Space, vast lands and dungeons… It is no coincidence that Space War and Adventure are among the best known of the first computer games. Both clearly appeal to the player’s curiosity, and desire to explore unknown territory. When exploration ceases, the game comes to a stop … For some time it has been clear to me that the importance of exploration has remained largely unexplored by game research. Sometimes it is used as a subset of a larger theory or analysis. However, I believe there are strong reasons for giving it more attention. The case I want to make in this paper is that exploration is an essential part of computer games. I will concentrate my argumentation on exploration as a basic drive for playing computer games. To achieve this I will look at exploration in computer games from two different perspectives: A player perspective and a system perspective. The argument is that each perspective is a different set of optics for the perception of the exploration of the game. The system perspective denotes the rules necessary to play a game, and the player’s exploration of them. The player perspective explains the phenomenological game experience, where meaning is central to the exploration. Succinctly, my argument will be as follows: All computer games start with the player building a state of tension (a conflict), which gradually subsides through the ongoing exploration of the game universe. A computer game is characterized by an ability to support different optics of explorative activities. The primary goal of this article is the description of those two sets of optics.
Does our preoccupation with navigable space distract us from the expressive potential of interactive media? Can our understanding of spatial context in virtual environments (VEs) be expanded to incorporate social reasoning and behavior? Drawing on the theoretical foundations and practice of Architecture, this paper considers the relationship between person and environment in the real world and in navigable real-time three-dimensional digital worlds. The first part discusses the cyclical and bi-directional nature of the person _ environment relationship with interactive involvement as the basis for meaning construction and behavior guidance. The second part considers the differences brought in by the representative nature of computer-based interactive three-dimensional (3D) worlds. The examples for discussion are derived from the rich field of videogames. This is followed by an overview of the principal components of Shenmue II, a role-playing game, and a case-study examination of one interactive sequence from it. The analysis shows that navigable space always carries meaning, reiterates that interactivity is an integral part of spatial experiences and illustrates how construction of mental images is a product of mediation. When VEs are designed to utilize rich agency and expressive mediation devices, they potently overstep the systematic rule-based constraints of their design and become meaningful and engaging as situations that have real-world roots and dramatically significant consequences.
What are the exact aspects of the videogame medium, the precise features or combinations of features that lend themselves to expressing ideas and meaning? To chart this out, I begin with an American legal case that serves as a foundation for the basic issues involved and then move on to show how this relates to some of the broader attitudes the world of videogame discourse. Based on this, I break down the expressive strategies of videogames into three aspects—non-playable sequences, rule-based systems, and the relationship between the two—which I then illustrate with examples proving that videogames can indeed be an expressive medium.