Bastian Krupp

Bastian Krupp recently completed his M.A. in action-oriented media pedagogy at the Danube-University Krems. He wrote his Master-Thesis on the connection between the development of emotional intelligence and gaming. As a trained educator and studied social worker, he is interested in the effect of digital games as a methodical instrument for initialising educational processes. Since 2017 he has been working as a social pedagogical director in open youth work, where he has been able to realise numerous projects with and through games, such as eSport.

On the connection between the development of emotional intelligence and gaming

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

Digital games have been an integral part of individual media biographies for half a century now. More than one third of Germans play regularly. For society as a whole and for media education in particular, this raises the question of the “right” way to deal with digital games in educational activities. Up to now, social evaluation has been primarily based on the consideration of ascribed risks (see discourse on “killer games” and the loss of empathy through glorification of violence and social isolation). If the potential risks are made the central origin of a social debate, they also control pedagogical action. A benevolent societal attitude toward digital games helps media education to gain greater recognition for its pedagogical use, which has already produced impressive successes for learning and educational processes. Scientifically, there are few relevant research results on the effect of digital games on the development of empathy. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is still a young field of research but is not being considered in the context of digital games. This thesis deals with the question of the effect of digital games on emotional intelligence by means of a quantitative survey of gamers. The results show that gamers, in principle, have no differences in the development of emotional intelligence compared to non-gamers. Thus, they represent an important finding for a social as well as a scientific debate about their recognition as cultural assets. The identification of gender-specific differences also draws attention to the lack of diversity in gaming, which is still characterized by ideals of masculinity and in whose environment women are repeatedly confronted with sexism. In society, as in media education, there is a need for a reformation that allows for a sharpening of the view for the positive effects of digital games and addresses problematic conditions in the gaming scene.

Tanja Sihvonen

Tanja Sihvonen is professor of Communication Studies at the University of Vaasa, Finland. She is specialized in digital media, games, and participatory cultures on the internet. Her most recent work considers astroturfing, monsters, and cryptogames.

Narrative Transformations and Cultural Appropriation. Placemaking in Assassin’s Creed: Origins Discovery Tour Mode

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

Mona Khattab (Communication Studies, University of Vaasa)
Sabine Harrer (Game Design Department Gotland, Uppsala University, Sweden)

Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft, 2007-) is an action-adventure stealth video game franchise that lets its player delve into history, from Renaissance-era Florence to Victorian London. In this presentation, we aim at understanding the purpose of placemaking as a technology for virtual and identity tourism. More particularly, we will perform a close-reading of the ‘discovery tour mode’ function in Assassin’s Creed: Origins (henceforth: ACO, 2018), a game that takes place in Ancient Egypt. We argue that due to its quasi-touristic staging of an ancient civilisation, the discovery tour mode is a particularly potent feature in exploring how games render history palatable for an implied white Western audience. What makes the discovery tour mode specifically interesting is the focus that ACO has on the perceived othering and cultural appropriation of classical civilizations. Othering is a tool frequently employed in games seeking to immerse players into ‘exotic’ places constructed from imperial cartographic memory. The presentation unpacks this phenomenon in three sections that analyse placemaking in ACO through three different-level narrative viewpoints. The first of these examines the depiction of Egypt through which the real historical and geographical location is reimagined as a game environment. This section focuses on the transcultural representation of Egypt as the exoticized Other in the representational context of the global south. The second section highlights the centrality of the main character in the game narrative and the structure of the game. The third section addresses the intersectionality of narrativity and cultural representation as immersive, spatially organized experiences and studies these in the theoretical frame of placemaking and the game’s potential for virtual and identity tourism. This talk combines textual analysis of game objects and environments to autoethnographic observation and geographical understanding of real-world locations turned into reappropriated game places. The conclusion highlights the intersectionality of cultural and narratological trajectories within the framework of placemaking, leading to an assessment of the potential of creating virtual tours of historically and geographically non-Western locations.

Erwin Cetl

Erwin Cetl worked as a nurse for a long time and took care of people in need when he decided in 2016 to direct his academic career towards a combination of healthcare and technology. Now he is responsible for development of medical devices and studies part-time at the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences. As part of the Master’s degree program Digital Healthcare, he and his interdisciplinary team, consisting of software and hardware developers, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists, have the opportunity to combine technology and healthcare and to improve the world of healthcare sustainably using innovative digital approaches.

Development of the gamification application PENguin used by children to perform graphomotor movements with the STABILO® ErgoPen

FROG 2020 – Poster Presentation

Erik Sommer (Project Team Member)
Mario Heller (Project Coach)
Jens Barth (STABILO)
Tim Hamann (STABILO)

In recent years it has been observed that with the increasing use of computers, tablets, or mobile devices, traditional handwriting with pencil and paper has been more and more replaced by digital writing implements such as keyboards or stylus pens. The increased use of digital media also affects sensorimotor skills and their influence on children’s reading and writing performance. Children who have problems with writing skills often cannot keep up with the amount of written work required in primary schools. This may affect their academic progress and leads to decreased self-esteem and behavioral problems. Typically, these children are mostly viewed as uncooperative or lazy, which leads to further frustration and disappointment. Since there are many different approaches for teaching handwriting in primary schools, both the type and duration of the instructions are major external factors influencing handwriting performance. In many different areas of health care, playful training approaches are used as an alternative to conventional training methods in order to increase motivation and fun. Therefore, as part of the Master´s degree program, Digital Healthcare at the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences and in cooperation with STABILO® International GmbH the interactive software PENguin was developed to perform graphomotor movements with the STABILO® ErgoPen in a playful way. For this purpose, the user utilizes a special pen, which is equipped with numerous sensors to convert manual movements of the hand into digital signals to control the game. By executing three different graphomotor movements with the ErgoPen, a PENguin is controlled within the application in almost real-time to either move forward or backward, jump or throw snowballs at opponents.

Steve Hilbert

For more than 20 years I have been working as a social pedagogue in various fields of activity. As an experienced former head of a school class for potential dropouts, I used digital games for several years to promote the search for identity. Games game me easy access to the young people, so that I could offer pedagogical support to potential dropouts. Digital games enabled the young people to deal with sensitive issues of a game in relation to their own identity. I Aam currently working as a policy maker at the Resource Centre for non-formal Education of Luxembourg secondary schools.

In search of identity through the game “Gris”

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

Searching the own identity trough the game Gris? Gris is a stylish game that deals with the topic of depression. During the gameplay the avatar develops with great care. His healing process until the pain is accepted is the main part of the game. How can the game scenario of Gris contribute to the individual search for identity? In identity crises we must be aware of the many forms of identity crises, as social crises, individual crises and individual crises of meaning. Differences between public and social identity imply a different view of perspectives, whether personal or public. Social interaction is essential in the search for identity. The ability to perceive and understand one’s own inner being and emotions enables system-oriented processes to be created within a peer group. Emotions, changes and (personal) contact are essential for identity, as they have a common/influencing effect on each of them. The prerequisite for this is the ability to change perspectives. This ability is acquired through cognition, which must be supported by the public community in order for people to benefit from this development. Accordingly, the educational aspect and equal access to education represent the conclusion of the search for identity.

Swen Körner

Swen Körner is a professor at the German Sport University Cologne and Head of Department for Training Pedagogy and Martial Research. His research is geared towards the optimization of police education and training, practical issues of evidence based violence prevention and the relevance of martial arts in different domains of modern society.

train2fight the virus – possibilities of university online teaching in sports

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

Mario S. Staller (University of Applied Sciences for Police and Administration, North Rhine Westphalia)

The spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Germany and the general restrictions on social contacts decided upon pose major challenges for institutional teaching and learning settings (Koerner & Staller, 2020). In March 2020, a collective helplessness quickly spread among many lecturers at the German Sport University Cologne (DSHS), one of the world’s most renowned sport universities, as a result of the ban on face-to-face teaching. While online based solutions were already known and proven for theory courses primary dealing with cognitive contents, for online practical teaching using electronic devices for the learning of motor and tactical skills neither experience nor orientation was available. In order for the practical teaching to take place under conditions of COVID-19 innovative and adapted solutions were in need, which at the same time at least principally meet the demands of the respective university curriculum. In the case of DSHS` regular “self-defence” module, this meant that students had to be enabled to “understand and practically apply basic principles of self-defence” (DSHS, 2020) by means of online teaching. The paper presents the conceptual framework of DSHS` university “self-defence” course developed specifically for this challenge, in which elements of gamification (Schell, 2008; Fischer et al., 2017) play a driving role.

Mario Staller

Mario Staller is a professor at the University of Applied Sciences for Police and Administration North Rhine Westphalia in the Department of Policing. His research focuses on the professionalization of police education and training both on a practical and an organizational level. Furthermore, current research projects include evidence-based violence prevention and coach development within these settings.

Is there more? – On the (non-)definition of gamified teaching

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

Swen Körner (German Sport University Cologne, Department for Training Pedagogy and Martial Research)

The gamification of higher education has potential (Bai et al., 2020; Sailer & Sailer, 2020). The range of possibilities for gamification is diverse and does not appear to be definitively determined (Toda et al., 2019). However, there is consensus that gamification must not impair the effectiveness of learning setting (operationalized as learning that has taken place) in higher education (Fischer et al., 2017). Accordingly, empirical research on the effectiveness of gamification focuses mainly on its direct benefits (e.g., motivation, commitment, learning process performance, retention or application of the taught content). The focus on the effectiveness of a gamified learning environment seems to encourage the application of game-design elements that are primarily related to performance (progress, development and feedback): Points, levels, challenges, trophies, rankings. Thus there is a danger that design elements with primary effects, which are more on an emotional level, are less focused upon limiting the gamified learning experience or not developing the full potential of a gamified learning setting. This article discusses possibilities of an open gamification environment on the basis of a case study in a psychology course at a police academy. The focus is on the planning and reflection process of the teaching, which transcends the possible restrictive definition of gamification.

Tobias Unterhuber

Dr. Tobias Unterhuber studied modern German literature, comparative literature and study of religion at LMU Munich and at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2018, he earned his PhD with his thesis on the works of Swiss author Christian Kracht. He is a post-doc for literature and media studies at the Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck. In addition to pop literature, literary theory, discourse analysis, literature & economics and gender studies, his research interests include video game research in the field of cultural studies. He is an editor of the game studies journal PAIDIA.

The loss and restriction of ludic and political agency in games

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

Agency is not only a central term in game studies but also “[a] crucial term in the theory and practice of feminism, as indeed any politics.” (Andermahr et. al. 1997, p. 13) What we are allowed and what we ought to do in a society is the range of our agency. Laws, implicit and explicit rules, ethics and authority limit it. Furthermore, tactics of marginalization, often based on race, gender and class, restrict people’s agency even further. Discriminatory behavior and structural violence thus can be described as attempts to restrict the agency of marginalized people. However, how is this related to agency in video games? The specific mediallity of video games always affords players agency. The range may vary but it is essential for games that players can choose their actions, to make choices – be it on the macro, micro or substructure level (Cf. Backe 2008). Video games offer players “the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices” (Murray 1998, p. 129). This has two consequences: 1. Society and games are both rule-governed systems, which give players and people agency. Therefore, ludic agency can act as a structural analogy of political and social agency. Players’ agency can represent the player character’s agency in a fictional world and society. 2. Since players are accustomed to having agency, the loss and restriction of their agency can be a powerful tool to show the aforementioned analogy and to let players experience, in a safe media environment, how people’s agency are not identical based on their class, their race and their gender. The presentation wants to show how games implement situations of agency loss and restricted agency to represent lost and restricted social and political agency and o not only show the players but let them experience how discriminatory systems work.

Jori Linnamäki

Jori Linnamäki is a PhD student at Tampere University, making his doctoral dissertation in Games Research about in-game thinking of players, ethical processes in game design, and understanding the connection between psychodrama and live games. He is curious about the potential of games to help us grow as humans. In his other professional life, he is a teacher (M. Ed.), drama instructor (BTA), Playback Theatre trainer, Psychodrama Director (CP), game designer and a supervisor. In all his fields, Linnamäki works with interaction systems and is searching for creative ways and methods to improve interaction, combining all his different professional fields.

An approach to board game design that centres allyship and empowers trans people

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

Josephine Baird (Uppsala University)

The Uppsala University Games & Society Lab started a game project with the Neuroscience Department with the aim to support trans people. During the reflective design and testing process things changed, partly due to ethical processing and partly due to COVID-19. This included changes in the team composition as well the nature of the game from an identity exploration edu-larp to a board game about protecting trans people from microaggressions. The design process was challenging, which inspired us to write an article about the process and its ethics. The article also provided guidelines for other designers working with and for vulnerable target groups. In this presentation, we explore the game design as well as the design and research process it inspired. In the board game, the board represents the trans person facing microaggressions and the players play allies trying to defend the trans person. The game is targeted at allies or the support network of trans people, helping them develop their allyship skills. Our design process was guided by Shaw’s (2011) criteria for ethical representation. We also created a model for an ethical design process, inspired heavily by Frame and Williams’ (2005) model for ethical decision making from a multicultural perspective. The questions we explore in this presentation are, how do we make a board game that has allies as the active party but at the same time it won’t be disempowering for trans people? What skills do allies need to be good allies? And how this led to the model for ethical game design we used and now propose.

Harald Koberg

Harald is a games researcher, media pedagogue and cultural mediator based in Graz, Austria. He works for the Styrian Government as an expert in digital culture. At Ludovico – an NGO focusing on the culture and pedagogics of play – he is responsible for all activities concerning digital play and organizes the annual button Festival of Gaming Culture. He wrote his doctoral thesis on »Digital Play and the Longing for Agency« and holds a PHD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Graz.

Owning the Stats – Gaming and Neoliberal Subjectivity

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

Digital play, as I plan to argue, uncovers cracks in the theoretical surface of common descriptions of modern societies. Games undermine binary concepts of reality and fiction, presence and absence, heterotopia and utopia. I propose that through these cracks digital games offer opportunities to evade aspects of materiality, especially considering the body and the governmental forces that influence it. And a thorough look at player’s motivation to engage with the medium shows how these opportunities affect games and their communities. Based on an understanding of digital games as experiences that do not end with the game-worlds and the margins of the game’s code, I want to demonstrate how digital games can be used as mirrors, offering a new perspective on neoliberal societies and people’s struggles to deal with the requirements they feel to be expected to fulfill in order to be valuable parts of said societies. In social contexts with strong tendencies to understand individuals as a set of metrics, many digital games offer possibilities to take control of the numbers and to experience a form of agency often lacking in everyday life. Gaming spaces invite us to play with power structures. But whether they stabilize or undermine them remains to be evaluated.

Alesha Serada

Alesha Serada graduated in Cultural Studies with a specialization in Visual Culture from the European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania). Before that, they gained a Specialist’s Diploma in Oriental Philology (2006) at the Belarusian State University (Minsk, Belarus). Currently Alesha is a researcher and a PhD student at the University of Vaasa, Finland, where they study value and meaning in applications of blockchain technologies. Their research interests revolve around exploitation, deception, violence, horror, Machiavellian ethics and other banal and non-banal evils.

Win the Game by Not Paying: False Consciousness in Free-to-Play Games

FROG 2020 – Short Talk

In this paper, I evaluate the main argument in favor of the freemium monetization model as opposed to a one time purchase and the subscription model. This argument is usually presented as follows: “one can play a free-to-play game for free if they cannot afford to pay”. Firstly, I turn to the available statistics on free-to-play economies (Seufert, 2014) and find out that, indeed, free-to-play games possess a democratizing potential in making gaming experiences available to the widest audience (Clark, 2014). However, such games are still perceived by critics and gamers as morally ambiguous because of their potentially coercive techniques (Nieborg, 2016) and ‘dark patterns’ of game design (Zagal et al., 2013). I proceed with the observation, derived from game reviews on Google Play and the App Store, that players take their pride in achieving their goals in a game without paying. I suggest that a free-to-play game is a game between the player and the publisher of the game: the goal of the publisher is to make a player pay, and the goal of the player is to enjoy as much of the game for free as possible. One possible direction of critique is to apply the Marxist concept of ‘false consciousness’. The starting point is that ‘false consciousness’ is never completely false: ideological claims labeled as ‘false consciousness’ are often based on true facts (Eagleton, 1996). So, if the publishers promise free gameplay, they in fact make the game playable without investing real world money; however, the game is never completely free. The illusion of ‘free play’ results in a situation that Tiziana Terranova calls “a poverty of attention”: the qualitative degradation of attention in overstimulating digital environments (Terranova, 2012). Paradoxically, based on that, I state that only the players who have already paid really play the game for free: they can dedicate most of their time and attention to self-actualization in the game.