Nicole High-Steskal is a cultural heritage expert at the University for Continuing Education. Her work deals with topics at the intersection of technology, ethics, and cultural heritage and she is currently leading the research project LiviaAI (https://livia-ai.github.io/) in collaboration with three of Vienna’s leading museums.
Natalie Denk is acting as Head of the Center for Applied Game Studies at the University for Continuing Education Krems since July 2019. Since 2014, she has been involved in various research projects at the center as well as in teaching. Her research focuses on Game-based Education, Educational Game Design, and the gender dimension of digital gaming culture.
Cultural Mediation through Play & Games
FROG 2022 – Workshop
In this workshop we will focus on play-based approaches in the field of art and culture. The programme starts with an introductory lecture by Nicole High Steskal that will tackle the following topics:
Museums and cultural institutions have long recognized the need to build relationships with their visitors. The increased use of digital tools in daily life as well as changing needs of visitors has required cultural institutions to rethink their strategies in attracting visitors and creating engaging cultural experiences. This lecture will provide an overview of the field of cultural mediation and museum experience and highlight challenges in developing game-based approaches.
After the lecture we will explore the old town of Stein (close to the University) with a guided tour by Helma Strizik. Inspired by the impressions gained during the tour, we will then devote ourselves to possible play-based approaches to cultural mediation and create concepts in a speed prototyping session.
Alexander Preisinger works as a Senior Lecturer at the Department of History at the University of Vienna. He runs the GameLab in cooperation with Nintendo, which brings game-based learning to life (https://gamelab.univie.ac.at/).
Spiel Macht Politik
FROG 2022 – Workshop
(This workshop will be held in German language.)
Spiele sind vordergründig unpolitisch – doch unter der regelgeleiteten Oberfläche verstecken sich Werte, Stereotype und Handlungszwänge, die meist selbstverständlich vom Spielenden akzeptiert werden. Die Schattenseite der spielerischen Freiheit ist der Regelzwang, dem jedes Spiel unterliegt, und anders als in Demokratien sind die Regeln des Zusammenspielens im Spiel nicht verhandelbar.
Spielpolitik und Politik durch Spiele will dieser Workshop in vier Zusammenhänge ‚erlebbar‘ machen: Politik in, mit, durch und über Spiele. Er richtet sich an pädagogische Multiplikatoren, die selbst Spiele als Lehr- und Lernmittel einsetzen wollen. Spielförmige Lernarrangements werden dazu im Kurs ausprobiert und reflektiert.
Nikita Stulikov holds Bachelor’s (2020) and Master’s (2022) degrees in Philosophy from the Lomonosov Moscow State University. He wrote his Master’s thesis on computer game ontological models. After graduation, he took a gap year to prepare for a Ph. D. research in game studies.
Is there a rise of totalitarian propaganda in Russian game culture?
FROG 2022 – Talk
The presentation highlights a totalitarian twist in Russian politics with examples from the game industry and culture. While it is common for an authoritarian state to depoliticize its citizens, a totalitarian one actively involves them in its political life through ideology. Thus, a brief description of some notable cases in the Russian game industry seems appropriate to approach the issue. It may be remarkable to describe the totalitarian shift in order to be aware of its symptoms, which is particularly important due to the recent reinforcement of right-wing radicals in liberal democracies.
The contribution demonstrates some examples of Putin’s government instrumentalizing computer games to be one more militaristic and oppressive propaganda media. First, a Russian game engine project, a part of the “import substitution” trend, which has emerged with the economic sanctions against Russia. Although the project has been rejected, it indicated the state’s interest in game-specific advantages. Second, a controversial game project called “Smuta” was developed with the government’s financial support. The game has a historical setting in the XVI-XVII centuries, during Western European governors’ intervention in Russia. Third, the promotion of military recruitment Wagner group, which uses synthwave aesthetics (admittedly associated with computer game culture) to convince the community of fans to take part in the war in Ukraine.
All things considered, it could be a totalitarian trend in Russian culture. The government seems to be interested in the potential of games and play for oppression (the national game engine project); it can use computer games as a media for anti-Western propaganda (“Smuta”); and it already uses some game cultural content as an oppressive mechanism to gain ideological power over the community of players in Russia (the promotion of Wagner group).
Jono recently left the world of online payments to pursue a career in games. After graduating from Shenkar’s new Master’s program in Game Design, he founded Zero Prep Games with Aviv Manoach, where they plan to work work on projects for desktop, mobile, and print.
Aviv Manoach, Shenkar College
Game Night: Examining group cohesion through cooperative video games
FROG 2022 – Poster
Cooperative games date back to the early days of the arcades. but over the years have grown in popularity as home-entertainment hardware became more powerful and ubiquitous. Previous research has shown how playing video games with friends and family can positively affect social behaviour outside of the game. Other research focused on the bonds within social groups and how strengthening these bonds can improve the group’s performance. This paper examined the effects of team cohesiveness on cooperative play and vice versa by presenting social groups with a cooperative game and surveying them for cohesiveness-related metrics. We developed a simple cooperative game that relies on communication and cooperation. The study could not demonstrate a positive correlation between cooperation and cohesiveness. The data showed that a single player doing the majority of the work in the game correlated with a perception of cohesiveness and overall in-game success.
Alexander Pfeiffer is is holding a postdoc position at University for Continuing Education Krems, Austria. He is a recipient of a Max Kade Fellowship awarded by the Austrian Academy of Science to work at the MIT Education Arcade, USA from 2019-2021.
Case Study: Ownership of Story Elements – Retrospective of the Twitter improv theater piece ‘FSMCOTAARSDG’.
FROG 2022 – Poster
At the beginning of January 2022, Alexander Pfeiffer started an improv theater play on Twitter that developed out of a joke. The rules of the game were simple: tweets were sent with statements, questions or specific tasks that every Twitter participant could answer, but also had the right to continue the story. The only requirement was that the posted content were also shareable media files (mainly images) on the experimental NFT platform NFT Magic. The advantage of this platform, besides the ease of use, was that the cost is in the dollar cent range per NFT created or sent. The project picked up speed unexpectedly fast and a not always coherent but complex alien detective story was spun by the community. The special thing about it, all game elements were owned by the players, even more were created by the players and became collectibles. In this poster presentation a review of the project will be given and it will be shown where the chances and problems for a further use of these mechanics and technologies lie. The model for the narrative form was the Tschauner Bühne, which stands for improvisation theater in the Viennese district of Ottakring.
Ricarda Goetz-Preisner is currently conducting her PhD thesis in game studies at the University of Vienna about inclusive games. By training she is a political scientist and employed by the City of Vienna, where she has an advisory role on girls and women in digital games.
Oppressive mechanisms for women in the game development culture
FROG 2022 – Poster
In the last years, starting with the infamous #gamergate in 2015, a lot has been said and criticized about the mechanisms in game development companies. Just recently an Austrian game production studio – Moon Studio – which has produced the amazing games of Ori and the Blind Forest as well as Ori and the Will of the Wisps, has been called out for its oppressive culture by multiple workers. According to VentureBeat (Takahashi 2022), the founders Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol propagated an environment where casual racism, sexism and bullying was on the agenda.
Unfortunately, news like this is not new in the gaming world. Another company, famous for rather colorful and inclusive games, the French company Ubisoft, made headlines in 2020 for misogynist bullying and sexual harassment (cf. Gach 2021). Even though Ubisoft promised to “overhaul its workplace culture “, little has been done since the complaints.
2020 was also the year, different stories published on Twitter shed more light on the hardship women still face in the industry by being pressured into sex, being belittled or gaslit by their male superiors and colleagues (cf. McDonald 2020). It seems even game companies claim to value the work of women, they have it hard as ever working in a still male-dominated sector. In 2018 the gaming website Kotaku investigated the game developer Riot Games over their gender-based harassment case – hundreds of workers even joined the protest and quit the company which has “promised to overhaul its workplace culture” (Dean 2019).
These developments show that being a woman in the game development culture is met with sexism, harassment, and sexual predation.
Dean, S. (2019). Riot Games will pay $10 million to settle gender discrimination suit. https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2019-12-02/riot-games-gender-discrimination-settlement
Gach, E. (2021). Despite Filing Harassment Reports, Employees Say Ubisoft Isn’t Doing Much
McDonald, K. (2020). Is the video games industry finally reckoning with sexism? https://www.theguardian.com/games/2020/jul/22/is-the-video-games-industry-finally-reckoning-with-sexism
Takahashi, D. (2022). Despite its beautiful Ori games, Moon Studios is called an ‘oppressive’ place to work. https://venturebeat.com/pc-gaming/despite-its-beautiful-ori-games-moon-studio-is-called-an-oppressive-place-to-work/
Michaela Wawra is in a prae-doc position at University for Continuing Education Krems in Austria. She lived 2 years abroad in Sweden and finished her bachelor and her master’s programme at University of Vienna, where she specialised in business law, innovation- and technology management and electronic business. The focus of her job is in distance learning in the mba programmes and e-learning. She will start her PhD in March at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. She has a burning passion for gaming and been a successful international guild leader for about 2-3 years through World of Warcraft Classic and Burning Crusade (2020-2022). She also played professionally in Team Austria Female with Counter-Strike 1.6 around 2003-2004
Alexander Pfeiffer, University for Continuing Education Krems
The freedom of choice: looking at the game mechanics of lootboxes through the eyes of FIFA 22 (Ultimate Team).
FROG 2022 – Poster
Take a look back at the year 2010: Netflix begins to expand its same-named streaming service beyond the borders of the United States of America. In the same year Apple launches the iPhone 4, more complex smartphone games (of course also on high end Android smartphones) find a wider popularity. The revolution of digital business models has just begun. It is becoming apparent that mechanics that have slowly but steadily evolved over the 2000s are now becoming mainstream. These include in-game / in-app purchases where you buy a fantasy currency to be used in the game or directly virtual items, but also the concept of lootboxes. Lootboxes implement concepts from gambling and you don’t know exactly what reward awaits you. Lootboxes can usually be played for, but can also be purchased, respectively the purchased fantasy currency can be cashed in for it.
While these concepts were first used for cash generation in free-to-play games, Electronic Arts implemented in 2009 the Ultimate Team Game Mode in FIFA bringing a game mode with in-game purchases and lootboxes to build your squads. This already proved to be so successful in early 2010 that this game mode is present in all EA sports games and generated billions in sales in the early 2020s. This article would now like to look at the status quo of lootboxes in games with a focus on FIFA Ultimate Team games and the perspective from the players’ point of view. What freedom do players have to play the game without extra spending? What does it mean for players to invest money for the game? How do players react to the various promotions and the constant development of new trading cards and events? How do players feel at the end of a FIFA edition when they can get all the trading cards with little effort? These and other questions are part of a quantitative study among players followed by a recap of the data through a focus group interview.
Paula Goerke is a freelance English teacher and currently a research assistant at the Chair of Critical Educational Technology and Media Education at FernUniversität in Hagen. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Educational Science at FernUniversität in Hagen in 2021 and is currently completing her Master’s degree in Education and Media. Her focus is on the interdisciplinary possibilities of bringing educators and game developers together and understanding the relationship between people and games.
(Un)restricted play – how prospective game designers view the boundaries of games
FROG 2022 – Poster
Limitations, both natural and artificial, are an inherent part of human life, restricting humans in their movement, their thoughts, their interactions, and their general freedom. One opportunity to escape such real-life limitations is (video) games. However, the freedom players encounter while experiencing their virtual adventures is heavily influenced by the multiple limitations set by the game designers. In-game freedom can only properly be enjoyed within the limits its creators allow. Most research focuses on the way players experience these limitations and their perceived possibilities of thriving within them. In contrast, this poster presentation portrays how prospective game designers view the boundaries encountered by players and how these limitations can be overcome by them. The poster is based on qualitative research – interviews with four prospective game designers – and allows a new perspective on games by focusing on the (new) people behind the scenes rather than those who interact with them. It offers two contributions to the current degree of knowledge: firstly, examining the perspective of game designers allows insight into the making and designing of games – how aware are they of their own limitations? How do they perceive the limitations their players will encounter? And how do these limitations bleed into the non-virtual world? Secondly, focusing on future game designers rather than those with years of experience allows insights into the future of the industry as well as the current standings of educational programs focused on games. The results show that regarding themselves, they are aware of their technological restrictions as well as the limitations of their own experiences. Concerning game-inherent boundaries, they identified player interactions and design limitations, among other things.
Xavier Aranda obtained his PhD in Philosophy in the University of Guanajuato, Mexico, where he is lecturing subjects such as Philosophy of G.W.F Hegel, Contemporary Philosophy of Mind and Language, and Analytic Philosophy and Contemporary Pragmatism. He also has participated in several International Philosophy congresses. During his academic career he has shown an interest in Literary Studies, Semiotics, and Cinema. More recently he began coordinanting a seminar in Ludology, exploring the works of J. Huizinga, R. Callois and E. Fink.
Game as a constituent unit of meaning
FROG 2022 – Poster
Ludology’s development as a discipline of its own has been dedicated for the most part to the study of hypermedia, VR, and videogames, letting mostly behind the question about which elements are shared between those games and the more basic -and probably vaguely defined- kind of games like children’s play, board games, sports, etc. That is, the question about if it’s possible to reach a definition of ‘game’ that ties together all the different ‘play’ manifestations as it seems to be rather difficult to answer. The following presentation will be an attempt at this, aimed at showing ‘what a game is’ as a unit of analysis, the special conditions that allow it to constitute meaning and therefore, to be suceptible of being an object of study for Aesthetics, Narrative studies, and Semiotics. This approach must be Philosophical in nature as it should be any foundational effort for any given discipline (though not achieved through Philosophy exclusively). We will consider the following as antecedents of the present work 1) the studies about games and play made by J. Huizinga, R. Callois, and E. Fink, and 2) the extensive use of ‘language as a game’ analogy present in Philosophy of Language and Epistemology, which has showed the intrinsic relationship between rules and meaning (in L. Wittgenstein and S. Kripke among others). We will propose a theoretical framework aimed at providing a definition of game (and play) with a semiotic performance through the pragmatical use of concepts which will be indicative of the narrative-performative character of any game.
Ivo has a degree in architecture from TU Wien and is currently a student of Game Studies at University of Krems. He works as a Serious Game Designer for an international Railway Logistics Company and has successfully crowdfunded and published the board game www.world-control.net
Gambling for Freedom
FROG 2022 – Talk
Since the arrival of European settlers to the new world, First nation Americans have been subject to brutal allocation, separation and discrimination. As Indian reservations, recognized tribes have been granted partial sovereignty, not in the sense that they can raise their own army, but being able to enforce their own jurisdiction, that may differ from the state’s laws they are geographically located in. Through the means of liberal gaming and gambling laws, many tribes have found ways towards economic self-sufficiency in order to invest in their communities. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 marked the most significant legal breakthrough for fiscal independence of many tribes within the United States.
Generating more revenue than the iconic American gambling-sanctuaries of Las Vegas and Atlantic City combined, gaming in reservations attracts vast amounts of domestic tourists, since the taboo of gambling persists in most parts of the United States and it’s puritan roots. Many native American tribes however have a big cultural heritage in games and also concerning luck, thus forming a core legal argument for it’s sovereign self-determination. In contrast, many first nations of Canada are denied their own laws concerning gaming and gambling, when no proof of a tribe’s cultural heritage directly linked to gaming can be provided.
This struggle for empowerment through the means of gaming is historically truly unique, worth revisiting and going into detail.