Violet

This is a text adventure where you have to force your character to overcome writer’s block and make progress on your dissertation while there is still time. Not just to complete the thesis, but also to save your disintegrating relationship. Though it’s a few years old, it has contemporary resonance for current-day students.

The game is played through an online gaming website (you’ll need Flash enabled) which unfortunately is one of those with distracting and garish ads and icons across much of the screen estate. If you can block those out of your vision, it’s a standard text in visual appearance and operation. Alternately, if more technically minded you can possibly download and install the game onto your own PC or Mac.

Sample of gameplay from Violet.

From the website:

The problem? You’re a graduate student working on your dissertation, but you haven’t gotten any writing done in months. Your girlfriend Violet has put her life on hold, waiting for you to finish, and she’s getting fed up. If you don’t get a thousand words written today, your relationship is over and she flies home to Australia. Unfortunately, your office is full of every kind of distraction, from the window overlooking campus hijinx to the computer on your desk, always ready to show you the latest blogs and web comics instead of your chapter-in-progress. So you have no choice but to shut out everything that’s causing you distraction so that you can turn in a few hours of solid work for once.

The game is the winner of the 2008 Interactive Fiction competition, has won several other awards, scored highly in reviews and gets regular (positive) mentions from the academic press and PhD students for both its accuracy, and as a suitable distraction from completing your thesis in real life.

Gameplay from the text adventure Violet

Making Sense of Games

Congratulations to Espen Aarseth, the Principal Researcher in the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen, on securing a significant grant from the European Research Council.

Making Sense of Games will begin in November 2016 and will create four PhD positions and four postdoc positions during the five-year project period. This will add to the already considerable expertise and research output produced by the Center, as well as giving more credibility to the academic cross-discipline study of games.

The Center has been around for a while now (it’s often a surprise to people, especially academics from other disciplines, to discover that this discipline has been an active field of research for decades, not years). The BBC published an article on it in 2004, and I did a short and enjoyable course there back in 2003 which was co-ordinated by Espen. It was pretty good, I picked up some ECTS’s, and I’m still in touch with several of the others on that course. It had the added bonus of being in Copenhagen in December, and it’s always great to visit a Scandinavian city in the run up to Christmas.

Espen himself has been a stand-out person in the field for a long time, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Game Studies, an Open Access journal of high quality writing that’s also been around a long while now.

There’s an interview with Espen in Motherboard, and Gamasutra have a piece too.