Empathy in games

This week I would like to talk about empathy in games. Empathy in games is something I have never thought about a lot before we talked about this is last weeks lecture.

In my opinion it’s just games. It’s not real, so why have empathy. For example in games where you kill or hurt people. They are not real, so why even care? But afte my friend Rikke presented a game called Hellblade, it really got me thinking. The game is about a girl who suffers from mental illness and hear voices. Her innerbattle. She doesn’t know what it is and calls herself  “cursed”, which is it not. She hears voices who tell her negative things about her, like she can’t do stuff and so on. They are pressing her down and making her feel worse. So after Rikke was done with her presentation I felt like maybe I want to play this game, to know what it is to struggle with mental illness. Now a days it’s really common and probably more than we know about. I can’t relate to that because I don’t know what it’s like. Hellblade got a lot of feedback that people know understand what is like, and people who are suffering from mental illness feels like they are not alone after playing this game.. Maybe I will give it a shot.

Later we also played games in class. I chose to play a game about beeing a refugee from Syria trying to make my way to Europe. I thought it would be easy. But how wrong was I? It was really difficult. There was a lot of decisions to make, difficult ones. I had to play it many times until I got to Europe. I was really not aware that it was so difficult to be a refugee. I knew it was hard, but since I have never been one, it’s hard to put yourself in that position.  And I know that game can’t really make you experience exactly what it feels like to one, but it gives you some insight. Just by playing that game, I feel like I understand it much better know, and I can actually sympathize with refugees know. It is really hard. Even if you get to Europe (which you only will do if you are lucky), it’s not guarenteed that your family will. Refugees are tough ass people! Respect!

Empathy in games

This week I would like to talk about empathy in games. Empathy in games is something I have never thought about a lot before we talked about this is last weeks lecture.

In my opinion it’s just games. It’s not real, so why have empathy. For example in games where you kill or hurt people. They are not real, so why even care? But afte my friend Rikke presented a game called Hellblade, it really got me thinking. The game is about a girl who suffers from mental illness and hear voices. Her innerbattle. She doesn’t know what it is and calls herself  “cursed”, which is it not. She hears voices who tell her negative things about her, like she can’t do stuff and so on. They are pressing her down and making her feel worse. So after Rikke was done with her presentation I felt like maybe I want to play this game, to know what it is to struggle with mental illness. Now a days it’s really common and probably more than we know about. I can’t relate to that because I don’t know what it’s like. Hellblade got a lot of feedback that people know understand what is like, and people who are suffering from mental illness feels like they are not alone after playing this game.. Maybe I will give it a shot.

Later we also played games in class. I chose to play a game about beeing a refugee from Syria trying to make my way to Europe. I thought it would be easy. But how wrong was I? It was really difficult. There was a lot of decisions to make, difficult ones. I had to play it many times until I got to Europe. I was really not aware that it was so difficult to be a refugee. I knew it was hard, but since I have never been one, it’s hard to put yourself in that position.  And I know that game can’t really make you experience exactly what it feels like to one, but it gives you some insight. Just by playing that game, I feel like I understand it much better know, and I can actually sympathize with refugees know. It is really hard. Even if you get to Europe (which you only will do if you are lucky), it’s not guarenteed that your family will. Refugees are tough ass people! Respect!

Violence/Empathy & Games

After googling articles related to empathy and video games I quickly found out that violent video games don’t affect empathy directly, and scientist hasn’t found any differences in measures of aggression or empathy between gamers and non-gamers. There is countless of articles and studies focusing on this specific subject, but if we look around us we also see that people are pointing fingers at social media, the commercial business and the TV business, blaming them for influencing the youth in a negative direction. Parents react when their kids spend their spare time playing video games, but do they notice the music their children listen to? There are few things that doesn’t influence us today, but what matters is how we act.

 

I feel like the society today is out for blood. Were constantly looking for someone/something to blame for all the negativity surrounding us, and people don’t mind pointing at the video game business and pushing the blame over to them. Often when we hear about a shooting in USA or in other parts of the world they also make sure to mention that the suspect also sat at home playing shooting games at least a couple of hours every day. It´s easy to blame people who use their time playing games, since many of these people are introverts that shadows themselves from the world around. I started playing PS4 a lot after I moved as a teenager and found myself surrounded with strangers, it was a way to safely escape the real world and meet people with common interests. You stop feeling like a lonely outsider and start feeling like a normal happy teenager.

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When I got home to enjoy my Easter break I noticed that PS4 store had their yearly Easter-sale, and I noticed a game that I’ve seen before but never thought about buying. Life is Strange: Before the Storm, the games plot takes place over three episodes in a city named Arcadia Bay and you play as the main character Chloe. Throughout the game you choose how to direct the plot, you take choices that affects how the game will play out. If you choose “wrong” the game will end in a specific way, so you have to think about your choices and do research while playing to choose “right”. After each episode you get to see the choices you’ve made and what other players chose. It’s a game that demands that you think and without thinking about it you start caring about the characters, and if you go to YouTube and read comments on videos about the game you’ll see many people that’s touched by the game. This is a perfect game that brings forth empathy, and all the stirred players are the evidence of this.

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In America most of the science about violence and video games says that there is a connection, but if we look at research done in Norway it’s a bit more sceptic. There is no evidence that there is a connection, but the media still spreads fake news about how your children will be damaged and they will start fighting if you let them play shooting games. No one is talking about how video games actually can teach children about empathy and show them that it’s good to care about others. It seems like the media and many scientists are backing up their cause with moral and politic agenda. I feel like video games can be an outlet for bad feelings, if you’re mad and really would like to punch someone, you can use COD to shoot at virtual people and get rid of the aggression your walking around with, and this won’t harm anybody. Americas problem is that they don’t take care of their youth and if you want a gun it’s as easy to get as getting a cheese burger at McDonalds. Instead of focusing on violent games, we should be looking for more games like Life is Strange, and saluting games that teaches the player to get involved and forcing our feelings to appear.

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If there is one thing video games has thought me, it’s that we use too much time in front of the screen instead of looking at our own life and fixing our own problems. It´s an easy escape, and I´m sure my parents love that I´m sitting inside playing instead of being outside escaping problems with sketchy substances. (I just feel like mentioning that I´m not a teenager anymore and I do fix my problems rather than avoiding them with games, I sadly don´t play much video games anymore, but it’s a sacrifice I gladly chose so that I could be social with friends and family).

I felt the song underneath was appropriate today:)

Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX – I Love It

Happy Easter

It´s another week, and the semester is close to the end. I’m home for this thing called Easter – Break or Holiday, we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It´s fun with a holiday and a break from school this week!

#Textransformations

Last week Mia shared her work with us, which was a launch event for her art installation entitled Textransformations. We were at the Bergen University Library for this opening. It was really fun actually, she gave us pizza and we watched some art. Fun and interactive experience.

 

serious games

#Thursdayslesson
On Thursdays lesson, we learned some more about gaming and games. The theme this week was different from last week, the theme was serious-,  and empathy – games. These games are designed with a different purpose than just entertainment, but rather to create feelings in the game and induce feelings in the player. Some games are developed for this exact purpose. Games are fun. It can be hard to imagen that people play as serious games as it is today, such as shooting games and more cruel actions. Does this develop feelings with the player? Games like Survival were developed using young immigrants and refugees, who shared the experiences and challenges they met on their way to reach Europe. Technically speaking, it’s a simple game with free visual programming languages that are designed for children. It’s no coincidence that serious games not only intend to entertain but also to inform, educate and raise their own understanding of the problems that exist around us in the world.

 

// Happy Easter, and I hope you all have a nice holiday! See u next week.

 

 

 

 

 

How do you start playing games?

Getting into videogames is easy. As a new player you can’t go wrong with the blockbusters. They are by design made to be fun for as many people as possible. This is how they get their money back and as a new player that is perfect. Want to try some of this shooting action? Why not try out battlefield, call of duty or some of the other big war games. Maybe you want something a bit more story based? Then Assassins creed or Horizon Zero dawn might be more up your alley. Maybe you just want the feeling of adventure in a more light-hearted setting? Nintendo has your back! Zelda or Mario is filled with wonder and adventure with some puzzle elements strewn over it.

What I’m getting at here is to treat videogames like any other media, go for the big hits or classics first. Make it easy for yourself to hooked on what the medium has to offer. You’ll often end up asking your friends for suggestions and these will very often be great games, but maybe not for newer players. In the grand scope of things, video games are something new and fresh, but we have a good forty years of games which built upon one another. Starting on the fringes where people experiment and try new things might give you a false impression of the current games scene.

To many times I’ve talked to parents who tell me that they just don’t get video games. When I ask them what kind of games they’ve tried it’s most often none. Their knowledge comes from other media talking about games, their kids talking about their experiences with games or observing their children during play. While this is a great way to get a certain understanding it’s also woefully lacking. Games are, by definition, an interactive medium. Yes, streamers are a big part of the community, but most people watching streamers play games themselves. They have an innate understanding of interactivity and thus can set themselves in the shoes of the streamer. And those nice times when parents have played games it’s usually in some sort of warped experience. They pick up a controller mid game as a player two to their children. Going on a virtual tour of a child’s Minecraft city is lots of fun, but there is no context to the amount of work the kid has put into their creations.

When you want to get into videogames treat it like any other media. Don’t start a book in the middles. Don’t jump into a story focused tv series in the middle. Follow the whole journey from the start. Play alone.

That last one, play alone, is the scariest I’ve found. There is comfort in not knowing what a deal is when you haven’t really tried. Having a shield of ignorance is great protection from engagement, but if you play alone you don’t need a shield. You can immerse yourself without fearing scrutiny from experienced kids or judging none gamers. Playing alone gives you a free space where you can bumble about not knowing what buttons to press. You are free to experience a game on your own terms which is something I recommend to any new gamers. Later, once you’ve built up some confidence you should start playing with others. Preferably with new players like yourself, but as long as the people you play with aren’t assholes or kids you should not get any flak for being new.

 

 

Emotional Easter

It’s yet another week, and yet another blog post. This is our 7th post, of a (hopefully) total of 10. It’s surreal that the semester is so close to the end, and it is scaring me a little bit (who am I kidding, it scares me a lot). I’m currently in my hometown on Easter-break, or really just Easter because there is no time for break.

This week started out with a visit to Bergen University Library for the opening of Mia’s art installation called #Textransformations. She lured us in with pizza, and we stayed for the art. It was very interactive, and I made several poems – alone and together with @SnowCherrie.

The visual aspect of the installation actually reminds me of a game I have played, called Unravel. Here you play a little fellow of tread called Yarny, and you follow a piece of yarn that is attached to him and solve puzzles to unlock the memories of his lost family. There are no words in this game, but the art is beautiful. And emotional. 10 out of 10, would recommend.

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I’ll insert some photos taken at the installation, and you will understand what I am talking about. I feel like Yarny is here somewhere, hiding. Maybe in the clues? All the QR codes where scan-able, and there was also a stations with cutout words, and poems, inviting the viewer to participate and make there own poem-contribution. I’ll insert some poems we made too. Also, the pizza was good, but I think they underestimated the number of participants, so it I only got a small taste. There where also computer stations, but they where always busy, so I didn’t get to check out what that was all about. Also I was busy being a poet.

On Thursdays lesson, the tema was serious-, or empathy-games. Unfortunately I was unable to attend, and was hoping for a recap in Mia’s weekly update and in the slides from class, but there doesn’t seem to be any for this week. But through my classmates Tweets, I got a hold of a couple of the names of the games they tested – and checked some of them out in my own time. This type of games are developed for a different purpose than pure entertainment, but rather to evoke emotions and feelings in the player.

I testedSkjermbilde  Bad news and SpentIn bad news I lost pretty quickly and died a hero. Your goal is to gain followers and credibility, you are suppose to build ut a fake news site. It is ment for education and scientific purposes, and I guess it works for that. Educational purposes I mean, not that I learned anything new.

SPENT is a game made for Urban Ministries of Durham, a nonprofit organization that is working towards the end of homelessness, poverty and hunger. In the game you are an un-employed american, struggling with finding a job, paying bills and getting health insurance. You get to make choices, like which of the bills to pay, what to buy and if you should have treatments you need, but can’t afford. I must be honest, I did fail to complete this game. I don’t know if my american survived. But I think this kind of game is quite clever, to give people a view on things they might take for granted. Trying to combine important stuff with things people love. As I student, I don’t have a lot of dough to “throw around” either, but I am still lucky to be living in Norway, and to be born with the privileges that I have. I still found the game boring, it might be because this is nothing new to me. For someone who are unaware, it might be different. Also the format, it was a lot of clicking. I get inpatient.

Last week I spoke about games and aggression. I personal don’t think that games make you violent (as a normal player, if you have a gaming addiction or other mentale issues connected to gaming, it might be different), except when you loose (No, I am kidding. But not really). If a game makes you go out and punch people, there was already something broken inside of you.

But I do think games can do good, make you learn things about yourself – and others.

And then finally, the DDA’s and other tweets:

Spring is coming!

– Lisa

 

The evolution of text

Last Tuesday’s appointment wasn’t a common lecture. We all were invited to discover the amazing installation of our prof. Mia Zamora. It was called “Textransformation”, a journey through the transformation of textuality from analogue to digital form.

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After an inspiring speech to present her work, prof. Mia Zamora let us free to explore her installation. What is textuality? The quality or use of language characteristic of written works as opposed to spoken usage.

The concept of textuality came about in the mid-20th century as a critical element in structuralism, a modern intellectual movement that views cultural phenomena in terms of linguistic relationships involved in all human activities. Philosophers, linguists, and literary theorists were major structuralist contributors, but it was Barthes in particular who really focused on what makes a ‘text.’ Barthes theorized that we can view literature through two different lenses: as a collection of ‘works’ and of ‘texts.’ For him, a ‘work’ is a finished, closed object. On the other hand, he considered a ‘text’ to be a process of creating meaning while escaping definitive definition itself.

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The installation was surrounded by red wool threads as they symbolized the current connection between past and future, which is the period that we are living. During this century information and messages where printed on paper and books. Now everything is online and instant. No more waiting for replies, no more time lost searching for information in a library. But there is an interesting symbol that connects paper and web: the QR CODE. Just with one picture at the printed code, we can reach internet pages, youtube videos and more. It was really interesting to see this new way to share texts close to old famous books, like the Hobbit written by J.R.R. Tolkien.

We were even able to give our contribution to Mia Zamora’s work since there were serenadeinteractive stations in some corners. I chose to create a new poem from deleting some words written on a cut sheet. The purpose is to find your own poetry that is hiding inside a written poem.

I really enjoyed this unique installation and it was fun learning more about textranformation as we are experiencing it every day.

 

 

 

Creativity by constraints

It was nice to start off the week with Mia’s exhibit called #Textransformations. It was visually pleasing and I liked how it was gamified both with the QR clues leading way towards the coming midterm exam, and the encouragement to creative participation. This weeks studio visit was also quite interesting. I especially took notice of something Remi Kalir said:

“…it feels though as we’ve possibly began to conflate games with play, which can intersect but do not necessarily always intersect. There are many things that people play that are not games. And there are some really important, I think, qualities of playfulness that in some ways don’t exist in games. Play is often open ended. Games are in some respects very constrained designed systems. Play can be this kind of imaginative space where rules shift. Notions of emerging qualities or improvisation often exist in play, which sometimes don’t necessarily occur inside of games […] but I think its interesting to think about the relationship between games and play, and when they do intersect, and when they don’t intersect.”

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It made me think a bit about the paidia and ludus in games. Many video games go a long way in trying to give a feeling of the free play of paidia, and while they may be quite successful at it this freedom is still confined to the rules of a defined ludus. So they might have a solid portion of free play, but not fully pure paidia. But I think that what often makes paidia interesting is when rules are applied and there are different mixes of ludus and paidia. It’s like when limitations kickstart creativity, and makes it easier to come up with ideas, A task or a problem can more easily than total freedom inspire innovative answers and solutions.

“To perceive is to suffer.”
-Aristotle

Empathy Games

We played some simple online empathy games this week, “Spent“, “Syrian Journey” and “Bad News” addressing different issues. While they were rather informative and educating, they were not very effective in evoking empathy. I think one of the reasons for this is that they were largely text-based, and had only simple graphics like static drawings and infographics as visual elements. Aristotle realised that to persuade the listeners, the “logos”/ facts/ appeal to logic was not enough. As a part of his modes of persuasion, in addition to logos he also suggested “pathos”, the appeal to the audience’s emotions. To achieve this in a game I think it is necessary to apply both expressive graphical content, music and sounds, and thus weave a multimodal expression with a greater impact than mere words. Another thing that made the games less emotive is that they were generalising instead of making it personal.

A game that has made it more personal is “That Dragon, Cancer“, a game telling the story of Joel Green’s 4-year fight against cancer before being defeated. The game developer is the father of Joel, and he describes the game like this; “This is where we go to remember our son Joel, up through here along this path. We want to show you who he was, and how his life changed us. Can we walk here together for a while?”. I haven’t tried the game myself, but only seen a video of the father presenting the game, which was moving. I can only imagine that this game, knowing what story it’s built upon, would be an emotional journey partaking in the struggle and loss of their family, and the memories that they cherish.

It seems like quite an accomplishment then, that a game like “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice” could make me feel such empathy for a fictional character. That I felt some of her sorrow and fury, and wanted to help her take revenge.