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Games as Logic Machines: Learning the Humanities through the Logic and Paratextuality of Games by Sherry Jones (Jan. 8, 2016)


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Jan. 8, 2016 - This is my keynote presentation on game studies and game-based learning in the humanities for CU Boulder's Spring 2016 Graduate Teacher Program Conference: "Teaching Narrative, Ludology, and Problem-Solving in the College Classroom."

Here is the transcript to my presentation:

Published in: Education
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Games as Logic Machines: Learning the Humanities through the Logic and Paratextuality of Games by Sherry Jones (Jan. 8, 2016)

  1. 1. Sherry Jones | Keynote | Spring 2016 GTP Conference | CU Boulder @autnes | | Games as Logic Machines: Learning the Humanities through the Logic and Paratextuality of Games
  2. 2. Hello! I AM SHERRY JONES I teach Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Game Studies. In this presentation, we will explore the possibilities of using games, and studying games, through the humanities.
  3. 3. I will begin this presentation by telling you a story, a short story about the role of play and games in human societies, and about why studying games can help us better understand our modes of social thinking and behaviors. We will travel back into the distant past and progress to modern times to understand how the activities of play and games have always been a part of the advancement of our human history. Source: Greek Vase: Achilles and Ajax playing a game
  4. 4. Chapter 1 Games & The Humanities
  5. 5. In the west, as early as the 3rd century B.C.E., the ancient greek philosophers have exalted the role of play and games in the creation of ethical societies. They believe that the activities of play and games can be used to cultivate both the mind and body to fulfill the humanistic purpose of education, that is, to produce logically and morally thinking citizens. Aristotle (350 B.C.E.) argues that gymnastics exercises, which the greeks considered to be a type of game, should be moderately assigned as part of a child’s education to balance the child’s mind and body development.1 Source: "Aristotle" by Francesco Hayez
  6. 6. For Plato (360 B.C.E.), play has a more significant societal role. He reasons that children who discover innovations through play will grow up to be men who can imagine and create laws (or rules) that can promote civil societies. Plato also associates the concept of play with the concepts of youthfulness, agility, and moral goodness.2 His claims imply that the young and old who embrace play can develop and apply innovative thinking to the betterment of society. Essentially, games serve an important educational function for the ancient greek philosophers, who expect disciples to be able to play, produce, and solve riddles to demonstrate their philosophical reasoning skills and proof of education.3 Source: The School of Athens by Raphael
  7. 7. We can trace the societal significance of games even further back in time by examining eastern history. According to a legend documented in the Chinese scholar Zhang Hua’s (張華) book, Bo Wu Zhi (博物志), or Record of the Investigation of Things, written between 270-290 C.E.,4 the Chinese Emperor Yao (堯) (2337 - 2258 B.C.E.) invented the oldest board game in the world called Yi (弈) (also known as Weiqi or Go Chess in modern times) some 4,000 years ago to teach his son Danzhu (丹朱) the skills of discipline, concentration, and balance. Chinese philosopher Confucius mentions the game Yi (弈) in his book, the Analects, written between 475-221 B.C.E., as a worthy pastime for cultivating the Confucian learned gentlemen. Other Chinese historical records indicate that Go chess also has been used for the purpose of divination by the oracles, developing battlefield warfare strategies, and even administered as part of the civic exam that a scholar must pass in order to take government office.5 Source: The Dragon’s Weiqi (Go/Baduk): The Return to Form
  8. 8. Moving our story fast forward to the 20th century, humanities scholars recognize games as play forms essential to the emergence of human expressions and cultures. Dutch historian and cultural theorist, Johan Huizinga (1949), argues that ludus (a latin word from ancient Rome meaning “play,” “game,” or “sport”) maintains an interwoven relationship with culture; in ludic activities (otherwise known as games), participants role play in make-believe spaces with rules, leading to the formation of cultures and societies (which are, in essence, rule-based structures).6 Source: Gaming table for ludus duodecim scriptorum by nsop
  9. 9. French literary theorist and sociologist, Roger Callois (1961), builds on Huizinga’s work by differentiating paidia (which is greek for “play”) from ludus (which is latin for “game”), and emphasizes that it is in the interchange between the uncertain and spontaneous nature of play and the rule-based structure of games that gives rise to cultures. Callois concludes that cultures, as creations of the interchange between play and games, necessarily remain in flux.7 In other words, culture is constantly changing through playful negotiations of rules during social interactions. Source: 8 Genres, LARP
  10. 10. Chapter 2 Game Studies: A Multidisciplinary Field
  11. 11. Now, I will tell you the story of games in modern academia. A new field called “Game Studies” has emerged to focus on understanding the meaning of games. Scholars from various disciplines, such as Semiotics, Rhetoric, Philosophy, Psychology, Anthropology, History, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, and many more, have studied games through critical theories. Source: Critical Gaming Project
  12. 12. A prominent debate in game studies is the ludology vs. narratology debate. Some scholars study games as formal systems (which means to study games as abstract rule systems), while others study games as narrative forms (which means to study games as narrative structures and representations of stories). Source: Videogames Games are a Mess by Ian Bogost
  13. 13. Literature and communications theorist Janet Murray (1997) believes that games are narrative forms, and argues that it is the narrative forms of games that contribute to the games’ meaning.8 Rather than posing games as purely ludic objects or purely narrative forms, media theorist Henry Jenkins (2004) argues that games convey meaning through both form (as narrative architecture) and content (as story with game elements).9
  14. 14. Since games are complex conceptual, logical, mathematical, and narrative-driven systems that cannot be sufficiently understood using a single interpretative lens, game scholars now advance the conversation by applying both ludological and narratological methods to produce interdisciplinary works on games.
  15. 15. Chapter 3 Culture & The Logic of Digital Games
  16. 16. There has been an constitutive relationship between games and culture that speaks to the logic of game design. Digital games, as consumer products primarily designed for the purpose of entertainment, always have reflected the cultural ideologies of their designers and the consciousness of their consumers, whether or not cultural ideologies are consciously or unconsciously expressed through games. Like television, film, and other forms of media that came before it, the digital game medium expresses the cultural values of the societies that can afford to consume it. Let’s analyze the relationship between games and culture through Jacque Lacan’s theory of the symbolic order.
  17. 17. In the Lacanian sense, culture is a symbolic system with internal logic and meaning that can influence the thinking and the behavior of those who exist within its symbolic order. A digital game is a logic system that contains its own sets of rules and representations, and can sway or reaffirm the thinking and the behavior of those who play it. Both culture and digital games impose their own logic and order to maintain their own system integrity. Digital games can simulate or propose an alternative to the logic of cultural systems.
  18. 18. As simulators and creators of new cultural systems, digital games express ideologies as fantasy machines with which we can interact, manipulate, and experience each rule that exists in those ideologies through play. Digital games present ideologies that we suspect, question, criticize, reject, desire, or even wish to implement in real life. As ideological machines, digital games are systems that act as arbiters of cultural thinking. As players, we are able to have lived experiences, and safe experiences, of various ideologies through the act of playing games.
  19. 19. Mass consumerism has turned digital games into primary vehicles for expressing pop culture ideologies. For example, to create games that the consumers desire, traditional AAA game developers maintain continual feedback loops of conversations between themselves and their consumers to gauge interests, and would design games that make pop culture references with which the consumers may be familiar. AAA games are thus consumer driven products designed to reflect pop culture.
  20. 20. However, the recent rise of the independent game developers, also known as indie game devs, have expanded game development beyond catering to consumer- driven ideologies. Indie game devs have created innovative games that address controversial and taboo topics avoided by conventional game design. As a subversive act, the indie game development casts a self-reflective lens on the gaming industry and serves as a critic of the consumerist culture that has dominated digital game development. Indie games are now legitimizing digital games as art.
  21. 21. Chapter 4 Games in Education
  22. 22. Now we are left with an important question as educators: Why are digital games important to education? The ability to experience simulated cultural systems, in addition to theoretical discussions of how systems function, can lead to deeper understanding of how cultural systems promote ideologies, or normative worldviews that can sway or oppress us. Considering Janet Murray’s concept of the “plasticity of culture,” games can demonstrate how multiple cultures can interact (even when cultural systems change according to shifting ideologies). The meaning of digital games can be explored through various disciplinary lenses.
  23. 23. Although some humanities scholars argue that other types of digital media, such as ebooks, streaming videos, or apps, provide users with some sense of engagement and interactivity like digital games, digital games provide more than just engagement and interactivity by calling on users to “play” within the game environments, to “follow” the game logic, and to “test” the limitations of the systems. As game players, we are challenged to experience and learn the logic of the simulated culture though the act of playing.
  24. 24. Chapter 5 The Paratextuality of Games
  25. 25. Beyond examining a game’s ludic structure, textual studies scholars and narratologists study a game’s paratextual property and narrative structure for meaning. Textual studies theorist Steven E. Jones (2008) applies Gerard Genette’s paratextual theory to games, and argues that the meaning of a game extends beyond itself by virtue of its complex production history and by a series of paratexts produced about itself.10 We can derive meaning from a game by examining its content and structure, as well as by examining external texts that explain, supplement, extend, review, critique, or evaluate the game (such as game design documents, demand memos from the game studios, advertisements, fan fictions, game communities, game culture, and game reviews).
  26. 26. By studying games as texts, we enrich textual studies with a universe of paratexts that extend from the games themselves. Studying Mario Brothers, for example, give us access to Mario game manuals, game posters, analog games (such as board games and arcades), merchandise, TV advertisements, animated movies, mobile phones with Mario branding, fan fictions, and much more. Source: Nintendo Goes Mobile by IbTimes Source: Super Mario Game? by Sephiroth
  27. 27. Chapter 6 Disciplines & Critical Theories in Game Studies
  28. 28. Game Analysis via Literary Studies Applying Lacan’s Gaze and Foucault’s Panoptic Eye to address the ideology of institutional control in the horror game, Outlast: “The game [Outlast] presents, then, the struggle between two opposing understandings of ‘the gaze’ and spectatorship; the powerless player inserted into the dangers of the scene being viewed, after Lacan’s understanding, and the powerful supplier of security technology, the game’s overarching antagonist, which exemplifies Foucault’s description of the gaze as a cornerstone of institutional control.” -- Hazel Montforton (October 5, 2014)
  29. 29. Game Analysis via History On the significance of games to historical studies: “I use this French expression, best translated as « being historical », in contrast with another form of History, l’histoire-connaissance, the learned study of history. As we will see, these two concepts of History are two entirely different creatures. The medium of games, overall biased toward popular history, entertains through l’histoire-action, with occasional niche crossovers into l’histoire-connaissance. Finally, though l’histoire-action and popular history are not the same thing, we will see how games bring out their mutual affinities to the fore.” -- Gilles Roy (September 24, 2014)
  30. 30. Game Analysis via Psychology On the psychology of feedback loops and behavior formation in games: “In Diablo III, players quickly learn that elite monsters – for example, color coded foes with unique names – have a much higher chance of dropping loot. Thus players get excited when they see one and do their best to smash it open like a gory pinata. It turns playing the game into a habit. Let’s call that a loot loop” -- Jamie Madigan (October 2, 2014)
  31. 31. Game Analysis via Anthropology On the player’s role as participant observer anthropologist: “The player – or, more accurately, the act of engaging in an open-world game – is anthropological. We – the player – are dropped, quite like Malinowski, an outsider, into an ‘other’ world a world in which we must both retain our outsider status and continue to engage and explore. . . . In Skyrim, we have to do quests, pursue tasks, work as a soldier or intermediary in disputes. This gains us new knowledge, markers on our map, status in the world. For assisting at Whiterun – the first major settlement stumbled upon – we move from being an outsider to becoming a valued member of its community.” -- Owen Vince (September 25, 2014)
  32. 32. Game Community Analysis via Sociology On the Gamergate controversy through the lens of sociology and feminism: “For all of GamerGate’s hatred of “[Social Justice Warriors]” they took no lessons from the threadbare realities that lay behind the SJW stereotype. The phrase ‘social justice warrior’ was originally coined on Tumblr to describe a dangerous tendency among some leftist activists to aggressively and angrily pursue political goals according to strict ideological codes, often to the detriment of others, with no clear collective gain, but significant personal aggrandizement.” -- Katherine Cross (October 8, 2014)
  33. 33. Chapter 7 Examples of Interdisciplinary Game Studies
  37. 37. Chapter 8 Game Based Learning: Experiential Learning in Games
  38. 38. LET’S WATCH! THE FIFTH APARTMENT The Fifth Apartment Watch: 6:41 - 8:05
  39. 39. THEMES IN THE FIFTH APARTMENT Ex. Theme or Motif Analysis. 1. Play The Fifth Apartment game at least once through. 2. Document the game actions that you took to progress through each “day” of the game. 3. Document the events and dialogue that occur on each “day” of the game. 4. Document light vs. dark tones, and colors, used on certain days or moments in the game. 5. Document the changes to the character in relation to events that occur on each day. 6. Reflecting on the game actions, events, dialogue, and aesthetics, what themes or motifs can you draw from the game? List them. 7. Write a research based analytical paper justifying the themes/motifs with support of certain game scenes. (Hints: Old age, elderly care, parent-child relationship, question of memory, loneliness, dementia, schizophrenia, mental illness, isolation, problem of perspective, etc.) “Deductive Reasoning Time . . .”
  40. 40. LET’S WATCH! ATUM Atum
  41. 41. ETERNAL RECURRENCE IN ATUM Ex. Friedrich Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence. 1. Eternal recurrence is the theory that our lives will repeat infinitely (rebirth). Since the number of objects in the universe are finite, and the combinations of those objects are also finite, events must recur ad infinitum. Therefore, it is impossible for us to escape the present world. We exist in loops. 2. How does Atum express this theory? As the player, are you free from the recurrence? Why or why not? 3. Why does Atum reference Henri Poincaré’s recurrence theorem and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera? “Deductive Reasoning Time . . .”
  42. 42. LET’S WATCH! GODS WILL BE WATCHING Gods Will Be Watching
  43. 43. EXISTENTIALISM IN GODS WILL BE WATCHING Ex. Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism. 1. Sartre defines “facticity” as the givens (language, environment, previous choices, selves) that constitute our “situations.” What facticity does one face in the situation of Gods Will Be Watching? 2. How is one “condemned to be free” in the game? 3. “Bad faith” is to adopt false value and disown innate freedom. Explain the concept in terms of the game. “Deductive Reasoning Time . . .”
  44. 44. LET’S WATCH! UNDERTALE Undertale
  45. 45. THE ETHICS OF UNDERTALE Ex. Deontology vs. Utilitarianism (Consequentialism) 1. Immanuel Kant’s deontological ethics is a form of normative ethics that determine one’s actions are ethical if and only if the actions follow pre-established rules. All actions must follow the rules no matter the consequence. 2. Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian ethics determine one’s actions are ethical if the actions benefit society. Actions that lead to happiness for the greatest number of people are ethical. Considering the consequences is more important than following rules. 3. Play Undertale in two ways to get two different endings: 1) Befriend all enemies, or 2) Destroy all enemies. Does the game reward the player for following deontology or utilitarianism? “Deductive Reasoning Time . . .”
  46. 46. LET’S WATCH! THE STANLEY PARABLE (2011 MOD) The Stanley Parable (2011 Mod) Watch: 2:44-5:10
  47. 47. FREEDOM & DETERMINISM IN THE STANLEY PARABLE Ex. Which view describes the level of Free Will in the gameplay of The Stanley Parable? 1. Determinism - All events are determined by causal laws; freedom is an illusion. 2. Compatibilism - All events are determined by causal laws; humans can be free via internal motivations. 3. Indeterminism - Some events may be random; freedom is possible. 4. Libertarianism - Humans can exercise free will fully; freedom is possible. “Deductive Reasoning Time . . .”
  48. 48. BONUS PARATEXT! VIDEO RESPONSE TO PLAYER BY THE CREATOR OF THE STANLEY PARABLE The Stanley Parable Raphael Trailer Watch - 0:00-4:33
  49. 49. LET’S WATCH! PERSPECTIVE Perspective
  50. 50. SEEING-THAT VS. SEEING-AS IN PERSPECTIVE Ex. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s “Seeing-As.” 1. Wittgenstein explains we perceive objects in two ways: Seeing-that (reporting what we see), vs. Seeing- as (noticing an aspect of what we see as something). Seeing-as involves recognizing the relation between the object with another object or narrative (i.e. context matters in perception). 2. How do aspects in the Perspective game affect our “seeing objects as” something else? “Deductive Reasoning Time . . .”
  51. 51. Chapter 9 Game Based Learning: Designing-Making Method
  52. 52. LET’S WATCH! MINECRAFT FOR RHETORIC STUDIES Watch: 2:53-6:19 Watch: 31:56-32:34
  54. 54. PEDAGOGICAL QUESTIONS FOR GAME STUDIES 1. Take a trip down memory lane: Have you ever played a board game, strategy game, card game, playground game, sports game, or video game that is particularly memorable or fun? 2. What are the game’s rules? Can you list them? If a game with more than 10 rules is considered complex, is your game complex? 3. Is the game played by a single player or multiple players? If the choice is available, do you prefer to play in single or multiplayer mode? 4. Does the game have a story? What characters, situations, events, or problems are represented in the game story? 5. What themes or motifs are present in the game? Can you list them? 6. Does the game make references to real life situations/events? 7. What cultural ideology is expressed by the game? 8. What concepts or theories are applicable to the game? 9. If this game is assigned in class, how long does it take to complete the game? Should the game be played in class, or at home? Does the game require team effort? 10. Can the learners play the game more than one time to find different outcomes? Will different outcomes lead to different interpretations of the game’s meaning?
  55. 55. ONWARD TO GAME STUDIES . . . Sherry Jones Philosophy | Rhetoric | Game Studies | Game Design & Psychology Writings & Webinars | | @autnes Link to Slides:
  56. 56. REFERENCES 1 Aristotle, Politics, trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Internet Classics Archive by MIT, 2009. Accessed October 20, 2015. 2 Plato, Laws, trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Internet Classics Archive by MIT, 2009. Accessed October 20, 2015. 3 Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (London: Routledge, 1949), 46, Google Books. 4 Fairbairn, John, “Go in Ancient China,” London 1995. Accessed November 25, 2015. jp/English/essay/goancientchina.html 5 Moskowitz, Marc L., Go Nation: Chinese Masculinities and the Game of Weiqi in China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 50-51, Google Books. 6 Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (London: Routledge, 1949), 115, Google Books. 7 Roger Callois, Man, Play and Games, trans. Meyer Barash (Illinois: The Free Press, 1961), 64, Google Books. 8 Janet H. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (New York: The Free Press, 1997), 142, Google Books. 9 Henry H. Jenkins, “Game Design as Narrative Architecture,” in First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game.” eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Pat Harrigan, 118-120. Cambridge: MIT, 2004. 10 Steven E. Jones, The Meaning of Video Games: Gaming and Textual Strategies (New York: Routledge, 2008), ch. Introduction, Google Books.