Spending Money on Free Games

While being extremely successful, free-to-play games have received critique on being exploitative, unethical or simply poor game experiences. One of the key concerns has been how a small minority of high-spenders pay for majority of the game’s income. Still, not a lot of research has targeted these players. We considered this shortcoming when interviewing paying free-to-play game players, focusing on high-spenders.

For our interviewees, paying in F2P games had become a normal activity. Even larger sums were seen as reasonable when comparing how much the game offered in return for the money. Paying in free-to-play games was more spontaneous than purchasing other games, partly because of the easy purchase processes. In many occasions, the value of money was still evaluated beforehand. In this light, most high-spenders saw themselves as sensible consumers, while some mentioned being addicted to purchases, seeing them as an exciting vice.

In general, our interviewees saw the free-to-play model as positive and ethical, although the games inside the model often included characteristic problems: paywalls, pay-to-win mechanics, content gained only through paying, aggressive monetization, and the model generally making exploitation easier. Single games had a great impact in the attitudes of the interviewees, be it positive or negative. Even paying players considered being able to enjoy a game without money as a crucial feature for a good free-to-play game. When paying players feel they are getting their money’s worth and are not feeling forced to pay, paying becomes more of a positive activity.

Want to read more? Go see:

Alha, K., Kinnunen, J., Koskinen, E., & Paavilainen, J. (2018). Free-to-Play Games: Paying Players’ Perspective. In Proceedings of the 22nd International Academic Mindtrek Conference (Mindtrek ’18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 49-58. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3275116.3275133

Call for Papers: Urban Play

The 15th annual University of Tampere Game Research Lab Spring Seminar focuses on Urban Play.

Urban spaces offer a rich environment for a diversity of play practices, from location-based games to parkour and from hopscotch to chess in parks. Historically, cities have offered rich affordances for games and play, but in recent years the spread of ubiquitous and pervasive technology has transformed and diversified public play. The extension of ‘smart’ devices and technologies into the urban environment – smartphones, sensors, and automated systems – open up new possibilities for networked play. At the same time, these platforms also control and constrain human movement and behaviour, sometimes unconsciously through opaque algorithms imposed by city authorities or technology vendors.

Play in public spaces became especially visible after Pokémon Go was launched, after which location-based games arose from margin to mainstream. Public play has also become something municipalities encourage, through games festivals and city-funded game projects. But there are also less visible, secret and norm-defying, forms of play constantly taking place. Spontaneous street activities, urban sports, and small-scale games produce micro-level but nonetheless important impacts on the everyday urban environment.

We are seeking submissions from scholars studying different aspects of urban play. In addition to game studies-oriented research, we particularly invite papers that focus on less visible groups and activities which challenge the way we think about public/urban play and which are not necessarily game-related. Prominent work is done in many fields ranging from player studies to design research and from digital humanities to architecture, urbanism, social sciences and beyond. The seminar encourages contributions relating to all types of urban games and play, be they digital, non-digital, or hybrid.

The possible list of topics includes but is not limited to:

  • Playful architecture and urban design
  • Smart city, ludic city
  • Location-based and augmented reality games
  • Histories of play in cities
  • Street sports
  • Playgrounds, amusement parks, stadiums, and other playful spaces
  • Locative educational, tourism, and heritage applications
  • Pervasive larp
  • Representation and discourses around urban play
  • Norm-defying urban play
  • Peri-urban and rural play
  • Representations of the urban in games
  • Playful algorithms of power in cities
  • Digital, hybrid, and non-digital urban games

Urban Play is the 15th annual spring seminar organized by Tampere University Game Research Lab. The seminar emphasises work-in-progress submissions, and we strongly encourage submitting late breaking results, working papers, as well as submissions from graduate and PhD students. The purpose of the seminar is to have peer-to-peer discussions and thereby provide support in refining and improving research work in this area. The seminar is organized in collaboration with the Center of Excellence in Game Culture Studies.

The papers to be presented will be chosen based on extended abstract review. Full papers are distributed prior the event to all participants, in order to facilitate discussion. The seminar will be chaired by Professor Frans Mäyrä, and there will be two invited expert commentators, Dr Dale Leorke (University of Tampere) and another commentator to be announced later. The seminar will be held in Vapriikki, the museum center that hosts The Finnish Museum of Games.

The seminar is looking into partnering with a journal so that the best papers would be invited to be further developed for publication in a special journal issue. In the past we have collaborated with Games and CultureSimulation & GamingInternational Journal of Role-Playing and ToDiGRA journals.

Submission guidelines

The papers will be selected for presentation based on extended abstracts of 500-1000 words (plus references). Abstracts should be delivered in PDF format. Please use 12 pt Times New Roman, double-spaced, for your text. Full paper guidelines will be provided with the notification of acceptance.

Our aim is that all participants can familiarise themselves with the papers in advance. Therefore, the maximum length for a full paper is 5000 words (plus references). The seminar presentations should encourage discussion, instead of repeating the information presented in the papers. Every paper will be presented for 10 minutes and discussed for 20 minutes.

Submissions should be sent to: gamestudiesseminar@gmail.com.

Important dates:

  • Abstract deadline: January 18, 2019
  • Notification of acceptance: February 4, 2019
  • Full Paper deadline: March 25, 2019
  • Seminar dates: April 15-16, 2019

See more on https://urbanplayseminar.wordpress.com/.

Misusing Emotes

What do players do when they can’t talk to each other directly? Argue on the forums, it seems to be. We studied the forum users of the popular card game Hearthstone, looking at how they negotiated the use of emotes.

Players argued, negotiated, ranted and preached about the proper use of the emotes, frequently disagreeing on what they actually meant in different contexts. Some players seemed to long for a set meaning for the different emotes, but there didn’t seem to be any way to reach a consensus on what that meaning would be, since different people used them differently.

Our research focused on BM or Bad Manners, which is a word used to mean anything the players find offensive in the game. The developers of Hearthstone try to remove offensive and negative behaviour from the game by limiting how players can interact with each other. It only seems to work partially: players use the few means possible to creatively be offensive to each other. The right emote just at the right time can be as annoying as anything you could write in a chat.

Some players had the opposite problem: because there is no way to make sure whether the intention behind an emote is polite or not, they interpret all emotes in the most negative way possible, seeing everything in the game as trolling. It seems that anything can BM if you have the worst expectations.

Want to read more? Go see:

Arjoranta, J., & Siitonen, M. (2018). Why Do Players Misuse Emotes in Hearthstone? Negotiating the Use of Communicative Affordances in an Online Multiplayer Game. Game Studies, 18(2). Retrieved from http://gamestudies.org/1802/articles/arjoranta_siitonen

Pelaajabarometri 2018

Pelaajabarometri 2018: Monimuotoistuva mobiilipelaaminen

– Uutta tietoa pelaamisesta, eSports-harrastuksesta ja suomalaisten asenteista pelaamista kohtaan.
– [In Finnish: the Finnish Player Barometer 2018 has been published, and is available from the link below; the report is in Finnish language, but includes an extended abstract in English.]

Pelaajabarometrin tutkimusraportti on kokonaisuudessaan ladattavissa verkosta: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-0870-4

Syyskuussa 2018 valmistunut uusi Pelaajabarometri-tutkimus vahvistaa kuvaa Suomesta aktiivisten pelaajien maana. Samalla uudessa tutkimuksessa nousee esiin pelaamisen sisältöjen ja muotojen monipuolisuus sekä pelikulttuurin jatkuva muutos.

Uuden tutkimuksen mukaan 97,8 % suomalaisista pelaa ainakin jotakin, kun niin digitaaliset kuin perinteiset, ei-digitaaliset pelimuodot ja kaikkein satunnaisinkin pelaaminen otetaan huomioon. Aktiivisia, eli vähintään kerran kuukaudessa pelaavia on kaikki, myös ei-digitaalinen pelaaminen huomioiden noin 88 % suomalaisista. Aktiivisia digitaalisia pelejä pelaavia on suomalaisista 60,5 %. Nämä määrät ovat pysyneet käytännössä samana kuin edellisenä tutkimusvuonna 2015. Digitaalisten pelien pelaajien keski-ikä on nyt noin 38 vuotta ja niiden, jotka eivät pelaa lainkaan digipelejä, noin 58 vuotta. Pelaaminen tapahtuu yhä useammin mobiililaitteilla, ja tietokonepelaamisen ja konsolivideopelaamisen suosio on jäämässä nopeasti kehittyneiden ja yleistyneiden mobiilipelien jalkoihin. Suomalaisista jo 56,6 % pelaa pelejä mobiililaitteilla ainakin joskus.

Pitkään Suomen suosituimpana digipelinä Pelaajabarometreissa esiintyneen tietokonepasianssin on nyt ensimmäistä kertaa suosituimpien digitaalisen pelien kärkipaikalta syrjäyttäneet Veikkauksen pelit. Rahapelaamisen laajeneminen monimuotoiseksi digipelaamiseksi on tutkimussarjan valossa selvästi näkyvissä. Vastaajista noin 20 % oli aktiivisia verkkorahapelaajia. Ainakin joskus suomalaisella tai ulkomaisilla rahapelisivustoilla on pelannut 31 % suomalaisista. Ensimmäisessä Pelaajabarometrissa vuonna 2009 aktiivisten verkkoraha¬pelaajien osuus oli vain 12,8 %.

Edellisessä tutkimuksessa pulmapelit oli suosituin pelilajityyppi kaikissa tutkituissa ikäryhmissä. Tämän tutkimuksen mukaan pulmapelit ovat säilyttäneet väestötasolla johtoasemansa, mutta niiden ohi ovat niin lasten ja nuorten kuin parikymppisten nuorten aikuisten ryhmässä nousseet erilaiset ammuskelupelit ja seikkailupelit. Uusia, seikkailua, rakentelua ja monen pelaajan selviytymiskamppailua yhdisteleviä ”Battle Royale”-pelejä on noussut myös suomalaisten suosituimpien digitaalisten pelien listalle. Selviytymispeli Fortnite onkin suosikkipelien listalla kolmannella jaetulla sijalla Candy Crush -pulmapelin kanssa.

eSports-kilpapelaamisen harrastusta selvitettiin nyt ensimmäistä kertaa Pelaajabarometrissa. eSports-pelien seuraaminen on vahvasti painottunut nuorten miesten ja poikien harrastukseksi. Pelaamiseen liittyviä verkkolähetyksiä tai -tallenteita seuraa miehistä ainakin joskus 30,8 %. Koko väestön tasolla kilpapelaamista koskevia stream-lähetyksiä seuraa aktiivisesti 8,5 % suuruinen osuus suomalaisista. Aktiivisia kilpapelaajia on noin 1,8 % suomalaisista.

Pelaamiseen kohdistuvat asenteet Suomessa ovat nykyään voittopuoleisesti myönteisiä. 50,5 % eli lievä enemmistö suomalaisista on sitä mieltä, että pelaaminen on hyödyllistä. Pelaamisen haitallisuutta koskevan väitteen kanssa tutkimuksessa oli samaa mieltä 40,8 % vastaajista. Osa (17,5 %) vastaajista katsoi pelien pelaamisen olevan yhtä aikaa sekä hyödyllistä että haitallista.

Peliongelmien määrä on tutkimuksen mukaan pysynyt aiemmassa tutkimuksessa havaitulla tasolla. Toistuvia pelaamisen ajankäyttöongelmia kertoi kokeneensa 1,2 % vastaajista, ja peleihin liittyviä rahankäyttöongelmia 0,3 % vastaajista.

Nyt tutkimukseen saatu 946 vastaajan aineisto perustuu Väestörekisterikeskuksen toteuttamaan satunnaisotannastaan 10–75–vuotiaista Manner-Suomen asukkaista. Tutkimuksen virhemarginaali eli luottamusväli on koko väestöä koskevien prosenttiosuuksien osalta 95 % todennäköisyydelle laskettuna noin ±3 %.

Pelaajabarometritutkimus on osa Suomen Akatemian rahoittamaa, Tampereen, Jyväskylän ja Turun yliopistojen yhdessä toteuttamaa Leikillistyminen ja pelillisen kulttuurin synty -tutkimushanketta (LUDIC) ja Pelikulttuurien tutkimuksen huippuyksikön (CoE-GameCult) toimintaa.

Tutkija Jani Kinnunen, jani.kinnunen@uta.fi, 050 428 0895
Professori Frans Mäyrä, frans.mayra@uta.fi, 050 336 7650
Osoite: Viestintätieteiden tiedekunta (COMS), Game Research Lab, 33014 Tampereen yliopisto

Centre of Excellence, Game Culture Studies: 2-4 postdoctoral researcher or university researcher (senior researcher) posts

The Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies (CoE GameCult) has started in January 2018 its operation in the Academy of Finland’s Centres of Excellence (CoE 2018-2025) program.

There will be 2-4 researcher positions (postdoctoral researcher and university researcher) available in the CoE University of Tampere research team.

CoEs are the flagships of Finnish research, operating at the very cutting edge of science in their fields, seeking out new avenues for research, developing creative research environments and training new talented researchers. The CoE GameCult is joint centre established by the universities of Tampere, Jyväskylä and Turku, which have over 30 game researchers within their researcher communities. Bringing together three leading research teams, the CoE GameCult aims to integrate the multidisciplinary research carried out in game culture studies, and to develop original theoretical and empirical approaches that are crucial for understanding, anticipating and influencing the direction and impact games have on contemporary and future developments in culture and society.

Two overarching research questions will be examined in CoE GameCult are:
A) What are the key processes and characteristics of meaning making that are significant for understanding changing game cultures?
B) How is cultural agency being reshaped, redistributed and renegotiated in games and play, and in their associated societal contexts?

The interconnected dimensions of game cultures are addressed through four themes that organise the work carried out in the CoE: Theme 1: Meaning and Form of Games (coord. JYU, prof. Raine Koskimaa), Theme 2: Creation and Production of Games (coord. UTA, assoc.prof. Olli Sotamaa), Theme 3: Players and Player Communities (coord. UTA, prof. Frans Mäyrä), Theme 4: Societal Framing of Games (coord. UTU, prof. Jaakko Suominen).

A person appointed as a postdoctoral researcher must:

– hold an appropriate doctoral degree
– be able to pursue scientific research independently
– have the instructional skills needed in the post

A person apppointed as a university researcher (senior researcher) must:

– hold an appropriate doctoral degree and a track record of scientific research
– have the instructional skills needed in the post

Tasks, work descriptions

CoE GameCult will start its operation in the beginning of year 2018, and (subject to a successful mid-term evaluation) will continue up to the end of eight-year period, the end of year 2025. There are multiple positions that are opened for applications in the CoE. In this fall 2018 call 2-4 postdoctoral or senior researcher (‘university researcher’) positions are available in the University of Tampere Game Research Lab team.

Filling of researcher positions will be based on consideration of the overall skills profiles of CoE research teams, and the number and length of researcher service contracts will be subject for negotiation, typically initially planned for one to four years contracts.

The successful applicants will have both strong research profiles in games, player or game culture studies, well formulated individual research agendas, as well as evidence of capabilities for interdisciplinary collaboration and teamwork.

The more specific skill profiles that CoE is particularly looking for are experts in:

1. game hermeneutics, and experts in game analysis method
2. game aesthetics, and player experience studies
3. game history, and specialists in the evolution of game genres and various game cultural forms
4. game development practices and experts in game design research
5. ludic work, focusing on the changing relations between play and work
6. gaming communities and various player subcultures and diverse player groups
7. player motivations and social play, or play in society
8. games as sites of identity politics and resistance
9. the institutionalization of (digital) game cultures, and public discourses on gaming
10. gamification in culture and society
11. statistical data analytics of games and play

Particular emphasis will be put on multidisciplinary skill profiles, and for candidates who show evidence or promise for bridge building between two or more, currently disconnected research fields related to games, play, game players, design and development of games and research of those societal and cultural contexts. Applicants are asked to specify in their application, which one, or which ones, of the above skill profiles they most closely identify with.

The minimum starting salary of a postdoctoral researcher will range between €3500 and €4500 and salary of an university researcher will range between €4000 and €5000 a month. Higher salaries maybe agreed dependent upon experience and/or performance.

These posts are subject to a six-month probationary period.

Applications should be written in English and submitted electronically via the University of Tampere’s electronic recruitment system by 15:00 pm. on 24 September 2018. (Link below)

The following documents should accompany your application:

– A CV (excluding publications, max 4 pages, recommended format: http://www.tenk.fi/en/template-researchers-curriculum-vitae).

– A list of publications compiled preferably according to the Academy of Finland guidelines (http://www.aka.fi/en/funding/how-to-apply/application-guidelines/guidelines-for-list-of-publications/guidelines-for-complete-list-of-publications/). Please indicate (by e.g. bold text) most important publications (max. 10).

– A letter of application (max 2 pages) in which you set out the reasons why you are applying for the post and why you are particularly suited to it.

– A research plan (max 3 pages), outlining your proposed research within the CoE research themes.

– The names, positions and contact details of two referees who can support your application

The CoE UTA team will hire at this point 2-4 researchers, to the levels of postdoctoral or senior research fellow (‘university researcher’), typically to periods ranging from one to four years (up to negotiation). The researchers will be placed in Tampere, and work closely with other CoE research teams at three participating universities, across institutional and disciplinary boundaries. The hired researchers would start their work in the CoE at the beginning of 2019, or as agreed.

Enquiries that concern these positions can be directed to the CoE director, prof. Frans Mäyrä (frans.mayra@uta.fi), and the University of Tampere team leader, prof. Olli Sotamaa (olli.sotamaa@uta.fi).

For queries related to the application process please contact Head of Admin, Kirsi Aalto, kirsi.m.aalto@uta.fi.

If deemed necessary, the University of Tampere reserves the right to leave the post unfilled and extend the application period.

Deadline for applications: 24 September 2018, at 15:00 hours (Finnish time).

Official job announcement:

Application submissions system:

Group photo from the get-together 20.8.2018

Centre of Excellence starts the fall with a get-together in Tampere

The Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies has started its operation in the beginning of the year, and after hiring several new researchers, the big consortium is now up to full speed.

In 20th August an important event took place, when almost 40 games researchers gathered at Tampere to discuss the goals of the Centre of Excellence and the plans for reaching those goals.

A few more researchers will still join us during the coming months, but its not a common sight to see tens of games researchers, all either employed or affiliated with one research initiative. International reinforcements have been hired to Jyväskylä, Tampere and Turku to strengthen their already strong focus on games research.

There are already plans going ahead, focusing on several specific topics within the CoE GameCult research temes, like studying Overwatch, eSports, live-action role-playing games, and fandoms around games, to name just a few examples of the research underway in the Centre of Excellence.

If you’re interested in what the Centre of Excellence is up to, you can follow us on Twitter, subscribe to this blog’s feed or come see us e.g. in Jyväskylä, in the Seminar on eSports, Exergaming, and Fantasy Leagues (in November 22nd–23rd, 2018).

Call for Papers: GamiFIN 2019

Levi scenaryWelcome to the 3rd Annual International GamiFIN conference, April 8-10, 2019, Levi, Finland!

GamiFIN is a leading international conference for gamification research. GamiFIN is chaired by the professor of Gamification, Juho Hamari and gamification scholar Jonna Koivisto. The conference is organized by the Gamification Group and past keynotes have included notable scholars from the field of Gamification such as Sebastian Deterding, Richard Landers and T.L. Taylor.

GamiFIN 2019 conference welcomes 1) paper submissions, 2) posters, and 3) doctoral consortium applications from a wide array of topics around e.g. gamification, serious games, VR/AR/MR, eSports, streaming, free-to-play.

The GamiFIN conference will offer an entry to the Gamification Publication Track that can help authors develop their papers from the first manuscript version to the final journal paper and thus aim to increase the predictability and rigorousness of the publication process. Papers accepted to the GamiFIN 2019 conference will be welcomed to a fast/light-track in the HICSS 2020 conference and to a journal special issue in Internet Research (revealed in more detail soon).

For more information please see: http://gamifinconference.com/

DiGRA 2018

photo of DiGRA 2018 venue: Campus Luigi Einaudi – CLE; Università di Torino, Turin, Italy

DiGRA 2018 venue: Campus Luigi Einaudi – CLE; Università di Torino, Turin, Italy

The CoE-GameCult was strongly present in the Digital Games Research Association’s (DiGRA) 2018 conference, which took place in Turin, Italy, in 25-28 August, 2018.

There were over ten CoE-GameCult researchers talking and presenting their work in the conference, including Frans Mäyrä, Olli Sotamaa, Jaakko Suominen, Aleena Chia, Jan Svelch, Katriina Heljakka, Heikki Tyni, Niklas Nylund, Maria Ruotsalainen, Maria B. Garda, Jonne Arjoranta, and Jaakko Stenros.

Here is link to the conference program: https://easychair.org/smart-program/DIGRA2018/.

ICory Project Kick-Off at the New Children’s Hospital

The new ICory (Intelligent Customer-driven Solution for Orthopedic and Pediatric Surgery Care) research project’s kick-off meeting was held on 28th May in Helsinki. As a new, CoE-GameCult affiliated project, ICory is about digitization and gamification of patient journey for orthopedic and pediatric surgery. The Game Research Lab of University of Tampere is part of the research consortium and will focus on the gamification aspect.

During the kick-off meeting we had the opportunity to visit the New Children’s Hospital in Helsinki. Here is a picture from the main entrance lobby.