isits tightly controlled feature set: with no voice chat and nofriends, this lonely world is kept permanently lonely. Dark Souls (2011) Edge, Best Online Experience 2011 The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 28. Shadow of the Colossus (2005) The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 29. Conclusion• Technologies and interfaces which promote using more of the body than just the hands to interact with digital worlds do not necessarily promote a sense of ‘embodiment’• There is more to authentic embodiment in a game world than an autogenic, mimetic or intuitive user interface• One limit to digital embodiment may be the non-reflexive nature of touch in game worlds The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 30. Conclusion• A more immersive or authentic sense of embodiment within digital worlds may be more to do with a convincing, meaningful world within which the player has a sense of choice and responsibility• Digital forms of embodiment are never primordial, and are predicated on physical embodiment• Phenomenological descriptions based on the concept of embodiment can inform the design of gaming and virtual learning environments The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
  • 31. Robert Farrowr.j.farrow@open.ac.ukflavors.me/philosopher1978Jo Iacovidesi.iacovides@open.ac.ukjoiacovides.blogspot.com
  • 32. Institute of Educational TechnologyThe Open UniversityWalton HallMilton KeynesMK7 6AAwww.open.ac.uk/iet