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I am a Visiting Professor in the School of Communication at The Ohio State University.

Most broadly, I am interested in how communication affects cooperation and conflict. One branch of my research focuses on theory construction in moral psychology by investigating how individuals and groups form and maintain their systems of morality via communication. The other branch investigates how individual differences and message characteristics affect how people process interactive violence. Theories from communication, moral psychology, metaethics, evolutionary psychology, and social psychology inform both branches. My investigations rely on experimental, content analytic, and survey methodologies. I also build virtual environments to investigate various social scientific phenomena.

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Media Arts & Sciences Series: Nick Bowman

What is the meaning of this?

Understanding the contentious relationship between video game play and video game narrative

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Dr. Nick Bowman from West Virginia University’s Department of Communication Studies discussed how modern video games carefully tread the line between enjoyment and appreciation. He argued that the emotions in games can fuel appreciation and the core game play elements drive enjoyment. Because of this duality, Nick asked can designers produce a meaningful game by appealing to gamers’ emotions without sacrificing game play?

Nick’s question is a fascinating one because he bases his suppositions on limited capacity models (e.g., LC4MP). Specifically, he argues that interactivity is intrinsically cognitively demanding because it taxes cognitive, behavioral, and affective systems. Simultaneously, narrative demands resources for it be impactful. For example, when playing a Batman video game players experience a tug-of-war between the narrative world of the game (i.e., Gotham city) and the ludic systems at play (e.g., game rules, levels systems, button combinations). In other words, gamers implicitly attempt to bring together the experience of being Batman and playing as Batman. Although the concept seems simple, it’s unclear if it’s possible to marry enjoyment and appreciation. Further, it’s not certain that a balance is even desirable.

What’s more, modern game design complicates this equation. It’s arguable that modern designers yearn for games that forgo fantastic–and perhaps cliche–narratives for games that provoke powerful emotions using settings increasingly grounded in reality.

In part, I feel like this vein of scientific curiosity aims to address what makes good art. At some level, art must immediately engage yet retain some iota of complexity to capture and keep one’s interest. For example, movies must avoid being too base or people will label it crass, boring, or empty; yet, the movie can’t be overly cerebral or people will label it as pretentious. Perhaps games are suffering some growing pains due to their evolution away from high scores toward elevating experiences.

Proseminar – R. Yagiz Mungan

Digital Games as an Interdisciplinary Creative Process

R. Yagiz Mungan visited IU Telecom today and gave a presentation for the Media Arts & Sciences Speaker Series. Mungan described his interest in the intersection of art and research as it applies to gaming, interaction  sound, music, and architecture. His belief is that games are simply another artistic medium–like the painter’s canvas or the illustrator’s paper. Because of this perspective, Mungan applies Wagner‘s term Gesamtkunstwerk meaning total work of art that is the amalgam of many art forms in his study of games.

Mungan is currently finishing up his MFA in Electronic and Time-based Art at Purdue University. Recently, he completed a project named Breezes of… It is a game-based installation that toyed with the idea of escapism. In the game, Players explore a virtual tropical environment. External to the game, a real-world pinwheel spins depending on orientation and wind in the virtual environment. See a video of the installation below.

Proseminar – Thomas Malaby

Digital Anthropology 

Games and Cultural Logic of Modernity

For T600 this Friday, Thomas Malaby visited from the University of Milwaukee‘s College of Letters and Sciences. He presented research from a book he recently authored on digital anthropology. His overall focus was to identify the intersection between the state of games and a culture. One of the primary concepts Malaby introduced was his idea of instrumental nonchalance. He developed the idea after spending some time in Greece. He explained that it was a cultural outlook exhibited by older individuals. This group would always remain unflappable despite what came their way with the hope that acting this way would make them more likely to get what they truly desired.

The second concept was techno liberalism. This concept highlighted a democratic idea that technology should be available to everyone without controls. Additionally, it included a motivation of a mastery of complex systems. One can see evidence of this phenomenon by looking at the success of and behaviors surrounding Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and Google’s I’m Feeling Lucky button. Specifically, the I’m Feeling Lucky button illustrates how some people feel confident enough in their search query mastery to click this button with the reservation that the returned website will be exactly what they are looking for.