For all you Nordic game scolars out there, and everybody else interested in some heavy reading: This is great days in Finnish game studies. No less than three thesises have been defended during the last few weeks. All are availible for you. Personally I’m diving into Jaakko’s text now.
(Also stealing his short presentatins)
Veli-Matti Karhulahti: Adventures of Ludom: A Videogame Geneontology
This dissertation argues that most videogames might not be games at all. It offers an ontological study that explores how videogaming differs from its related cultural phenomena such as ‘games,’ ‘puzzles,’ ‘stories,’ and ‘artworks’.
Jonne Arjoranta: Real-Time Hermeneutics: Meaning-Making in Ludonarrative Digital Games
This dissertation shows that games should not be understood as a singular category, but through family relations. It focuses on one type of games, ludonarrative, and unfolds their meaning-making with hermeneutic analysis.
Jaakko Stenros: Playfulness, Play, and Games: A Constructionist Ludology Approach
This dissertation builds a framework for understanding playfulness, play, and games. The concept of play put forward is wide and promiscuous and has implications for the conceptualizations of things such as gamification and griefing.
In the games research mailing lists there’s been a discussion around exhibiting games in museums recently. A large portion of the argument is around two main ways of displaying games. First, to display games as games, whether this means a design, an interactive play piece or a way of showing the social and the community happening. I have myself been involved in similar discussions at Tekniska Museet, here in Stockholm, Sweden, where they are right now working on a project to save games for the future, and where the social part is one of the big issues. How do you preserve something like World of Warcraft, where a large portion of the game is to meet people? If you play it in fifty years, all the servers will be empty! Then other solutions is necessary to be able to show this for the future museum audience. Secondly, there is a discussion on displaying games as art. This is often more obvious, as these are exhibits with an artist displaying something, as it is meant to be seen right now. But also here there are of course problems with documenting this for the future.
As I know several of my readers are interested in the subject I have gathered the main references cited in the discussion. I hope some of these will be of use for you, and as always, feel free to comment if you have special interests and I will do my best to answer or send you on to someone who can!
Here are the references:
- Discussions on current game exhibits in EDGE Magazine # 277
- ”Gameplay” at the German ZKM Karlsruhe
- German Computer-Game-Museum at Berlin
- Guins, Raiford. Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife
- Skot Deeming and Martin Zellinger’s work with curating the Vector Game Art festival in Toronto, Canada
- deWinter, Jennifer, “The Midway in the Museum: Arcades, Art, and the Challenge of Displaying Play.” in Kocurek and Tobin (eds.) Reconstruction
- Fleisch and Payne’s. “V9N1: Gaming Art” in the International Digital Media and Arts Association
- The exhibit ”Krazy! – The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art” at the Vancouver Art Gallery (The exhibit is gone, but the catalogue is available)
- Stuckey, Helen. Several pieces, start with the MA-thesis.
- And some names to look into: Hughes, Lynn; Sharp, John;
Also, there are lots of references to MOMA’s work with collecting gmaes:
- The MOMA collection
- The Guardian
- Aesthetics online
- Proceedings from Museums and the Web
Yesterday I held a game design workshop at the royal armoury. It’s a museum, so not quite as directly royal as the title might sound. No kings or queens in the audience. The museum shows artifacts from the Swedish dynasties. Right now there is an exhibition on the game of power, showing real historical artifacts, together with objects from the TV-show Game of Thrones. A nice and beautiful exhibit, where you realize the real historical dresses is actually even more extravagant and extreme than the once from GoT!
Because of the exhibit the natural theme for the game design workshop was the game of power, and I had a wonderful audience and design group, consisting of everything from seasoned experts, through interested gamers and even the next generation of yet just 7 and 10 year old designers! It is quite a task to try to satisfy such a broad audience, but I believe the format worked quite well. After a short startup with presentations on my view of what a game is (readers of mine, you recognize the design construct – activity – experience -model) we went directly into (re-)designing of games. This makes the startup a bit slow, but everybody gets to set off in the direction they chose, and by doing that gives me a chance to see what they focus on, and finally I can help the different individuals and small groups in their own way, starting thoughts around the specific area they are delving into.
Naturally there is a big difference between the kind of problems the seven year old ran into, and the ones the deeply interested games found. But they could all work on a similar task with a similar goal. Finally we all sat down together to show the games and talk about what we worked on, and this way the knowledge could spread even further. Also, the games looked really nice, and there were some really interesting ideas going on! Hopefully there will be an update to this in a day or two, when I get some of the pictures!
Maybe I should have mentioned before it happend that I was speaking at Kulturfestivalen (Stockholm Culture Festival), but this last month I had no time for the internet. Actually had vacation, you know, the real kind where you actually don’t work. Took a trip to Morocco for a week. We were actually going to Spain, but made a detour via Marrakesh and Fes. After coming back home I went directly to Visby and the medieval week, to work with my friends, and local geniuses the Magicians Alley. A bunch of magicians and entertainers coming together for a week to reenact a magical world where everything can happen. For the whole week they play stage shows, but never break character in between shows. Kids love it, and adults love it just as much. It is wonderful to see everyone step into the play as soon as they enter the place.
Now I’m away again, visiting Utrecht and the Identity and Interdisciplinarity in Play and Game Design Summer School. A nice course, with nice people and discussions, but a bit to crowded schedule. I feel I don’t really get the time to get to know all the other lovely people with similar interests. But I do have some new Facebook friends, we’ll see who will stick around for the future!
Will be back home by the end of the month, starting of courses at Uppsala University! To any of the HCI students who manage to find their way to this site: Welcome to Uppsala!
To anyone from the course: Please share your greatest (learning) moment! The one thing that gave you that experience of: aha!
“The natural sciences are concerned with how things are…design on the other hand is concerned with how things ought to be.” – Simon 
According to Wikipedia, Nigel Cross “is a British academic, a design researcher and educator, Emeritus Professor of Design Studies at The Open University, United Kingdom, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Design Studies. He is one of the key people of the Design Research Society.” He has worked with computer aided design, and worked with early Wizard-of-Oz-Experiments.
In his article ‘Designerly Ways of Knowing’ he starts to explore what is specific to design knowledge, and what is specific to design compared to other scientific knowledge. This and other articles on similar themes were later (2006) published as a book with the same name.
In the article Cross first explore the likeness and difference between design and other (natural) sciences. He then goes on to describes three different approaches to design within the scientific field.
The attempts to describe design within the scientific fields started in the 1920’s, and took mainly a positivist approach, trying to explain science and put it into a system. Cross write: “throughout much of the modern movement, we see a desire to produce works of art and design based on objectivity and rationality, that is, on the values of science.” But he goes on to say that in the 60’s a counterargument was made about science not being explainable through this approach. As design was dealing with “wicked” problems, with no one simple solution the purely ‘scientific’ approach of dealing with “tame” problems where one best solution can be found is not applicable. In this, at least according to the early approaches, there is a fundamental difference between ‘design’ and ‘science’. As an example he quotes Simon: “The natural sciences are concerned with how things are…design on the other hand is concerned with how things ought to be.” He then goes on to show that this leads to a big difference in approach, where method becomes vital to natural sciences, where it validates result by making them repeatable, something neither vital neither desirable to design.
To deal with this unclear relation between science and design different approaches have been taken, and Cross identifies three, which he calls ‘scientific design’, ‘design science’, and ‘a science of design’.
- Scientific Design “refers to modern, industrialized design […] based on scientific knowledge but utilizing s mix of both intuitive and non intuitive design methods”.
- Design Science “refers to an explicitly organized, rational, and wholly systematic approach to design; not just the utilization of scientific knowledge of artifacts, but design in some sense as a scientific activity itself”.
- A Science of Design means to approach design in itself as a subject of scientific investigation. The science of design is the study of design.
Finally Cross promotes design as, not necessarily a science, but a discipline. He says design as a discipline “can mean design studied on its own terms, and within its own rigorous culture. It can mean a science of design based on the reflective practice of design: design as a discipline, but not design as a science.” He says that “what [designers] especially know how to do is the proposing of additions to and changes to the artificial world. Their knowledge, skills, and values lie in the techniques of the artificial.” (as opposed to Simons title, the science of the artificial)
 Nigel Cross, “Designerly Ways of Knowing: Design Discipline Versus Design Science,” Design Issues 17, no. 3 (2001): 49–55, doi:10.1162/074793601750357196.
 Herbert A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd ed (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1996).