aesthetics of play: jon dovey’s keynote
Why am I in Vietnam?: A Computer Game Case Study
Several voices in this presentation: A diary of his playing Conflict Vietnam, his critical analytical voice and the voices of the game developers.
How does a game like this come into the world? As academics we spend most of our time thinking of how we might interpret games – but instead he wants to think about the constraints and so on that affects how a game actually comes to be the way it is. Based on a case study of this game and the game studio, where he spent a lot of time doing work place observation, also interviews etc etc.
Margins of choice within teh context of political economy. Most creators have very little space for creative freedom – market, financing and distribution shape most of the process.
Pivotal Studios has to get a new contract for each game, and is then paid per month based on their hitting targets etc (I think he said) which makes it an extremely high pressure work environment.
Story of going from being a bedroom hacker and becoming a cog in the corporate wheel.
More or less what one developer said: “We used to create games with 8-10 people, now we need 30-40 people to create one game. The developer’s being squeezed – the cost has gone up but consumers aren’t paying more.”
But how does all this explain how come they created a Vietnam game instead of, say, a racing game? There is still place for some creative control. At Pivotal, it’s the boss who decides this. His vision is a military vision, which can in part be explained by his own cultural background.
Kline et al 2003: 254 — “militarised masculinities” (I think this refers to this book)
But no, (says Dovey), it’s because the boss has a lot of knowledge about military stuff. So if there’s a militaristic socialisation at place it’s more subtle than Kline et al suggest. In work with Helen Kennedy, Dovey has worked on a term “technicity” to explain something about how people’s tastes, attitude, identity and uses of technology work. The senior figures hadn’t become militaristic through military games. They’d all done the same kind of geek stuff: AD&D, Lord of the Rings, fantasy soldiers, Hobbit for bedtime story by mum, Warhammer a bit later, made rules for it, comics, Star Wars, pop culture sci-fi, military stuff. So not throguh computers, but all very homogenous.
Generations learnt the maths of game play in tabletop games, not computers. All number based.
AD&D agonistic, conflicts etc. But the boys (he doesn’t say kids but boys) who play this aren’t the ones who play football or jack cars or whatever. Trying to play tabletop games with that kind of boy is a nightmare. Revenge of the nerds on the jocks.
(And it’s still all about boys – aarrgh!? I played AD&D too, damn it, without that being revenge on the jocks. I might have to read Kline et. al.)
Why the theme of Vietnam? well, they had a war game engine, thought of doing a WW2 game, realised there were others out there, so did the Gulf War 1 (Conflict Desert Storm 1), then another war, then Vietnam. Chose the Gulf War partly because they wouldn’t have to explain everything as in a historical game. Conflict Desert Storm 2 immediately commissioned, each Conflict title has hit #1 in the Playstation (or was it xbox) chart. Strategy, action, stealth, solo or multiplayer.
Lots of cultural reasons – e..g. gulf war memoirs very popular at the time. The fact that they already had an engine for a wargame immensely important. Game engine like a movie set (sadi the director) Also, director says that he’d have loved to have made a game about the Spanish Civil War, but that the market wouldn’t be there because not many people knew about it.
It’s being deliberately made for boys, says the director “I think because the industry is still very male dominated there is a huge elemnet, of it is still tpoy soldiers and people love the face that it is soldiers. Everyone rather fancies the idea that, if push came to shove they could get in there and take out the enemies with their gun. Reality is completely different of course but people like doing that and it is role play, escapism and role play. People like contemporary settings because it is not too far away. It is conceivably close and there can kind of… (etc)