Morphological study of the video games

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Morphological study of the video games

Julian Alvarez1&2, Damien Djaouti2, Rashid Ghassempouri2

Pr. Jean-Pierre Jessel1 and Pr. Gilles Méthel2
1IRIT-SIRV, University of Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France

2LARA- Axe Arts Numériques, ESAV - University of Toulouse le Mirail, Toulouse, France

The aim of this article is to present a tool which intend to classify video games, study their nature and to corroborate hypothesis by a pragmatic approach. The approach has been inspired by the methodology of Vladimir Propp, who has classified Russian Tales at the time, as well as on the works and the "iterative" approach of the game designers Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman. The approach consists in studying a significant number of video games in order to index their composition of elementary "bricks". Basing our study on this "bricks" and crossing them with other fields, we will try to classify and study video games. We thus hope to be able to have at our disposal, elements which will contribute to the research of the "emerging discipline of Game design".
Key-words: Bricks, Experimental Methods, Gameplay, Game design, Video Games, Morphology, Taxonomy.
Sébastien Genvo says that the definition of the gameplay is still vague: "Cette notion est employée de façon instinctive par les professionnels (concepteurs, journalistes, etc.) et les amateurs de jeux vidéo. En ce sens, il est révélateur qu’une notion fondamentale comme le gameplay ne fasse pas encore l’objet d’un consensus quant à sa definition." (p. 11). (The professionals (creators, journalists, etc.) and the amateurs of video games employ this concept instinctively. It's really revealing that a fundamental concept like "the gameplay" has not yet been defined). If the concept of "gameplay" is difficult to settle, it's perhaps because the very sense of "video game" is still hard to define. What's a "video game"? How is it invented? Does the "video game" have its own morphology?

The last question refers of course to the approach of Vladimir Propp concerning his well-known study about Russian Folktales. In 1928, he explains in his study, "Morphology of the Folktale", how he has identified a general idea that structures all the Folktales that he has studied. He has proved, for example, that Folktales that seems to be more complicated than others and thus could not be easily classed, are in fact composed of several more ordinary Folktales and are thus based on the fonctions which are already identified. When we refer to a game like "GTA San Andreas" (Rockstar Games 2004) which offers to the player one global game that leads to a multitude of more ordinary games, then it's very tempting to rely on the approach of Propp. And other scientifics also prospect in that direction. For example Patrick Mpondo-Dicka , who specifies in his article,"Analyse sémiotique de quelques formes et fonctions" (Analysis of the significance of some forms and functions) (page 210) that:"À l’instar du conte populaire, le jeu d’action (-aventure), en tant que récit, est facilement descriptible à l’aide des outils de la sémiotique narrative. Cela est fort compréhensible au regard des liens qu’il entretient avec le récit traditionnel, conte ou légende. […] Le "boss de fin de niveau" est un des sous-programmes canoniques, qu’on peut assimiler à l’épreuve décisive définie depuis Propp." (Like the popular folktale, the game of action (-adventure), as a story, is easily described compared to the significance of fairy tales. The relation-ship between the traditional story, folktale or legend and the video game is obvious..(...) The boss of the level end is one of the classic under-programs, which can be related to the final test of Propp).

Our approach is to contribute to discover the very nature of the video game by an approach as well experimental as pragmatic. The references to Propp that we explore in this paper are only on the very first pages of his pioneer work, when he postulates that to really get to know what is a folktale we have to study all the aspects in order to establish a classification (p. 11 & 12).

The idea of a classification of the video games is not something new. The brothers L. Diberder as well as Stéphane Natkin have already classified them. But in all this classifications although they act as references; we rapidly have found slants or absences. That's what Matthieu Letourneux denounces in his article "The question about the style of video games."(p. 40 & 41). He means that all classification is condemned to be outdated, because the technological evolution offers constantly new perspectives. We are thus in front of a paradox. Because in accordance with Propp it's essential to classify in order to understand: "The accuracy of the further study depends on the accuracy of the classification." (Translated from French). How be able to make a definition of a video game if its classification is rapidly wrong?

It seems at this level of the reflection that Propp offers a key to try to answer the paradox: "Although their is a place for the classification as a basis of every research it must be the result of a further study. Or, we observe the opposite situation: Most of researchers start by classifying, thus introducing facts, when in fact, they should rather deduce." (Translated from French).

These sayings invite us to approach the classification of video games in a different manner. Maybe if we follow the methodology of Propp, we will manage to create a classification being able to be adapted to video games? Maybe we will realize that the aspects of video games don't evolve ?

To follow the methodology of Propp thus implies to establish a classification which will be deduced by a "preliminary further examination". This approach of a "analytical study" has to be run in a "formal and abstract way " and will lead us to find recurrent "functions" that composes the element that is studied (p. 27).

In order to manage a "preliminary further examination" of our video games, we have chosen the approach made by the game designers Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman. Because their "fundamental principles" are elements you can put together in order to construct any game, that are similar with the "functions" of Propp which are combined in order to make up any tale.

Thus, in order to adhere to the "formal and abstract" study of Propp, we only retain in our study "the fundamental principals" being in touch with the "outside" as it defined by Winnicott. At last as underlined by Salen and Zimmerman, we will play the video games, because the theoretical approach is not sufficient : "A game design education cannot consist of a purely theoretical approach to games. This is true of any design field." (p.11).

We hope that following this methodology will allow us to elaborate a tool dedicated to the morphologic study of video games in order to classify, study their very nature and corroborate hypothesis in a pragmatic approach.

We will first define the field of the study and the protocol that we decided in a first experimental approach. We will see how to analyse and index the video games taking into account their way of interactivity. In a second time we will use the results obtained during our first approach in order to refine the experimental protocol and identify new "ingredients". All along these two parts , we will also try to transmit our way of thinking.
I - First experimental approach

I.a) Story of the Research

At the very start , the first idea of the experimental study was to try to define the notion of "gameplay". This idea explained by Gilles Brougère relying on Roger Caillois (Pages 133-134) tells about the rules of the game (game or ludus) as well as the ability of the play (play or paidia).These two concepts put together side by side can induce a narrow relationship between the type of video games (Arcade Games, Reflection Games...) and the manner of interaction (Keys, manner of using the mouse ...). Patrick Mpondo-Dicka confirms: “ […] dans les jeux, les dimensions narrative et discursive intègrent la problématique de l’interactivité, qui influent en retour sur leurs structures. “ (In the games , the narrative and discursive dimensions include the problems of the interactivity, which has an influence on their structures.) (p. 224). But for Gamedesigners like Patrick Receveur, it is not so: “Attention, l’interface peut amoindrir les sensations du joueur mais elle ne fait pas le jeu. Elle reste le moyen de transmettre des ordres à la machine.“ (Pay attention to the fact that the interface can decrease the sensations of the player but it does not make the game; It is the means by which the orders from the computer are transferred.) (p. 290).

In order to clear things out we have tried to realize an experimental study with the following principles: Draw a tree structure in which should be classed video games according to their interactivity and check if at the end of each branch the principals of the game are the same. For example: Do you find on the branch of games based on four arrows on the keyboard the same rules like "Pacman"? If that were to be checked, then yes, the interactivity would make the game, if not, it would be different.

I.b) Protocol of the first experimental step
First of all among the 4 ways of interaction described by Salen and Zimmerman (Cognitive Interaction, Functionally, Explicit, Beyond the object of Interactivity), only the one that corresponds to "Explicit Interactivity" (p. 59 & 60) has been retained to be in accordance with the aspect "outside" proposed by the methodology of Propp. It's that way of interactivity that classifies particularly the different keys or peripheral devices used to play.

In front of the peripheral devices who permit the interaction of the video games, like the joysticks, guns, dance mats, eyes toys etc...or the display unit of Nintendo who offers new methods of interaction, it seems wise to start by taking away the displays and set up a limit to the standard equipment of Macintosh or PC : The keyboard and the mouse (the model that has been chosen is with two buttons and a scroll wheel). Out of that a list of many possibilities has been defined. First for the mouse, we take the configuration of the buttons by defect (Click to the left = action, click to the right = options), we have retained those:

- Click on elements (Buttons, Menus, Sensitives Areas....): The software game requires that the player positions his cursor on hyperlinks graphic or textual on the screen and to click with the left button top to start an action.

- Move the mouse with a click (Drag): The software game requires that the player moves the mouse by maintaining the click left inserted.

- Double Click: The software game requires that the player makes a double click on the left button to start an action.

- Repeated Clicks: The software game requires that the player repeats the clicks on the left button of the mouse.

- Click on the right (click on the left + touch "ctrl" on Mac Os): The software game requires that the player click the right button of the mouse.

- Click on the screen (No special zone aimed): The software game requires that the player clicks on the left button to start an action anywhere on the screen.

- The length of the click: The software game realizes the time the player press the button.

- The mouse roll over zones in order to set off actions (Rollovers): The software game invites the player to roll over sensitive zones on the screen in order to set off actions.

- Move the mouse: The software games requires that the player just moves the mouse in order to change an element on the screen (cursor or any other graphics).

- Move the mouse in a special way (fast movements or reproductions of distances): the software game requires that the player moves the mouse in a very special manner: Either in an anarchical way or in a precise way, or take in account or not the speed of the movement.

- Turn the scroll wheel: The software game requires that the player turns the scroll wheel of the mouse in order to set off an action.

- Special click (Serrated roller, Left + Right...): The software game requires that the player press the key of the mouse in a very special way (click on the two keys at the same time or in alternation or others...) or at the scroll wheel. You may as well add other possibilities of clicks.

To all these possibilities which may be combined to each other you have to add the inter-actions ot the keyboard. We have retained those who follow:
- Top arrow : The software game requires that the player press the top arrow.

- Bottom arrow : (cf. Top arrow )

- Left arrow : (cf. Top arrow)

- Right arrow : (cf. Top arrow)

- Special keys (Space, Enter, Tab, CTRL, Alt, Command, Esc and Delete) : The software game requires that the player press on these special keys in order to set of a specific action (Shooting, Jumping, validate a data....)

- Other keys (Alphanumerics, punctuations, symbols, functions...): The software game requires that the player press a key which is neither an arrow nor a special key mentioned above in order to set off an action .

- Alphanumeric data capture: The software game requires that the player enters chains of characters instead of numerical data...

- Combination of keys : The software game requires that the player press several keys in the same time to set off a special action.

- Press repeatedly: The software game requires that the player press one or several keys repeatedly, mostly in a very fast way.

- Laps of time of the keys concerned: The software game takes into account the length of which the player press the key(s).

The number of combinations exceeds 4 million possibilities. Rapidly, the construction of an arborescence to class them all appears to be much too hard. And even if the classification would be realized, the global lecture should not be very easy. Therefore in a second time a table classing the different combinations of the mouse and the keyboard seems to be more appropriated. This one was voluntarily limited to 4046 combinations to allow us to study the viability of the approach quickly.
I.c) Fixed constraints
When we have started to index the first games, we realized in an empirical way the importance to put further limits in our experimental study:
- Only the play part of the game: Only the play part of the game is considered. We don't consider the interactions in the menus nor the configuration of the game...

- Not games for several players : We only study games for one player or the one player mode of the video games. We will study the games for several players further on, if the present study appears conclusive;

- No games including several distinctive games : The software games including several games will not be classifies as one game (Simulations of several sport tests, games of adventure including several tests, etc.). We will classify every game separately.

- No games of emulation : A big number of games coming from Arcade Games or Console Games that have been transferred to the family computers of Macintosh or PC by programmes that have reconstructed virtually these games by emulation. These games can thus be played on the keyboard or with the mouse. But, as the creators of these games did not intend that they should be played on keyboard or with the mouse we will not include them in our classification.

- No reconfiguration : We will use the way of control suggested by the game when it is possible to reconfigurate it.
I.d) The results of this first experimental step
The inventory of the software games starts. More than 1000 games have been investigated. The very idea is to study the principle of each game, to notify its objective and its interactivity. Once these data are collected, the game is classed on a spreadsheet in the square which correspond to its combinations of interactivity. Thus the "Pacman for example is classed in the square where the combination of the interactivity is:" Uses Top arrow + Bottom arrow+ Left arrow+ Right arrow". The descriptions are the following: " Game which requires to move in order to collect things without being touched by the enemies". Further on, other games with the same principles are indexed in the same square, like games : Amigo, Mouse Hunt, Amoeba, Road Carnage, Retarded bombs, Q*bert..... Effectively, in all these games , the player has to avoid enemies and in the same time collect elements to pass to a higher level.

But, rapidly other types of games are classed in this square as well. Games like "Tetris" for example, or games like car racing, or games of simulation like "BMX Backflips" or also strategic games (Treasure chases for Amstrad CPC)… It is difficult to class all this different games in one family because the aims are close and different at the same time. Except if we are allowed to say that they all are "action games".

Concerning the mouse we will find the same phenomenon with for example the square of "Mouse moved"; Here the different games gravitate around games of "skill", but it is not possible to make another classification more rigorous. Which make us come back to the general classifications already defined by the brothers Le Diberder or Stephane Natkin.

We could be satisfied with a result like this, relying on the fact that there seems to be a connection between the interactivity and the greatest categories of games. But, there are in fact other squares where no general categorisation is possible. For example the square: "Click on elements", where different games of rapidity, strategy, shoot, puzzles, adventures, etc...are classed.

This experiment thus proves the following rule to us:
The interactivity alone does not make a video game : If a classification cannot be deduced from a table which lists the combinations of interactivity, that is because they are obviously not the only components of a video game.
This rule thus seems to follow the idea of Patrick Receveur when he says: "The interface does not make the game". But it would be preferable to specify: "The interface does not make the game alone". Because in fact, without interaction , there is no game as suggested by Salen and Zimmerman: "Play implies interactivity: to play with a game, a toy , a person, an idea, is to interact with it" (page 58).

This rule also implies that it was impossible to be successful in classifying the video games, because of the lack of ingredients, although other results have been found.

Today there are more combinations not used than used : the combinations used by more than 1000 video games destined to a family computer correspond to 77 of the 4046 interactions, that represent about 1,9% of the interactions inventoried in this first experimental approach (less than 0,002% for the 4189185 combinations). That means that today there is an enormous "Terra Incognita" of « not used interactions » left to be explored.
The combinations used by the games of interactivity do mostly include "directing arrows" for the keyboard and "the click on elements" for the mouse : Among the combined boxes containing at least one listed game, the arrows enter in about 54,54 % of the combinations (42 boxes out of 77). Those including "clicks on elements" represent about 37,66% (29 cases out of 77). The games that don't use arrows or clicks on elements represent only 16,88% (13 boxes out of 77). That means that more than 83% of the interactive combinations listed in this study implies arrows on the keyboard or "click on elements", or both of them. That means perhaps that those two ways of interaction represent as well as for the players as for the game designers the normal reference in terms of ergonomic ease.
The more the combinations of the interactivity gets complicated , more the number of games is reduced: We have found a majority of titles in the boxes using only the keyboard (especially those which imply "arrows"), or only the mouse (especially those who imply "click on elements"). When the keyboard and the mouse are combined or that the numbers of keys on the board or the functions of the mouse are increasing then the numbers of titles decrease in a spectacular way. Furthest, that means that if the combinations are very complicated, the game gets very specific. For instance "War Craft 3" (Blizzard, 2001) is all alone in the square using the combination of the mouse: "Click on the elements" + "Mouse moved with click"+ "Click on the screen", combined with the keyboard: "4 directional arrows"+ "Special keys" + "Other keys" + "Combinations of keys".

This first experimental approach has rapidly shown its limits to obtain a classification .It has nevertheless given some encouraging results in pointing out the way of new ingredients to be found. We thus decide to continue to develop the number of parameters to study.

II – Second experimental approach
II.a) Definition of the fields
Because "The interactivity alone does not make a video game", the additional elements now have to be found out. This leads us to a "preliminary further examination" recommended by Propp) and which visibly has not been enough developed in our first approach. It is at this stage that we discover the "fundamental principles" defined by Salen and Zimmerman:

« As fundamental principles, these ideas form a system of building blocks that game designers arrange and rearrange in every game they create. » (p. 7). These " fundamental principles" are elements you can put together in order to construct any game, that is similar with the functions of Propp who are combined in order to make up any tale.

But which are those "fundamental principles" ?

« Who are those fundamental Game Design ? They include understanding design, systems, and interactivity, as well as players choices, actions and outcome. They include a study of rule-making and rule-breaking, complexity and emergence, game experience, game representation, and social game interactions. They include the powerful connection between the rules of a game and the play that the rules engender, the pleasures games invoke, the meanings they construct, the ideologies they embody, and the stories they tell. » (p. 6).

Thus , in order to be faithful to the "formal and abstract" appearance of Propp, we only retain in our study "the fundamental principals" being in touch with the "outside" defined by Winnicott. (METTRE ICI UN PEU PLUS DE DETAIL SUR WINNICOTT). That means everything that is not human in a cognitive way: The formal criterions of the design, the systems , the interactivity, the actions, the results and the rules of the game as a hardware and a software point of view. The « Systems » terms approached in a formal way such as Salen and Zimmerman define it (p. 51) can be integrated for us in « the rules of the game». For each one of these fundamental principles, we thus make correspond the following fields. Here are the details:
Design : « Design is the process by which a designer creates a context to be encountered by a participant, from which a meaning emerges » (P. 47). While remaining "formal", we decided to index the following fields to try to circumscribe these first "fundamental principles":
* Title : First we start by class the title of the game. If the description of the game is not complete or is doubtful, an asterisk is placed before the title. If there is already a homonym, the letter "h" is placed after the title into parenthesis.

* Author : This field allow us to identify the author or the studio of development that realized the game. To class this data will allow us to get an idea about the number of persons implicated in its realization and the conditions as well. This data base will also permit us to notify if the author is known and also if he is productive. At last it might be possible to follow an author and his editors as time goes by....

* Categories: The software games have been classed since their apparition by the players into big categories (Adventure, Arcade, RPG, FPS..) The choices are sometimes fuzzy and it is not exceptional to find the same title put into different categories. For example "Space Invaders" could be classed like an "Arcade game" and also as a "Shooting Game" or as a "Shoot'em up"... We have made our choice knowing that the existing categories are contestable as Matthieu Letourneaux explains (page 39). The very idea is to get indications in order to help us first to class rapidly our games. Thus we don't try to justify these different categories. After some discussions we have decided to retain that follows: Adventure, Fight game, Management game, Skill game, Construction/Creation Games, Casino and Cards Games, Shooting Games, Toys, Education, Network, Platform; Picture puzzles, Rapidity/Reflexes Games, Brain puzzles, RPG, Simulations and at last Strategy Games.

* Date : Matthieu Letourneux says (page 41) that, computer science depends on the technical evolution. Therefore it is very important to date a game. That will allow us to notify eventual births or evolutions of gameplays as time goes by. Crossing this data with others like "the platforms" (see beneath) will allow us to realize the relationship between the software game and the park of computers at the time...

* Editor : Class this data will allow us to know who are the editors and if they last, if they have to be on a big level in order to innovate the software games or if on the opposite the small level will allow to innovate, the number of the titles distributed... etc. If the author of the game is as well the distributor, his name is classed in this field.

* Link : An URL permits to charge and visualize on Internet the game classed and notified.

* Graphics : This field classes the graphics of the games. The idea is to find out if you can find an eventual relationship between the principles of the game and its graphics. The categories, not exhaustive, are : 2D, 3D isometric, 3D precalculated, 3D Real Time or at last Text.

* Country : Indicates the country of the editor of the game and its author or studio of development. This field could eventually make us discover if the new concepts of game always come from the same country or further on to see if some countries are fond of special interactivities. Actually, Sébastien Genvo underlines (page 98) that the brothers Le Diberder make us “en garde contre une américanisation de plus en plus prononcée des productions vidéoludiques“ (aware of the fact there is an Americanism more and more pronounced concerning the software games.). It is though interesting to have this field of "Country" in order to verify the remarks. .

* Platforms : We wish to have recent platforms as well as those of older generations. The principal idea is to discover whether as time goes on, to see if changes of the ground is followed by an great innovation of the gameplay. We have put Amstrad CPC and The Commodore C64 as the first machines in our chronology. They represent to us the generation of family computers of the eighties, the most widespread before the advent of the mouse. After them there are the arrival of the Amiga and The Atari ST introducing the mouse and at last The MAC and The PC being the family computers of today.

* Public : The aim of this field is to index the very heart of the target of the game. That will permit us to see if the functions of interactivity are related to the age of the players : Baby <3 years old, Children 3 to 6 years old, Children 7 - 11 years old, Teens 12 - 15 years old, Teens 16 - 17 years old, Adults 18 - 25 years old, Adults 26 - 35 years old, Adults 36 - 50 years old and Seniors >50 years old.

* Support : This field will distinguish if the game at the beginning is distributed on a physical support (CD-rom, DVD-rom, Magnetic Cassette, Disc.....) or if the game is available by downloading or "listing". The main idea is to discover if the gameplays are different in according to their support. The support also implies the way of distribution of the game.

Interactivity : The interfaces classed in chapter I.b define this second "fundamental principle"..
Actions + Rules of the Games + The results: These three elements immediately refer to the notion of "function" in the very sense of computer science. A function is defined by an entrance, a processing and an exit. We consider here that "the actions" are what the player gets as instructions on the interface. "The game rules" let us know how to proceed Once the treatment executed, the function returns "the results". Jean-Yves Plantec and Martial Bret from the society "Iode" use the term of "briques" (bricks) to designate small modules of autonomous programs. Their approach is that in order to create different applications, we just have to assemble different combinations of bricks (in accordance with "the blocks" of Salen and Zimmerman). In the same way, we specify the combinations of the bricks of the games have to be in accordance with the rules and the aims of every video game (the term of "game" refers to the notion of "rules of the game" leaning on the saying of Gilles Brougère). This third "fundamental principal” is related to "the functions of Propp and will be developed in the next chapter.
II.b) The "game" bricks
Propp specifies 4 rules in order to define the functions of Russian Tales (p. 31 à 33) :

«1 - The permanent and constant elements of the tale are the functions of the characters, whoever they are or whatever are the manners of their functions to be filled. The functions are the fundamental constitutive parts of the tale »: In the context of the video game that signifies that whatever is the "design" and "the interactivity" of the game, the "game" bricks are always identical.

« 2 - The number of the functions of the fairy Tale is restrained »: Which implies in the context of the video game, that there are probably a limited number of "game" bricks.

« 3 - The succession of the functions is always the same ». This third rule in the context of the video game, which implies that the player has to make choices (Salen et Zimmerman p. 33 and Gilles Brougère p. 52) and thus has to activate different successions of functions, brings us to apprehend it here, under an another angle: For each video game that we are studying here corresponds one combination of "game" bricks.

« 4 – All the Fairy Tales belong to the same form concerning their structure. ». This last point would perhaps make us able to elaborate a classification of video games according to their combination of "game" bricks.
The game bricks that we have identified are based on games studied at the very start of our research, and we specify that this is just an approach and therefore we do not pretend to present a final list. One of the points not yet defined concerns the cognitive aspect. Thus, if we propose a "game" brick " MEMORIZE" with the following description: This brick tests the short memory of the player. For example, he has to tell which element that has disappeared on an image observed just before;." Do we here describe the rules of the game or are we describing the process of knowledge of the player in order to obtain an aim consisting just to show an object ? We think that the last option is the good one. We thus have tried to eliminate in every brick the cognitive aspects to respect the "formal" aspect imposed by the methodology of Propp. This step is also consolidated by the remark what Sébastien Genvo underlines when he mentions Jacques Henriot: "Aucune structure n’est en elle-même ludique ; le jeu est avant tout une question d’intention." (No structure in itself is play-some: the game is above all a question of intention.) (p.11).

We therefore present the first schedule of brick games, which we define today as "intentions" of external elementary game rules ("external" meaning: "do not consider the cognitive aspect", referring to the "inner" aspect of Winnicott):

01- Brick " REPLY": This brick invites the user to give an answer entering a datum or pointing out one. For example: (questions, test, questionnaire of multiple choices, choice of dialogues in a game of adventure....). If the number of answers becomes important, we have a game of "location" like "Where is Charlie?" or the game of "find the differences between two pictures"...

02 - Brick "MANAGE": This brick invites the player to manage resources in order to reach a target. For example the quantity of petrol necessary for a car to go as far as possible, or munitions in a Shooting Game, or troupes in a Strategy Game or further on first material in a Game of economic simulation for example...

03 - Brick "HAVE LUCK": This brick invites the player to defy the chance. (Game of jackpot for example).

04 - Brick "SHOOT": This brick invites the player to touch an element situated at a distance. For example in the game of the Space Invaders, you have to shoot a missile in order to touch a vessel of the enemy; But it includes as well the big family of FPS or game of shooting with the target to move on the screen;...

05 - Brick "CONSTRUCTION/CREATION ": This brick requires creativity (on the opposite of a puzzle that has to be reproduced) and asks the player to put elements together, construct, create special elements or not, colour, draw after motifs or geometric elements or not. This brick is also applies the sound dimension;

06 - Brick "BLOCK": This brick defies the player to block an enemy or an element pointed out.

07 - Brick "COLLECT": A game where you have to collect or catch elements. These elements can be fixed or moving or both alternately.

08 - Brick "DESTROY": Game of destruction of the elements/enemies.

09 - Brick "MOVE": Game where you have to move/drive/pilot an element or a person.

10 - Brick "AVOID": Brick inviting the player to avoid elements/obstacles/enemies/adversaries.

11 - Brick "MAINTAIN": This brick forces the player to maintain one or several elements in a precise place or state (stability....).

12 - Brick "POSITION": This brick defies the player to position elements at very special places or key positions.

13 - Brick "TIME LIMITS": This brick invites the player to pass a test within a time that is limited or as fast as possible;

14 - Brick "SCORE": This brick invites the player to make scores. Credits, Real or virtual sum of money are assimilated to a score.
If none of these Bricks is in accordance with the software game, that means that it is a "TOY" or a brick which have not yet been classified.
How class the aspects of a "game"?

We propose for example the "Pacman Game". The very idea of this game is to invite the player to collect dots in a labyrinth in order to pass to the next level. As an option he can catch blue ghosts. This will imply the brick 07 "COLLECT". But the player also has to pilot the small yellow glutton. This implies the brick 09 "MOVE". And it is not over. The player also has to avoid the ghosts when they are not blue. This implies the brick 10 "AVOID". In this game we also have to imply the brick 13 "TIME LIMITS", because when the ghosts are blue, the player has to catch them within a time that is limited. Finally, the game invites the player to make scores. Collecting bonus allow to make a higher score. This will thus imply the brick 14 "SCORE".

In order to represent the aspects of the "Pacman Game", we thus have combined the following "game" bricks: "COLLECT"+ "MOVE" +"AVOID" + "TIME LIMITS" + "SCORE".
II.c) Positioning the database
The idea to add this data to a base of already more than four millions combinations will not permit the use of an ordinary spreadsheet. The idea of a data base type MySQL added to PHP program language is imperative at this level. And this technology will also permit a more complex manipulation of the data in order to edify personalized tables by crossing the desired data. Moreover the data of the base could as well be transferred to a software of statistic processing in order to work out new dimensions.

This basis is actually tested, in order to finalize the tool of this second experimental approach. We now have to index the games on the precedent basis and updating their databases. We take advantage to add new titles. When a significant number of titles have filled the basis, we could start to explore and analyze the first results. We then will see if a classification could be drawn.

All along this article we have tried to detail our methodological approach in order to work out a tool which aim is to classify video games, study their very nature and corroborate hypothesis by a pragmatic approach. The first experimental approach has given encouraging results and has supplied a path that has encouraged us to continue our research. This study raises regularly new questions that lead us to affine the experimental protocol. This is probably explained by our methodological choice that uses two approaches which seems at first antagonistic but complementary: One is iterative and empirical (supported by Salen and Zimmerman); the other one is logic and formal (supported by Propp).

However, until this moment, we stop our refinement of our experimental tool. We consider that the database is sufficiently refined , even though there are surely some means left. The idea now is to index a significant numbers of games in order to cross the data and perhaps to deduce an outline of classification.

If we manage then we could consider that the approach has been successful. On the contrary, we will perhaps find new data and thus discover errors that will allow us to continue this study. We then will make a third version of our tool.

If a successful classification appears, then we will be able to think of the 'inside' aspect and the multi-users video games that for the moment is left by.

The data base of our last experimental approach is accessible on the following address:
Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman think that the game design is an emerging discipline (p. 1). We share their opinion and we hope that our tool will bring its drop of water into this immense ocean in becoming...
The authors thank jean-Yves Plantec and Martial Bret from the Society Iodes Conseil.Their study has inspired us the notion of "Bricks". Thanks also to Mr. Stéphane Bura, Director of creation from the Society "10tacle" who advised us the book "Rules of Play" of Salen and Zimmerman. And at last thanks to Ms. Annika Hammarberg for the translation into English of this paper.
Gilles Brougère, "Jouer/Apprendre", Economica/Anthropos, 2005

Roger Caillois, "Les jeux et les Hommes. Le masque et le vertige", Gallimard, Nrf., Paris 1958

Alain et Frédéric Le Diberder, « L’univers des jeux vidéo », Ed. La découverte, 1998

Sébastien Genvo/Matthieu Letourneux/Patrick Mpondo-Dicka/Stéphane Natkin/Patrick Receveur, "Le game design de jeux vidéo – Approches de l’expression vidéoludique", L’Harmattan, 2005

Ludovic Graillat, "De Tron à Matrix : émergence d'un cinéma d'un genre nouveau", Collection : "Documents Actes et Rapports", CRPD, 2006

Pierre Jenn, "Techniques du scénario", FEMIS, 1991

Stéphane Natkin, "Jeux vidéo et médias du XXIè siècle, Vuibert, 2004

Vladimir Propp, "Morphologie du conte" (1928), Seuil, 1970

Olivier Rampnoux/ Julian Alvarez, "New advertising tools: Edumarket game", Child and Teen Consumption, Copenhague, 2006

Katie Salen/Eric Zimmerman, « Rules of Play », The MIT press, 2004

Gérard Subsol, "Virtual Storytelling. Using Virtual Reality Technologies for Storytelling », actes, Springer, 2005

Laurent Trémel, "Jeux de rôles, jeux vidéo, multimédia. Les faiseurs de mondes", puf, 2001

D. W. Winnicott, "Jeu et réalité" (1971), folio essais, 2002
Web References
Espen Aarseth, « Computer Game Studies, Year One », 2001 :

CNAM : « Jouer avec une histoire : un défi pour les média interactifs », 16 Décembre 2004

Cinémathèque de Toulouse : « Hybridation des images : émergence d’un nouveau cinéma ? » Colloque of 2 to 4 february 2004 :

Conference « 3D et techniques interactives : Immersion + interactivité = la nouvelle dimension » Program of this conference, February 2000 :

Conference of Sorèze :

Luc Courchesne, "Art expérienciel : Une étude de cas", Janvier 2002 :

Interactive Institute, "Jeu interactif Brainball,", Smart Studio, 2000, Stockholm :

Jesper Juul, "Games Telling stories ?", July 2001 :

Nicolas Szilas, Paris VIII, IDTension, May 2004 :

Marie-Laure Ryan, "Beyond Myth and Metaphor - The Case of Narrative in Digital Media", July 2001:

Marie-Laure Ryan, "Narrative as Puzzle !?", 29 March 2000 :

Michaël Matelas, Andrew Stern, "Architecture, Authorial Idioms an early Observations of the Interactive Drama Façade", December 2002 :
Web Sites used to index the video games of the database

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