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Digital Play CH 4 Notes, Why Video Games Are Fun notes

by: Aubrey Isaacman

Digital Play CH 4 Notes, Why Video Games Are Fun notes Art 80H

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Aubrey Isaacman
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These are reading notes for ARTG 80H. These are notes on Week 2's readings.
History of Digital Games
Henry Lowood
Class Notes
Art, Art History, video games, video games history, digital media, digital games, Play
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This 10 page Class Notes was uploaded by Aubrey Isaacman on Tuesday January 19, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Art 80H at University of California - Santa Cruz taught by Henry Lowood in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 34 views. For similar materials see History of Digital Games in Art at University of California - Santa Cruz.

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Date Created: 01/19/16
Why Video Games Are Fun, Loftus I. Introduction  The psychological concepts of reinforcement, cognitive dissonance, and regret help explain the process of video game addiction. II. Pac-Man, by Way of Example  Pac-Man player controls Pac-Man’s movements with a 4 directional joystick or control knob: up, down, left, and right; his jaw faces the direction he’s moving; he eats dots while being chased by ghosts; 3 lives o Energizer = extra strength; can eat the ghosts, but they will regenerate o When player eats all the dots, they’ve completed a board  boards get harder!  Rewards for player: points for eating dots and monsters (when blue), fruit (more points), skits in between boards  How can people be so motivated to play a game?  reinforcement III. Mechanics of Reinforcement  Basic Concepts: o Reinforcement = provision for you of something you like  Any behavior that is followed by reinforcement will increase in frequency  video games that make the player feel good will be played over and over again  Skinner box = a cage containing a lever the rat can push and a small container into which the experimenter can dispense food  Rat is to lever as human is to video game o Reinforcement: food, high scores  Schedules of Reinforcement: o Game designers have found the optimal strategy for reinforcing people so they keep playing o Continuous reinforcement = i.e. rat is given food every time it pushes lever o Partial reinforcement = only rewarded sometimes  i.e. rat is only given food sometimes when it pushes lever  they keep pushing in the absence of reinforcement because they are still hoping for a reward  gamblers keep playing in hopes of winning big; if reinforcement was continuous, they’d stop playing once they lost money  Extinction = decline and eventual cessation of behavior in the absence of reinforcement: o Extinction period = length of time it takes for behavior to cease  Heavily depends on schedule of reinforcement  Variable schedules are the most powerful/have longest extinction periods  Variable ratio = ~1 every 5 turns  Variable interval = ~ every minute o Variable schedule with moderately long intervals between reinforcements gets people to play longer  too long and people will stop playing o Partial reinforcement effect = extinction’s dependence on the prior schedule of reinforcement  This allows us to account for the seemingly addictive behavior engendered by video games  Addictive behavior = behavior that occurs more rapidly and is more resilient to extinction  Reinforcement & Video Game Design: o Designer’s goal is to make money off game  want as many quarters as possible  variable-ratio or variable-interval schedule  Irregular schedules of reinforcement are, in part, what causes video games to be so compelling and irresistible  Problem: any game can’t be too easy or it’ll provide continuous reinforcement for practiced players  doesn’t lead to addiction; can’t be too difficult because novice players won’t get enough reinforcement to become addicted in the first place  Solution: moderately difficult  Video games: computer allows them to be flexible  Can make a game more difficult over time  Easy to modify IV. Other Aspects of Reinforcements  Magnitude of Reinforcements: o People work harder for more reward  Video games: number of points player gets are typically large, even if player is a novice  WHY? o Large rewards lead to faster responding and greater resistance to extinction o Points can’t be too high or people won’t be able to grasp their magnitude  Delay of Reinforcement: o Any behavior will increase in frequency if that behavior is followed by reinforcement o Delay between behavior and reinforcement is very important  Shorter delay = quicker behavior will increase in frequency  more powerful reinforcement effects  Score, sounds, etc. = immediate reinforcement in video games (even though they have long term reinforcement effects)  Multiple Reinforcements: o Video games are typically more difficult than arcade-type games o “kitchen-sink” approach = by inserting into a game a wide variety of things that might be reinforcing, designer gets a game that appeals to a wide variety of people and will be widely played o Intrinsic reinforcement = feel gratified when you do well or when you improve your performance  Video games can provide this!  The fundamental source of this reinforcement (the person themselves) is constantly present V. Cognitive Dissonance = theory created in the 1950s and 60s by Leon Festinger and his colleagues to account for some seemingly paradoxical types of behavior: people seem to sometimes enjoy things that are less reinforcing over things that are reinforcing:  $1/$20 experiment: Group – boring task, given $20 to say it was fun (lie); Group B – boring task, given $1 to lie o Group B enjoyed the task more because they had to generate intrinsic reinforcement/change their attitude  Similar effects in pen experiment: nursey school kids Group A given an award for playing with pens, Group B got no reward for playing with pens  Group B played with pens more than Group A did o Extrinsic reward may remove the intrinsic motivation  Games may be more rewarding if you have to pay for them  What if video games were free?: o Can’t take something home when you pay for a game  Therefore, games must develop qualities that provide powerful intrinsic rewards  If games were free, people would likely play them less o Doesn’t necessarily mean games should be more expensive because even if a $1 game > 25 cent game, at one point, cost can be prohibiting and game won’t be played  Tradeoff between enjoyment and cost VI. Regret & Alternate Words  Reinforcement  regret  Regret is something you have to live with, but not in video games o Game ends because you made a mistake and you know what you’ve done wrong immediately  Can go correct the mistake by playing the game again o Maximal regret is produced when world in which mistake did happen does not differ much from world in which mistake did not happen  i.e. missing flight by 2 minutes > missing flight by 20 minutes o computer games provide the ultimate chance to eliminate regret; all alternative worlds are possible VII. Research on Video Games:  Not much has been done because games are relatively new o Malone (Stanford PhD) came up with a list of features that popularized Breakout: clear goals, audio effects, visual effects, fantasy  Made mods and compared them to original  most important feature in determining how much the game was liked was the breaking of a brick when it was hit by the ball; if brick remained, mod was not well-liked even if score still increase)  Score and ball bouncing off paddle were also important  Without the goal, the game isn’t fun  Also did this experiment with Darts  Characteristics of groups he studied mattered: o Boys and girls liked opposite things  Malone thinks this is because of the way they socialize in our culture (popping balloons is aggressive… boys liked it, girls didn’t)  Games are fun because they’re responsive (Malone) o 3 ingredients that make games great for learning: challenge, fantasy, curiosity  Challenge: necessary for true intrinsic motivation; keeps player from getting bored  Fantasy: fantasy-inducing environments are those that evoke mental images  Curiosity: stimulated by optimal level of informational complexity Digital Play – Chapter 4, Origins of an Industry: Cold Warriors, Hackers, and Suits, 1960-1984 I. Intro: Dread, Distraction, & Innovation  1962 – Kennedy confronted Soviets about Cuban missiles o Prototype for Spacewar  conceived by Hingham Institute Study Group at MIT; Steve Russel = chief architect  Genealogy of the video game is at the intersection of warfare state and hacker culture that we find the point of departure for digital play industry II. Pentagon Play  1957 – Russia’s Sputnik  Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) & NASA  Nuclear warriors and moon landing planners pushed the envelope of archaic computing capacity o MIT  PDP-1  Video games needed these developments to be invented III. Hacker Games  Hackers helped interactive gamers emerge o Indispensable to Col War research  Hacker = a computer virtuoso  Hack = a stylish technical innovation undertaken for the pleasure of experimenting, not necessarily fulfilling any more constructive goal  Hacker ethic = info wants to be free  Hacking was play because it combined programming and puzzle solving  “play ethic”  promote “divergent thinking” (type of playfulness) as a means of accelerating radical innovation through creativity  Spacewar was a radical innovation because it used interface controls for navigation and made the screen a graphic input to the player o Foundation of digital interactive entertainment  Took playfulness to create digital play o Spacewar introduced the possibility of pleasure from the ability to navigate moving objects through a simulated environment represented on a screen  Revealed the potential of a new way of thinking about computers: video games, FUN!  Made to demonstrated what computers could do  Computers could be a source of entertainment IV. Science Fiction & Cybernetic Culture  Little-understood aspect of the circuitry of technological innovation, especially within the digital disciplines: the role of cultural contexts and subcultural practices in the dynamics of innovation and design  Breakthroughs in interactive gaming were accelerated significantly by fringes activities favored by programming sub cultures: puzzles, Lego, board games, and sci-fi o Sci-fi was central to the cultural milieu of applied cybernetics  Asimov, Orwell, etc.  NASA and ARPA (etc) were making real life experiments like those in sci-fi writing  Simsoc = ancestor of SimCity  1972 – Dungeons and Dragons (DnD)  RPGs become new entertainment genre  Find the Wumpus V. Entrepreneurial Paths  Digital play initially flowed from military infrastructures into subcultures of hacker play, sci-fi speculation and cybernetic simulation  Programmer-entrepreneurs  search for profit from interactive games o Many connected to the military-industrial complex  Leslie Haddon: o The Arcades:  Computer Space was the first coin-operated arcade video game  Sites for dynamic and sexualized active entertainment (gambling, shooting, betting, racing, and contests of might and skill)  Atari  Transition to arcades democratized the arcane games of computer hackers  Reinforced social biases that were already implanted in the technology (i.e. male dominated)  Video games inherited an aura of danger  1972 – Atari persuaded Andy Capp’s (bar) to install first coin- operated Pong machine o The Home Game Console:  1966 – Ralph H. Baer set out to develop a game system  link to TV  1967 – Baer’s interactive TV gadget (“Television Gaming Apparatus” and eventually the “Brown Box” prototype) had taken shape as a “primitive” game called Fox and Hounds  $2,500 for funding  Remained classified as a military training device until 1968 – Baer applied for exclusive patent rights  Post-Fordist o Home Computers:  Consoles made by Bushnell and Baer were simplified computers with all their power dedicated to the single function of gaming  1977 – Commodore (home computer industry) formed  In North America, home computers were widely dismissed as a gaming platform because they were so expensive and poor graphics and sound quality  Early home computer makers played down gaming capacities of their machines for fear it would make them seem frivolous or toy-like  1982 – Time named the PC its “Man of the Year” but ironically said its video game capacity was its least significant aspect  Division between serious “work” computer and fun “playful” computer not absolute or universal  Despite limited graphics and slower chips, computer games had the advantage of being programmable o Electronic bulletin boards and online connection provided a semi clandestine arena for those interested in playing, programming, and hacking games  Brown bag = free version  beta access, got people involved  World of computer gaming was small in North America but it was experimental, interconnected, and technologically sophisticated. VI. Atari Era  1972 – Bushnell founded Atari o Atari pushed rip off of Baer’s Ping Pong  Pong o Atari secured contract with Sears for 150,00 units of Home Pong  Issues with home consoles: inflexibility of circuit boards, limited power of computer chips  1976 – Fairchild release “the first programmable home game console” that players could “actually insert… cartridges into the console and change games.”  1976 - Atari employees Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs  they left to found Apple Computers  1977 – Atari Video Computer System (VCS) 2600  1978 – Midway, Space Invaders  Atari had a lot of influence in every place video games (arcades, consoles, computers) VII. Golden Eggs & Easter Eggs  1970 – cultural content of games began to blossom  1978 – Warren Robinett (designer of Adventure) placed the first Easter Egg o A room with his name in bright rainbow letters  To access room, players had to find a grey pixel and carry it back to beginning of the game  Frustrated with Atari’s policy of crediting entire company instead of individual employees  1979 – (3 years after Atari was taken over by Warner Communications) key programmers defected to set up the first such third-party developer, Activision o Left Atari because they were frustrated with lack of recognition and compensation, wanted Activision to be the first to prominently credit its programmers  1980 – Atari’s Ed Rotberg created Battlezone  first 3D game in first person perspective as seen through a periscope that simulated the interior of a tank  1980 – Namco released Pac-Man o Produced $1 billion in revenue during this year  1981 – Bally/Midway released Ms. Pac-Man  Space Invaders was so popular in Japan that it “caused a nation-wide yen coin shortage that would momentarily cripple the Japanese economy.”  1981 – Sega’s Monaco GP  set standards for racing games  Interactive games were no longer just a technological novelty; they were becoming a cultural industry  Increasing importance of software designers and cultural circuits of the industry o Game developers independent from hardware companies VIII. The Video Game Aesthetic  Chris Crawfod wrote first treatise on video game design, The Act of Computer Game Design (1984) o “interactive games were a new and poorly developed art form”  To survive, technologists needed to make them instead of artists o People play games “as a means of demonstrating prowess”; social lube o Task of a game designer was to sculpt the “play value” into the graphics, interface, and software, so that a game worked seamlessly as a virtual interactive environment, making the window display and joystick give the feel of, say, flying o Sign of growing confidence and sophistication of multimedia artists who were coming to recognize their essential role in a new and blossoming cultural industry  Contrary: the military and large corporate conglomerates IX. In the Battlezone  Game devs and war planners had overlapping interests in multimedia simulation and virtual experience  1976 – Israel successfully rescued airline passengers from Palestinian guerillas at Entebbe airport o Peaked military’s interest in sim and VR (Israel practiced rescue with sim and VR)  Approached Nicholas Negroponte to develop a sim trainer with video disk displays  Negroponte solved massive storage problem of visual info necessary for real-time tactical simulations by linking the computer w/ a video disk player o His research showed military’s role in driving the digital development of interactive play forward  Multiplayer games became formative experiences in programming, subcultures, emulations, learned from stolen and avidly talked about through email, file transfers, and later, news nets  Hackers’ cold war masters caught on to the potential of online games o Battlezone – army saw it as a basis for a simulation and a training tool o DARPA looked into games too  1980 – DARPA project SIMNET (simulation networking) o Large-scale tactical training environment o Friendly and hostile players were controlled by other humans; made the system believable and engrossing  Military games made for the public  Relationship between video games and military was becoming a sophisticated way of getting the entertainment sector to subsidize the cost of military innovation and training X. The Suits Step In  Games originally made by small boostrap enterprises o Caught attention of business giants  Warner Communications bought Atari in ‘76  Atari needed the money to make home consoles  Toy business interested in games  Late 1970s – Coleco’s Telstar (console) o Toy industry’s irst attempt at getting into games  1980 – Mattel’s Intellivision home game console; Atari’s biggest competitor  1982 – Coleco Vision  cartridge-base game console  Toy industry felt they were the heirs to the video game market, not the upstart electronics firms XI. Meltdown  1982 – worldwide home sales of video games were about $3 billion o Arcade sales about $8 billion o Pop music, $4 billion o Hollywood, $3 billion  Demand for components heated up  games had supply/delivery problems  1977 – minor crash  1982 – Atari controlled 8% of US game industry o Atari release ET game  Toy companies didn’t do much better o Microelectronic chip shortages  longer production runs, stock up on chips, more inventory  1983 – Atari/Time Warner sales dropped 40% and lost $539 million  1984 – revenues dropped to less than half of what they had been 2 years before o Time Warner sold off Atari XII. Conclusion: Bright, Brief Flare?  Interactive games emerged from the social vectors of its time o Transformed from geek invention to billion-dollar industry from 1960s-1970s  Moore’s Law = computer processing power, or the level of data density, approximately doubles every 18 months – digital propulsion of a perpetual innovation economy (Gordon Moore of Intel predicted this) o Game industry was one of the first to benefit from this  Action adventure games developed as “toys for boys”  Electronic games “Golden Age” = late 1970s-early 1980s  When major toy and media conglomerates entered field, they made matters worse  Great Crash of 1983-1984 = industry imploded because of its own perpetual innovation dynamic  It would take new agencies, a new approach, and considerable entrepreneurial nerve to try again – games went up and down like a quick, brilliant flare; came close to failing quickly


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