Video Game Values: Play as Human-Computer Interaction
Video games are a form of software and thus an obvious object of study in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Interaction with video games differs from the usual understanding of HCI, however, because people play video games rather than use them. In this dissertation we ask: " How can we analyse human-computer interaction in video games when the interaction in question is play?" We propose video game values, defined as sustained beliefs about preferable conduct during play, as a basis for video game HCI. In order to describe and analyse play we use activity theory, focusing on how the interface mediates players' beliefs about preferable conduct. Activity theory allows us to address the multiple levels of context and detail in play as well as the role of conflict. We employ a qualitative case study methodology to gather data about five popular video games: Civilization III, Fable, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Half-Life 2, and The Sims 2. Our core data comes from observation and interview sessions with twenty-five experienced players of these games. We collected further data based on the games' interfaces, participant observation, and documentation such as manuals and walkthroughs. We make three key contributions to video game HCI: 1) We introduce video game values as a means to analyse play as a form of human-computer interaction and show how the values of PAIDIA and LUDUS influence all aspects of play; 2) we develop a video game activity framework for describing and analysing video game play at multiple levels of detail and context; and 3) we extend the video game activity framework to include contradictions and breakdowns as a means to describe and analyse the role of conflict and challenge in video game play.