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Learning from games At the DH campsite


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Some critics may have you believe that computer game studies lack theoretical rigor, that games cannot afford meaningful experiences. I agree with them, sometimes, but I also believe that a richer understanding of computer games is possible, and that this understanding can shed some light on related issues in the wider field of Digital Humanities.

My main area of research has been designing and evaluating how contextually appropriate interaction can aid the understanding of cultures distant in time, space, and in understanding to our own. This field is sometimes called Virtual Heritage. In Virtual Heritage, tools of choice are typically virtual reality environments, and the projects are very large in scale, complexity, and cost, while my projects are often prototypes and experimental designs. I have many challenges, for example, morphing technological constraints into cultural affordances, and avoiding possible confusion between artistic artifice and historical accuracy, all the while evaluating intangible concepts in a systematic way without disturbing the participants’ sense of immersion. To help me judge the success or failure of these projects I have shaped some working definitions of games, culture, cultural understanding, cultural inhabitation, and place. However, these concepts and definitions are not enough. I also have to now tackle the issues of simulated violence, artificial “other” people, the temptation of entertainment masquerading as education, and the difficulties inherent in virtually evoking a sense of ritual.

My lecture, then, is a discussion into how game-based learning, and the study of culture, heritage and history, might meaningfully intersect.

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Learning from games At the DH campsite

  1. 1. Learning from gamesLearning from gamesAt the DH campsiteAt the DH campsiteErik Champion, Seminar 30-04-2013: 18.15Anatomy Theatre and Museum, Strand Campus, Kings College London
  2. 2. Games and Digital Humanities3 questions•game studies lack theoretical rigor?•games don’t afford meaningful experiences?•are games relevant to Digital Humanities?A few answers•definitions: games, digital humanities, newmedia, new heritage, culture, place•my approach (so far)•Projects•ideas
  3. 3. Service or paradigm• Digital Humanities should be the application ofcomputing, or an inquiry as to how digital media hasirrevocably changed the HumanitiesDavid Parry. (n.d.). The Digital Humanities or a Digital Humanism.Debates in the Digital Humanities - Matthew K. Gold - Google Bøger.• Or, the application of computing to new and modifiedapproaches in DH..
  4. 4. research infrastructure• “Research infrastructure is not research justas roads are not economic activity. We tendto forget when confronted by largeinfrastructure projects that they are not anend in themselves.”-philosopher Geoffrey Rockwell
  5. 5. DH in a nutshell• Digital humanities involves values, meanings,encounters• it must involve examining what it means to bedigital OR it fails as infrastructure*• I did not say that, the EU-ERIC* said it.*Legal framework for a European Research Infrastructure Consortium - ERIC Practical Guidelines Research
  6. 6. Questions for DIGHUMLAB• Can you develop aninfrastructure X yearsahead, based ontechnology not yet inuse?• Can a distributed networkallow for unified identityand individual planning?• Which resources are bestmanaged centrally, andwhich are bestdistributed?Patrik Svensson @ DIGHUMLAB Launch, Sept 2012
  7. 7. virtual heritage• My main area of research has been designingand evaluating how contextually appropriateinteraction can aid the understanding ofcultures distant in time, space, and inunderstanding to our own.• ..I agree, it is an oxymoron, how can you haveVIRTUAL heritage? It either is heritage, andworth conserving or..
  8. 8. Cultural heritage• Monuments or groups of buildings “ofoutstanding universal value from the point ofview of history, art or science;”• Sites:“works of man or the combined works ofnature and man, and areas includingarchaeological sites which are of outstandinguniversal value from the historical, aesthetic,ethnological or anthropological point of view”NOTE UNESCO’s (1972) definition of cultural heritage seems very architectural, and one wonderswhat “outstanding universal value” means, when culture is so contextual and so often contested.
  9. 9. intangible heritage• The practices, representations, expressions, as well as theknowledge and skills, that communities, groups and, in some cases,individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage.• It is sometimes called living cultural heritage, and is manifested interalia in the following domains: oral traditions and expressions,including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events;knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;traditional craftsmanship. UNESCO (2003).
  10. 10. so culture is interactive• Interaction is crucial in the creation of culture,and, by extension, in the understanding ofculture.• A feeling of strong cultural presence requiresbeing physically embodied (we have a body thataffects and is affected by other objects andforces), socially embedded (there exists thepresence of others to whom we feel sociallybound) and culturally inscribed in the world (ouractions leave a lasting and meaningfulimpression on the world).
  11. 11. what is culture?• If Culture is the sum of itsmissing parts, how do we layerinterpretations so communitiescan understand each other’scultural (material) background?• Does Second Life create a senseof community or a sense ofcultural presence (the feeling ofbeing in the presence of a similaror distinctly different culturalbelief system)?
  12. 12. 2nd Life =AIRPORT TERMINALVirtual Meetings like real meetings, only worse!but you can add a drawing interface to jibe
  13. 13. BrusselsTo be surrounded by heritage objects does not meancultural learning is taking place
  14. 14. cultural ≠ social?type social community culturalactivity isdirected: talk, chat,gossipcircular ritualized behaviourthe space is location a hang out specific place-makingotherness is anyone like-minded role-basedduration fleeting short term long-termartefacts irrelevent shared valued, “owned”
  15. 15. culture place and trace• Culture is a feedback loop. A visitor perceives space as place, andinhabits (modifies a place), place perpetuates culture’, frames,centres it, or rejects it, and influences the inhabitants in turn.• Cultural behavior is not exactly social behavior, but governed byor understood in terms of a cultural setting (place).• Culture is also bartered, not static- must have objects of sharedtransactional value to understand it as a valuing process.• Even language isn’t only social, it has some form of relatedmaterial embodiment and relation to place and physical context.
  16. 16. only humans have external cognitive artefactse.g. maps
  17. 17. To recognize shared cultural valueswe must ‘see’ cultural toolsHumans only primates with 3D tool recognition
  18. 18. VIRTUAL HERITAGE IS…the use of computer-basedinteractive technologies to record,preserve, or recreate artefacts, sitesand actors of historic, artistic,religious, of cultural significance andto deliver the results openly to aglobal audience in such a way as toprovide formative educationalexperiences through electronicmanipulations of time and space.Stone, Robert, and Takeo Ojika. 2000. Virtual heritage:what next? Multimedia, IEEE no. 7 (2):73-74.Glen Gunnhouse U. of Georgia Art history class
  19. 19. Virtual Heritage (2)• “the attempt to conveynot just the appearancebut also the meaning andsignificance of culturalartefacts and theassociated social agencythat designed and usedthem, through the use ofinteractive andimmersive digital media.”Erik Champion, conference paper & chapter 12, “EXPLORATIVESHADOW REALMS OF UNCERTAIN HISTORIES” in Kalay, Kvan andAffleck, (eds.), New Heritage, pp 186-205 2007, Hong Kong.Roman Church, basement, andperplexed Facebook employee
  20. 20. New Media-new heritage• New Media comprises the act of reshaping theuser experience of exploring realms or worldsthrough the innovative use of digital media.• New Heritage should re-examine the userexperience that digital media can provide for theunderstanding and experiencing of tangible andintangible cultural heritage.Erik Champion, conference paper & chapter 12, “EXPLORATIVE SHADOW REALMS OF UNCERTAIN HISTORIES” in Kalay, Kvanand Affleck, (eds.), New Heritage, pp 186-205, 2007, Hong Kong.
  21. 21. Bernadette Flynn: Spaces Mnajdra MaltaPaladin Studios: MonastryEric Fassbender: LighthouseArtistry or Realism?
  22. 22. New Heritage could beFeature New Media Trends works as “New Heritage” if..INTERACTION:1-Explorative space2-Shadow embodimentPersistent sharable andcustomizable online“Worlds”, tangiblecomputing, augmentedor mixed reality (AR orMR)Novice and experienced users can explore, change, andaugment according to attitude, experience, or learning style?Can real artefacts or tangible devices be used?CONTENT:3-Social realms4-UncertaintySocial computing, onlinecommunities, dynamicdata, Wikis, tagging, newgraphical metaphorsUsers are aware of local social constraints? Are differentlevels of certainty experienced and correctly understood byusers? Is user participation meaningfully incorporated?OUTPUT:5-Meaningful historical andheritage-based learningInnate evaluation, statusfeedback, commercialsuccess, recruiting,logging of popularityChanges in the user experience, transferable skills, culturalawareness, and factual knowledge, can be verified? Therelevant data can be easily ported independently of themediating technology?
  23. 23. PhD 2001-4:Palenque• Research into games byMalone (1982: 67–68), andby Johnson (2005a),suggests uncertainty canactually increase userengagement, since peopleseem to be drawn tosolving puzzles and fillingin gaps in their “knowledgestructures”.2001-4 Virtual Palenque (PhD project)Give them tasks to do in “real” world to reach mythical world
  24. 24. Andrew Dekker and Mark Hurst, 2005
  25. 25. Hurst et al, 2005
  27. 27. Andrew Dekker 2006, DiGRA 2007 paperShaders, field of view, music, NPC AI changes with biofeedback
  28. 28. spatially augmented Greek mythUniversity of Queensland Student Project, 2006: HMD and Minotaur myth
  29. 29. As you approach the minotaur with head mounted displaythat lags, you hear the scared heartbeat of previous players
  30. 30. Weeks, Barrett, 2006Massage chair conveys the landscape
  31. 31. Charles Henden’s warping interface (left), Paul Bourke’s iDome, Jeffrey Jacobson (
  32. 32. Weeks, Claire and Pu, 2006Journey to the West-Monkey literature as RPG
  33. 33. Alex Peters, Ryan Fairhurst, William Gordon and Benn Chisholm, 2005
  34. 34. tacit-tactile learningto be a scholar or a master is to be an artist,measured by one’s grasp of the “Four Arts”:Music (“Qin”), the board game (“Qi”),calligraphy (“Shu”), and brush painting(“Hua”).Helped “perceive the ultimate doctrine of theheavens”, “make themselves [be]enlightened”, “express their emotions/theirunderstanding of the doctrine”, and “inspireothers” so that their lives achieve peace andharmony.• Z. Dainian, Key Concepts in Chinese Philosophy. Beijing:Foreign Languages Press, 2002.AI Team Studios (Isaac Gibson and Amy Ng) 2005
  35. 35. touch screen Taoismthe four great arts of chinaLi Wang, 2011
  36. 36. youtube linksOpening Hua Qi1 Qi2 Qin Shu
  37. 37. game definitions• A game is a rule-based formal system with a variable and quantifiableoutcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the playerexerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels attached tothe outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional andnegotiable. (Juul, 2001).• A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined byrules, that results in a quantifiable outcome (Salen and Zimmerman, 2003, p.572).• A game is a challenge that offers up the possibility of temporary or permanenttactical resolution without harmful outcomes to the real world situation of theparticipant (Champion, 2011, p.88).
  38. 38. VR or Games• One could model and code with Virtual Reality• scale is..huge• cost is..huge• finding talent and maintaining it seems difficult• So projects are often prototypes or experimentaldesigns.Image courtesy of Chris Blundell,the Parthenon, in Unreal Tournament
  39. 39. game mods as prototypesFig 1 Loading Screen, Journey to the West, Weeks, Claire, Pu, University of Queensland (Erik as superviser) 2006Fig 2 Will Cartwright &Tim Germanchis - Queenscliff multimedia cartography project RMIT 2004
  40. 40. cons/pros of prototypes
  41. 41. ExamplesIntroduction: Mod Mod Glorious ModErik Champion1: Between a Mod and a Hard PlacePeter Christiansen2: Between Fact and Fiction in CulturalHeritageNatalie M. Underberg3: Use of “The Elder Scrolls Construction Set”to create a Virtual History LessonEric Fassbender4: Game Mods, Engines, and ArchitectureKevin R. Conway5: Teaching Mods with ClassErik Champion6: Games to Movies: Machinima andModificationsFriedrich Kirschner7: CryVE: Modding the CryEngine2 to create aCAVE SystemMarija Nakevska, Jun Hu, Alex Juarez
  42. 42. who is the audience?“Heritage always has been about people,but the challenge today is to make itrelevant to a much wider section ofpeople, and that emphasis will notnecessarily be on the conservation ofconcrete objects”(Howard 2003, Heritage Management, Interpretation, Identity, p. 50).
  43. 43. http://publicvr.orgBluescreen actors into virtual puppet theatre using Unreal tournament on large displays
  44. 44. QuizzMob A.R. gamethe social does not define placeHack4Lt, Vilnius, CodeUnited team
  45. 45. some ideascultural Turing test: humans impersonate NPCs
  46. 46. traveler-tourist, Tinker-spyCultural constraints, thematic challenges, reversed perspectives
  47. 47. augmented tourismoverlays, filtersAugmented Views in Second Life by P Kerremans to left, Mawson Hut Antarctica 3D+panorama to right (Bourke and Morse)
  48. 48. Bike or mini-helicopter tourismAugmented Reality GPS and historic overlaysLayar-AR?Hight, Augmented SoundNarrativesGeorgia Tech MixedReality Second Life
  49. 49. ludic mappinghow to use maps as external cognitive artefactsLugaru
  50. 50. Rituals are more than habits and more than pointsVirtual Sambor, Berkeley Jedi Starwars Academy, Elder Scrolls III: Oblivion
  51. 51. Role playing festival, Kalø, Denmark 16.09.2012 Bio-fed character immersionDekker, 2009
  52. 52. tourism and biofeedback biofeedbackproduces thematic perspectivesDekker, Hurst, 2005; middle: Fassbender: 2010; Dekker, 2006
  53. 53. resouce managementtribal trouble, RTS, socio-political scenariostribal trouble
  54. 54. new interfaces:how do we build our own tools?
  55. 55. A book of artwork, interviews, and articles about the two most important parts ofthe video-game Minecraft: the fans and the culture.
  56. 56. McCartney and Short, map at at believe methodology is the study and debate of methods, not methods
  57. 57. CFP: cultural heritage creative tools & archives26-27 June 2013, National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagenhow can we share across institutional heritage silos?CARARE Final Conference, 2012 Copenhagen
  58. 58. Marseille Museum of CultureFall 2013 will witness the largest international scientific event on digital heritage in history,bringing together hundreds of researchers, educators, scientists, industry professionals andpolicy makers to debate, discuss and present digital technology applied to the protection,documentation, and understanding of humanity’s shared heritage. For the first time ever,under the patronage of UNESCO, the leading scientific and industry events from across thedigital and heritage spheres will join together under one roof to explore the state-of-the-art and address future emerging research
  59. 59. final notes & questions• Games are composite and open-ended, “rigour” is debateable, they helpus understand audience and interactivity of culture, designing game-based heritage is a great learning experience, BUT artistry can mislead.• These visualization issues & techniques are of value to Digital Humanities• Models do not replace books but accuracy can be individually filtered• Imaginative & immersive environments can creatively connect toarchives• Disturbances (griefing) is part of cultural debate-how to incorporate it?• How do we thematically include conjecture and interpretation?• How do we account for preconceived notions people bring to avisualization?• How to link papers, tools, methods, models and debate space (forums)?Contact OR OR www://