Markus Wiemker

Markus Wiemker studied Sociology, Philosophy, and Psychology with the focus on Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Technology RWTH Aachen in Germany. He has been teaching Game Design and Game Studies at various schools and universities in Germany, Austria and Singapore and also developed Game Design curricula for institutions in Europe, Southeast Asia and West Africa. He is currently working as a professor in Game Design at the Hochschule Fresenius, University of Applied Sciences, Cologne, Germany.

The Interconnection between Games & Gambling

FROG 2023 – Talk

This paper seeks to discuss the similarities between (playing) analog & digital games and games of chance (“gambling”). For some researchers, gaming started with pre-religious practices like the prediction of the future through using knuckle bones and developed later into the spheres of the religious ritual, the playing of analog games, and different kinds of gambling activities like playing dice, cards, betting on horse races, lotteries, casinos, etc. But when and why were these three kinds of activities separated, which groups were interested in this divide and what were their motives? It also seems interesting to have a look at the different attitudes of society to gaming and gambling (e.g., “games support learning”, “gambling leads to addiction”), at how the two industries are structured and regulated differently and at the areas in which there are still connections. Furthermore, it will be discussed which kinds of gambling elements (e.g., randomizer, loot boxes, F2P reward systems and betting mechanics) are currently used in the digital game industry and how the society reacts to that.

Methods: historical discourse analyses and a comparative ethnographical approach

Juergen Smutek

Juergen Smutek, a Gamer and Game Designer, has thrived at the intersection of gaming and gambling since 1999. His fascination with Game Theory, Balancing, Human Centricity, Beta Testing and the Flow Zone Concept drives his passion for creating engaging gameplay, both online and offline. Beyond conventional gaming, Juergen excels in hosting innovative gamification events, showcasing his ability to captivate audiences. He left his mark in competitive gaming at the Magic the Gathering 1999 World Championship in Tokyo, representing Austria. Now, poised to launch a Kickstarter board game.

As former Head of Games of win2day he has high expertise in any kind of gambling products. Presently, he researches various Megatrends, fashioning them into Future Conceptions. Outside of his professional pursuits, Juergen is a dedicated father to two daughters and finds joy in photography, video editing, cooking, skiing, soccer, and collecting trading cards. His journey is an inspiring blend of gaming, innovation, and fervent embrace of life’s multifarious adventures.

A Gamer trapped in the Gambling Industry > What I learned from working 25 years in the gambling business

FROG 2023 – Talk

This talk delves into the relationship between gaming and gambling, tracing the remarkable journey of an individual who transitioned from a passionate gamer and game designer to a seasoned expert within the gambling industry. The narrative unfolds the personal story, highlighting the captivating allure of the gambling world that held the gamer’s fascination for a remarkable 25 years. This talk underscores the multifaceted nature of gaming and gambling, offering insights into their convergence and divergence and paves the way for a deeper understanding of the dynamics that drive both industries.

The presentation underscores the critical disparities between gaming and gambling, revealing that although the two may seem synonymous on the surface, their underlying motivations differ dramatically. This distinction centers around the prominence of skill and the rigorous regulatory framework surrounding gambling. An unexpected revelation surfaces: gamblers often prioritize entertainment over monetary gain, while gamers are driven by the desire to win.

A comprehensive examination of the integration of gaming elements into various gambling products. The study provides an expert’s viewpoint on the gaming aspects within Lottery, Casino, Poker, Bingo, and Sports Betting. By dissecting these components, the research unveils the complexities of their interplay and the extent to which gaming principles infuse each category.

Finally we will venture into the future, envisioning how gaming and gambling will evolve by embracing contemporary Megatrends. These include the Subscription Economy, Sustainability, the integration of A.I. and the Metaverse, the concept of Valuetainment, and a societal shift from a currency-driven to a time-centric orientation. These trends are poised to reshape the landscape of both industries, fostering innovation and novel experiences.

Maximilian Stefan Mohr

Maximilian Stefan Mohr is enrolled in the master program Media and Digital Studies at Leuphana University in Lüneburg where he also works as a student assistant at the Leuphana Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture and Society. His main research interests include critical theory, phenomenological and social impacts of media and technology, as well game studies, where Mohr is still trying to find his niche. His favourite games combine artful presentation with strong gameplay ideas, such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013) and Ori and the Blind Forest (2015).

Monetising Nostalgia – Artificial scarcity of retro games and how it “forces” players behaviour.

FROG 2023 – Talk

Video Game Preservation and access is a topic which only grows in relevance as the history of games gains not only in years, but also in number of game titles and technical progress or change. As studios and hardware manufacturers continuously offer new platforms and games, pursue different revenue ideas or questions of licensing arise, older titles often get left behind, even though there is still, for various reasons, a demand for them. While there may be all kinds of motivations for several actions on the site of said companies, in the end they organise players into different positions of spending, corporate dependency or “legal grey areas”.
As a specific example, this talk will look at the organisational force that Super Mario 64, or rather its legacy and developer Nintendo’s dealing with said legacy, expresses onto fans of the game and players in general. As a very much still sought after and popular game, Super Mario 64 will be representative of many games that might have been lost to time amidst questions of intellectual property, cultural heritage, legality vs morality and profit driven market interests. This talk will pose the question “What can be done about it?” in different ways.

Ralph J. Moeller

Ralph J. Moeller is the CEO of two independent software/service vendors and has been working in IT as consultant, software developer and trainer since 1991. He is married and lives in Vienna/Austria.
His big interest in games led to a postgraduate study of Game Studies which he finished in 2016, to be followed by a study in Game-based Media and Education. He also has considerable interest in Transmedia Storytelling.
In his free time he plays the piano and electric guitar. He also is a vivid collector of books, comics, musical instruments and vinyl records. He has way too little space for all of his stuff.

Monetizing Minors – When kids spend their parent’s income on gaming content

FROG 2023 – Talk

Austrian organization VKI “Verein für Konsumenteninformation” (Austrian Organization for Consumer Information) reports a considerable increase in cases where underage children purchase in-game items for online games (like lootboxes, in-game-currency, weapons, equipment) without actual consent or knowledge of their legal guardians. Some cases go as far as exceeding credit card limits, resulting in severe financial damage for parents and relatives.
VKI, stepping in by trying to defend consumer’s rights, reports that credit card data has often been acquired by children either without consent or knowledge of parents or, in other cases, adults (often grandparents) have given consent as they were told by the kid the card data was only for “age verification”.
Children “borrowing” credit cards, getting adult relatives to enter card information into gaming portals, clueless parents unable to control their offspring’s game consumption; there are multiple cases.
This is a problem.
As naïve as some adults may appear here: For companies to urge minors to buy in-game items for amounts equaling a month’s pay is not legally covered by Austrian consumer laws. Especially children below 14 are legally unable to make purchases of such amounts.
This is where consumer organizations are trying to step in as parents or relatives being affected by such purchases are entitled for a refund – which companies often try to prevent by erecting electronic barriers that seem impenetrable by the average consumer.
This talk shall present multiple cases currently under investigation by consumer organizations like VKI. Also, some real-life scenarios on how gaming companies handle consumer refund requests will be shown (from the presenter’s own personal experience).
A discussion on how damage can and should be prevented will close the talk.

Eduardo Luersen

Eduardo Luersen is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Zukunftskolleg, affiliated with the Department of Literature, Art and Media at the University of Konstanz, and a member of the Global Internet Governance Academic Network. His current project, Cloud Gaming Atlas: from Earth’s metabolism to the longing for radiant infrastructures, seeks to conceptualize the continuities between cloud gaming infrastructure and natural systems, highlighting the material aspects of digital media platforms while also taking into account how the games industry is preparing to manage the environmental implications associated with its own escalation.

Bibiana da Silva de Paula (Scientific Assistant at the University of Konstanz)

How to grow crops while gaming: heat as an economic asset of cloud-based infrastructure services

FROG 2023 – Talk

For more than a decade, the games industry has probed distributing games under a “service-oriented paradigm”. Such a model, often described as gaming-as-a-service (GaaS), has been recently deviating from a distribution system based on the release of downloadable titles towards a method grounded on the streaming of game content via the cloud. Under this model, well-known actors in the ecosystem of gaming cooperate with external cloud infrastructure providers. High-end graphic processors are stacked into server racks stored in massive colocation data centres prepared to run computing-intensive games in modest devices. As the most energy-intensive form of gaming by far, cloud gaming, but also other process-intensive activities in the cloud, naturally dissipate a lot of heat. Nonetheless, for stakeholders investing in globally-available computing services, excess heat is not just an accursed climatic share but also a variable under economic scrutiny. In the broader geoeconomics of heat exchange enabled by such “information factories”, temperature becomes a strategic (and arguably scalable) commercial asset. The government of Sweden advertises cold weather as a resource to attract cloud infrastructure providers. In Hokkaido, winter snow is conserved to be used to cool server halls during summertime. In Mantsaala, Dublin and Basel, just as in several other places, the heat generated in data centres by computing-intensive services, such as gaming, is commercialised with local energy providers in order to heat homes.
As the carbon footprint of Information and Communication Technologies gets on par with the Aviation Industry, “environment-friendly” initiatives permeate the roster of sustainable practices offered by data storage and processing facilities: data centres become places to create bee colonies, grow eels and shellfish, or farm leafy greens. By fostering initiatives backed by multilaterally-sponsored environmental programmes and groups of concerned developers, the gaming industry also advocates for greener practices. Nevertheless, as the sector merges with the carbon-intensive metabolism of the cloud, where outsourced heat is business as usual, one could argue that planetary health is not really a priority. This paper inquires about these contradictions while trying to tangle up a dynamic ecosystem of servers, biomes, computers, animals, trade, air-conditioners, video cards, groundwater, and real-time photo-realistic rendering.

Jeremiah Diephuis

Jeremiah Diephuis was born in 1976 and grew up in the great arcades of the American Midwest. After studies in computational linguistics and media, he focused his attention on the utilization and development of games for public spaces. He currently works as a professor in the Digital Media department at the Hagenberg Campus of the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria. He is also co-founder of the nonprofit organization GameStage and a founding member of the research group Playful Interactive Environments.

Andrea Aschauer (University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria)
Wolfgang Hochleitner (University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria)
Georgi Kostov (University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria)

Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: Developing Economic Ideologies for Games about Climate Change

FROG 2023 – Talk

The utilization of some form of money as a collectible resource in games is incredibly widespread, almost to the point of ubiquity. The reasons for this are manifold. Games typically aim to provide an interactive experience based on a potentially real situation, however fictional the premise, and money is usually involved in such situations. Games also require readily understood concepts for at least some of the mechanics to simplify their learning curves, and money provides a certain “sweet spot” in terms of the level of abstraction, representing both a type of performance measure (akin to a point system) as well as a finite resource that serves to balance the player experience.

But what if money is potentially problematic for the premise of the game itself, such as for serious games that promote environmental protection and aim to educate about climate change and sustainability? The complexity of money and economic ideologies in regard to climate change are difficult to address in a game without ascribing to a specific political agenda (e.g. corporations are evil entities), which can easily result in players rejecting the game. And yet the exclusion or even simple concealment of monetary systems can become overly cumbersome and even disingenuous as money does indeed tend to play a role in real life.

Lea Stella Santner

Lea Santner is a student of the HTL Informationstechnologie in Villach and an associate student of psychology and informatics at the University of Klagenfurt. Her interests cover Software and Web development, as well as game engineering, virtual worlds, character design, storytelling, and game graphics. Lea was working with the Smart Grids group at the University of Klagenfurt in July 2023 on the analysis implementation of different text adventure systems. The work involved devising an Italian and German grammar module for the PunyInform library and the evaluation of money systems in interactive fiction games.

Wilfried Elmenreich (University of Klagenfurt)

Incorporating Monetary Systems Into Text-based Adventures

FROG 2023 – Talk

Text-based adventure games, also known as interactive novel computer games, allow players to engage with the game world by typing commands. These games often feature intricate puzzles that necessitate correct actions and the combination of specific objects to progress. Although the concept of money is infrequently encountered within these games, there are instances where a single coin becomes instrumental in operating machinery or serves as part of a puzzle. Incorporating a monetary system into text-based adventures presents a formidable challenge to the genre. The introduction of money can potentially disrupt puzzle complexity, enabling players to bypass cumbersome acquisition tasks by simply purchasing necessary objects. Despite these hurdles, some text-based adventures have implemented functional money systems. Notable examples include Zorkmids in Zork, Buckazoids in Planetfall, as well as Pennies, Shillings, and Echoes in Fallen London. In this presentation, we will delve into the intricate design and implementation challenges associated with introducing money systems into text-based adventure games. We will focus on detailing the implementation process using the Inform programming language. Furthermore, we will explore strategies for integrating the concept of currency into text-based adventures without compromising puzzle-solving intricacies. We will also address the issue that arises when puzzles traditionally have a singular solution while a currency system introduces a multitude of decision points. This leads to discussions about its impact on narrative choices, such as deciding between donating or retaining money, and how these decisions influence the overall storyline.

Ricarda Goetz-Preisner

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. As an independent researcher she publishes in different media, gives lectures and workshops in the realm of cultural studies.

The role of in-game purchases for character customization in games

FROG 2023 – Talk

This talk focuses on spending habits in games – so called in-game transactions – with a gender perspective. In-game purchases refer to the possibility of paying real money for items or different functions in games. Especially selecting cosmetics in a game is a way to customize characters or player´s own avatars in order to change the appearance, for example, when choosing hair color (Ducheneaut et al., 2009) or the gender you play. Identification with the avatar can increase intrinsic motivation to play (Birk et al., 2016) and might therefore be relevant to player enjoyment and performance.
As it is the challenge with all game research, to make any overall assumptions about habits or trends in the gaming world is difficult due to the sheer volume of different games. Depending on the focus that might be put on mobile games, PC or console games, the results may vary tremendously. This talk will give some insights on how in game spending influences different game plays with regard to specific games and how these might differ from a gender perspective.
Hamara et al. (2017) looked into the reasons why players would even buy in-game content. They did an empirical study on purchase motivations and the results revealed that the purchase motivations of unobstructed play, social interaction, and economical rationale were positively associated with how much money players spend on in-game content. The results imply that the way designers implement artificial limitations and obstacles as well as social interaction affects how much players spend money on in-game content. However, 90 % of their respondents were male, so no gender perspective might be applied here. Böffel et al. (2022) looked into cosmetic microtransactions for character customization in the game League of Legends, a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). In their study they analysed whether or not the performance of players with cosmetic transactions was better, which in the end it proofed to be not the case. However the authors assumed that even the choice of gender for their participants, satisfied some of their representational needs in the game (cf. 6). By default most games offer a game character designed as a white middle-aged man, if you want to play as someone else, you have to pay. Reza et al. (2022) did research on how players purchase these forms of representation in games. Participants of color in the study reported to be spending more on average than white participants on skins in the games they play. The authors did not include a gender perspective if these purchases differ between women, men or transgender persons which would have made the study even more compelling. Many of the researched studies show that gender is still not applied as a normalized axes which needs to be mentioned critically. As a research subject, choosing gender by paying for it is after the first round of research a new area within game research as this author noticed that most studies researching in-game purchases do not focus on gender even as an axes in their research.

Birk, M. V., Atkins, C., Bowey, J. T., and Mandryk, R. L. (2016). Fostering intrinsic motivation through avatar identification in digital games
Böffel C., Würger S., Müsseler J. and Schlittmeier SJ. (2022). Character Customization With Cosmetic Microtransactions
Ducheneaut, N., Wen, M. H., Yee, N., and Wadley, G. (2009). Body and mind.
HamarI, J., Alha, K., (2017). Why do players buy in-game content? An empirical study on concrete purchase motivations.
Reza, A. , Sabrina Chu, S. , Adanna Nedd, A. & Gardner, D. (2022). Having skin in the game: How players purchase representation in games.

Andreas Wieser

Andreas Wieser is a Master’s student at the University of Innsbruck and a student assistant at the Institute for Subject Didactics. His research focuses on subject didactics in the field of history and civic education and their intersections with game studies. He is particularly interested in the reception of video games by consumers and the associated influence on their historical culture and historical identity.

The Meaning of Money made visible in ANNO 1800. From a Video Game to a Board Game

FROG 2023 – Talk

Money and its equivalents take up a huge part of modern Real-Time-Strategy (RTS) games by influencing the level of difficulty and speed of advancement throughout the game. Upkeep and construction costs of buildings and units constitute the biggest part of expenses and form important and entertaining hurdles for the consumers of such video games. This presentation focuses on the question which money-centred challenges are faced through the video game ANNO 1800 and how those issues are transferred into the board game of ANNO 1800. Methodically it is based on an analysis of challenges given to the players, these can be high building costs or difficult production chains, which represent the economic growth needed to pursue the win.
The board game abstains itself completely from the use of money and focuses itself solely on another main resource of the game: workforce. At first glance the board game seems to be a game of communist tendencies using the workforce to gain products by processing resources. At second glance it still consists of and builds on capitalist ideas such as the still existing five working classes (farmers, workers, artisans, engineers, investors) and the ever-ongoing idea of economic growth and competition between the players.
This presentation aims to highlight the different capitalistic tendencies of a board game in comparison to its videogame. It concludes that even if the monetary capital is taken away from a game, it is still a highly capitalistic game using capitalistic systems of economic growth and an obvious separation between working classes giving each of them different resources and products to handle and contributing that way to the separation between classes. Complex capitalistic ideas, which normally evolve around money, are therefore still embedded, seemingly without being focused on money as its centrepiece.

Klemens Franz

Klemens Franz studied “Information Management” in Graz and “Digital Games Research and Design” in Tampere, Finland. He worked as an assistant for new media technologies at the FH Joanneum. In 2006 he founded the atelier198 where he has worked on over 300 analogue games as an illustrator, graphic designer and editor. In the last couple of years he started to talk about analogue games and his experience with their visuals. He worked on the interactive aspects of exhibitions, held game-design workshops and wrote about gaming culture. He teaches “Digital Imaging”, “Cultural Studies” and “Media Theory” at the FH Joanneum.

Real. Fake. Analogue. – The joy of playing with real people and fake money.

FROG 2023 – Talk

A long time ago money and play met for the first time. They immediately started to gamble. Since then money has become an integral part of analogue games. Not only to bet but also as a gameplay element, as components, as rules and mechanisms.

As soon as there was money people started to gamble but it was Elizabeth Magie who introduced money as components to the world of games. Her socially critical game “Landlord” was twisted to “Monopoly” and became the embodiment of capitalism. Since then a lot has happened.

This talk tries to highlight unique ways of how the medium of analogue games incorporates money in different ways than digital games (mostly) do:

Money is much more visible and tangible and has to be managed by the players themselves. It can be a component that visualizes growth and value, it can be a token that occupies spaces and spatially affects prices. It can be a track where players mark their value with a wooden cube. It can be paper money, cardboard coins or even quite expensive metal coins. Money in analogue games can be a sensual element meeting the aesthetic demands of the people around the table. And those people are willing to pay real money to upgrade their fake money.

Money can be a form of social interaction. Money as a medium to communicate is not a new idea but games like “Isle of Skye”, “Sheriff of Nottingham” or “QE” let players feel the free dynamics money can offer. They do so by incorporating human flaws into gameplay: Players have to lie, have to bribe, have to guess, have to bluff.

Analogue games always have to abstract reality. They can never reach the level of simulation digital games do. But in doing so, they use their components–material and players–in surprising ways. And maybe this sometimes seemingly raw approach can be an inspiration for digital games too.