quinta-feira, 24 de setembro de 2015

A new book for my ludic library: Death by Video Game

I bought this one in Oxford during the The Videogame Cultures Project: 7th Global Meeting following the recommendation of my hungarian friend Attila.

It's interesting. A little bit morbid for me. Nevertheless, the book has a very good investigative work done by the author. I'm reading the chapter 2 in this moment. I think it will be good to understand new ideas from the gaming universe.


Whether it's Space Invaders, Candy Crush Saga or Grand Theft Auto, video games draw us in and don't let go. In Taiwan, a spate of deaths at gaming cafes is raising a question: why is it that some of us are playing games beyond the limits of our physical wellbeing? Death by Video Game uncovers the real stories behind our video game obsession. Along the way, award-winning journalist Simon Parkin meets the players and game developers at the frontline of virtual extremism, including the New York surgeon attempting to break the Donkey Kong world record; the Minecraft player three years into an epic journey towards the edge of the game's vast virtual world and the German hacker who risked prison to discover the secrets behind Half-Life 2. Investigating the impact of video games on our lives, Death by Video Game will change the way we think about our virtual playgrounds.


PARKIN, Simon. Death by videogame: tales of obsession from the virtual frontline. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2015.

Click here to buy.

segunda-feira, 14 de setembro de 2015

About "The Videogame Cultures Project: 7th Global Meeting"

The 7th edition of "Videogame Cultures and the Future of Interactive Entertainment" (Oxford, 2015) was awesome. There were epic days full of good people and good presentations about the ludic universe. I want to thank Daniel Riha and the other organizers for the chairman invitation. It was an honor to moderate the Player Behaviors' session. Thanks to all participants for the inspiring speeches and for the good company. Thanks Shauna Ashley, Alexia Bhéreur-Lagounaris, Vanessa Erat, Thomas Faller, Veit Frick, Thomas Hale, Declan Humpreys, Bradley James, Ewan Kirkland, Britanny Kuhn, Amanda Marie LeBlanc, David Mizzi, Simon Murphy, Dariusz Poczekalewicz, Daniel Riha, René Schallegger, Felix Schniz, Attila Szantner, Nick Webber, Kieran Wilson. Waiting anxiously for 2016! May the force be with you! #GoGamers

Some good pics from the conference below:

I want to share my paper presented in the meeting: Observing iterative design on the mobile indie game Dominaedro >> Click here for download.

segunda-feira, 7 de setembro de 2015

Horror ludens: using fear to construct meaning in video games

Fear is one of the most ancient feelings orbiting the human existence. The feeling of fear, historically, has been a fruitful basis where different writers, filmmakers and many other storytellers seek the inspiration to create their works. Video games, legitimated as “forms of media, human expression, and cultural importance” (FLANAGAN, 2009, p.67), were not left out of this list; the sophistication of the latest generations of consoles elevated fearful ludic narratives to a new frightening level.

In this context, we can discuss how fear could be a powerful element to construct meaning in some specific video games. Titles like Evil Within, Alan Wake, Slender and many others help us find some answers in this scenario, but in this post, we intend to focus our attention on the game Outlast (Playstation 4, 2014). Created by an independent studio named Red Barrels, the game sets its action in a psychiatric hospital in which the player takes the role of a reporter looking for clues of some bizarre experiments made with the patients. Without weapons or special powers, the player has only one hand cam to help him through the journey. Hide and run are the only options to escape from some creatures and tormented patients of the hospital. This kind of fear-based game, unlike other game genres, e.g. role-playing, first person shooters, puzzle, action, sport games etc., focuses on stimulating the player in a negative way. Check the trailer/gameplay below:

In this situation, fear is understood as creative “fuel” to develop narrative, gameplay, experience and immersion. Spinoza, in his book Ethics (2005), set out to analyze the origin and the nature of human affections taking as its starting point the desire, joy and sadness. Spinoza postulates that human beings, by nature, are passionate and affected by external forces to it. The Dutch philosopher drew a deep observation about feelings/passions that underlie human existence, complying aspects of fear.

The rhetoric of fear allows the development of games with meaning based on horror and terror like Outlast. About this, Ghita (2014, p.58) says as a refining of fear, ‘terror’ constitutes a multifocal aesthetic emotion, whose main feature is the state of anxiety, brought about by a well-balanced series of artistic elements: plot, atmosphere, characters. As an intensification of fear, ‘horror’ represents a unifocal aesthetic emotion, whose main feature is the state of revulsion, brought about by the paroxistical development of the afore-mentioned artistic elements.

In the context of game design using fear/terror/horror to create meaning in Outlast, it has been possible to identify three specific elements as Nielsen and Schønau-Fog (2013, ps.52-53) propose: 1) a deep narrative that allows the player to invest emotions into the character; 2) a deep sense of freedom to establish a connection and a deep grade of immersion on the player; 3) and, finally, the player should feel like a victim rather than a contender. Another point to highlight in this category of games is the use of “illogical architecture to turn houses, gardens and streets into great mazes which would make no sense in the real world” (NIELSEN; SCHØNAU-FOG, 2013, p.45). In Outlast – our main example for this post – we can identify these previous elements strategically hybridized with many different aspects of terror and horror, the narrative works alternating these both aspects to create a stronger immersive experience for the players.

Maral Tajerian, in an article for the site Gamasutra.com entitled “Fight or Flight: The Neuroscience of Survival Horror”, says that anxiety is a point to highlight in terror games. This author also says “next to fear, anxiety is perhaps the most prominent feeling experienced in video games. Unlike fear, which is a response to an imminent threat, anxiety is a response to a future potential threat”.

In this ambient full of “ludic fear” there’s a crucial question: why do some players search for fear and other bad feeling in games? To solve this puzzle, we quote Suits (2005, p.55) who says, “Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles”.

Now on to your opinion.


FLANAGAN, Mary. Critical Play - Radical Game Design. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.

GHITA, Catalin. Discussing Romanian Gothic. IN: KATTELMAN, Beth; HODALSKA, Magdalena. Frightful Witnessing: the rhetoric and (re)presentation of fear, horror and terror. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2014.

NIELSEN, Danny Langhoff; SCHØNAU-FOG, Henrik. In the mood for horror: a game design approach on investigating absorbing player experiences in horror games. IN: HUBER, Simon; MITGUTSCH, Konstantin; ROSENSTINGL, Herbert; WAGNER, Michael G; WIMMER, Jeffrey (Eds.). Context Matters! Proceedings of the Vienna Games Conference 2013: Exploring and Reframing Games and Play in Context. New Academic Press: Viena, 2013.

SPINOZA, Baruch. Ethics. London: Penguin Books, 2005.

SUITS, Bernard. The grasshopper: games, life and utopia. Broadview Encore Editions: Toronto, 2005.