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Lesson 9: Track B Summaries

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Schedule   ::   Lesson 9   ::   Track A Summaries   ::   Track B Summaries

Jelfs, A., & Whitelock, D., The notion of presence in virtual learning environments: What makes the environment "real"

Reading summary/quotes:

This article starts with an introduction to Virtual Environments and Virtual Reality (never makes any attempt to distinguish the two), including reasons for use. It briefly touches on a current debate about whether VE/VR should be pitched as “game.” Then extremely briefly summarizes a study of two different systems. One of their main findings is that audio is a very important input.

It is interesting to note how children and even adults play a game. They can become so involved with the game that they physically move to the right or left, or duck when their character on the screen should be doing that. While they don't really think they are 'in' the game (in other words, they know they are sitting in a room playing a video game) they certainly have some tie to this game.

The authors found several things important to creating a sense of presence. It is interesting to note that the most important one is not available in interactive fiction. The following are important to assess presence:

  • Audio Changes
  • Level of interactivity
  • Feedback
  • Base of navigation
  • Persistence with program
  • Correlations

In a way, all of these are possible in an IF game. One can describe the deathly silence or the demonic music. In fact, if the IF is written well, one may be able to give the player an even better sense of these things, because a player is using their imagination. They won't assume the same kind of presence as they might when playing Halo, but there is still the thrill of “finding” items and using them in IF games.

“Presence does not refer to one's surroundings as they exist in the physical world, but to the perception of those surroundings.” So again, with IF, you can paint a picture to help give the 'perception' of the surroundings, without having to actually create the surrounding visually.

Discussion points/questions:

  • What are the strengths of IF in invoking presence? What are the limitations? Should IF games describe sound as much as the visual?


Koster, R., Chapter 2: How the brain works

Reading summary/quotes:

Koster talks about patterns, and how the brain is constantly seeking to recognize patters, and ignore all the other 'clutter'. People dislike chaos, but enjoy finding a pattern and seeing it reoccur. He talks about 'muscle memory' which is really your nervous system remembering how to do something.

Koster also has a nice little collection of game definitions from different folks. He is almost making fun of them, or if not, he is disparaging them because they don't have the word 'fun' in them, but then in his definition he doesn't use the word either. He defines games as “exceptionally tasty patterns to eat up.” While this is a fine definition, others definitions are equally useful. Chris Crawford breaks up the topic into several different areas (playthings, toys, challenges, etc.), and Sid Meier's definition is interesting as well, “a series of meaningful choices”. However, when one tries to pin something down, it is easy to leave out parts, and when one tries to get to broad, the definition loses it's meaning. It seems like there is no middle ground between the academic definitions and the short 'quips'.

Chunking is another concept that is important. Perhaps chunking is pleasurable to people because evolution and survival of the fittest makes it so. In fact, it is possible that a lot of the things animals do are in fact chunks that are just hard wired in.

Chunking and games are closely related. Sometimes a rule book for a game is 20 pages, but if the game is designed well, it will fit into people’s 'chunking'. For example, it's not hard to remember in the game of Risk that players can't move their armies eight countries away through enemy territory, because in a real battle, if someone wants to get to point B, they have to clear a path. Even chess makes more sense when one realizes that foot soldiers (pawns) can't move as far as say knights on horses, whose real value lies not in a direct assault, but rather a flanking maneuver (thus, their L shaped attack).

Related articles/class discussions:

  • Class discussion: Definition of games.

Discussion points/questions:

  • Do people chunk in different ways? For example, some people love Jazz, while others prefer classical. Is it harder to chunk one? Or do some people just gravitate toward the classical chunking, while others can chunk the Jazz? Maybe all those 'young hooligans' who like the hard stuff are in fact better chunkers than the 'old fogies' who just don't get it.
Contributors: Tom Caswell, Marion Jensen, Jennifer Jorgensen, Jon Scoresby, and Tim Stowell
Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2008, May 20). Lesson 9: Track B Summaries. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License
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