man is a playful animal

johan huizinga

game development


perspectives -- game development


the artwork

  1. manuscript -- used as a desktop by my favorite student.
  2. signs -- abstract symbols,  [Signs], p. 214, 215.
  3. photographs -- Jaap Stahlie, commissioned work.


game technology for serious applications

immersion does not require illusion but involvement

game technology for serious applications

learning objectives

After reading this chapter you should have an idea how to approach the development of a moderately complex game, and you should also be able to discuss the notion of immersion and argue why using game technology is relevant for serious applications.

Game playing is fundamental to human life. Not only for entertainment, but also to acquire the necessary skills for survival. Game playing can take a variety of forms, but nowadays the dominant game paradigm is undoubtedly the interactive video game, to be played on a multimedia-enhanced PC or game console. Currently, games are being (re) discovered in the academic field, another serious areas of society, as excellent means for both the transfer of knowledge and, perhaps more importantly, for attitude change.

In this chapter we will look at the various issues in developing a game, and more specifically, in section 11.2 at requirements for a promotional game for our faculty and the issues that came up when giving a masterclass game development for high school students using this game. Finally, we will sketch the history of immersive systems, in particular panoramas, in section 11.3, and we will discuss how immersion is to be realized in a game context.


game playing

... in the game we confront a function of the living creature which cannot be determined either biologically or logically ...

visual culture

games are an increasingly important element in our visual culture.

game programming

game engine component(s)



what is a game?

a game is a series of processes that takes a player to a result.

interactive electronic game

A game is a play activity comprised of a series of actions and decisions, constrained by rules and the game world, moving towards an end condition. The rules and the game world are delivered by electronic media and controlled by a digital program.

The rules and game world exist to create interesting situations to challenge and oppose the player. The player's actions, his decisions, excitement, and chances, really, his journey, all comprise the "soul of play".

It is the richness of context, the challenge, excitement, and fun of a player's journey, and not simply the attainment of the end condition that determines the success of the game.


varoomthung blam

battle condition(s)

design team role(s)


  1. phase i: before space war -- hardwired
  2. phase ii: spacewar on atari -- console with game
  3. phase iii: game console and PC -- separate game development
  4. phase iv: shakedown and consolidation -- player code in data files
  5. phase v: advent of the game engine -- user level design
  6. phase vi: the handheld revolution -- the GameBoy
  7. phase vii: the cellular phenomenon -- larger installed user base
  8. phase viii: multiplayer games -- from MUD to Everquest



Screens from Samurai Romanesque.

virtual heroes

Serious games and simulations are poised for a second revolution. Today's children, our workforce and scientists are increasingly playing, learning, and inventing in visually intensive "virtual" environments. In our increasingly experiential economy, immersive educational and training solutions are needed to advance the workforce of tomorrow. Game-based learning and technologies meet this challenge.

With regard to the use of 3D we may remark that since ancient times a walk in space has served as a mnemonic device, and as such spatial memory may aid in retention and understanding, which might also provide a decisive argument for the use of 3D in aa serious game, such as a service management game!

peace maker(s)

Q: With the lion's share of strategy games on the market being devoted to ending a conflict through violence, why was it important to you to emphasize the need for a peaceful solution?
A: When we started to work on the project and looked around at other video games, we encountered the notion that war is much more challenging and conflict is essential to engage players. Many people we talked to perceived peacemaking as mere negotiations, where a group of diplomats sit at a table for lengthy discussions and sign agreements. We tried to shed light on what we see as the other side of peacemaking how challenging it is for a leader to gain trust and understanding in the face of constant violence. How difficult it is to execute concessions, while your own population is under stress or feeling despair. In a sense, peacemaking can be more complicated, sophisticated and rewarding than war making, and it is a message that we would like to convey to young adults, the future generation of leaders.


black/whitegreyscale sepia thermal


requirements game

requirements masterclass


(a) restaurant(b) restaurant(c) restaurant

technical issues

level design

To give an impression of the overall size of the VU.vmf game level, as map information we obtained 6464 solids, 41725 faces, 849 point entities, 1363 solid entities, and 129 unique textures, requiring in total a texture memory of 67918851 bytes (66.33 MB).

game modification(s)

importing models


  1. to modify an existing game level by applying different textures,
  2. to create objects within an existing game level, and
  3. (for advanced students only) to create a new level.



(a) converter(b) VMT tool(c) camera


(a) masterclass room(b) room in Hammer editor

hammer editor

Somewhat surprisingly, all students worked directly from the (paper) manual, rather than consulting the online documentation, or the help function with the tool.




To stimulate the participants in their creativity, we awarded the best result, according to our judgement, with a VU-Life 2 T-shirt and a CD with Half-Life 2. The results varied from a music chamber, a space environment, a Matrix inspired room, and a messy study room. We awarded the Matrix room with the first prize, since it looked, although not very original, the most coherent.


Media are special cases within the history of civilisation. They have contributed there share to the gigantic rubbish heaps that cover the face of our planet or to the mobile junk that zips through outer space.

dead media project

Together with like-minded people, in 1995, Bruce Sterling started a mailinglist (at that time still an attractive option) to collect obsolete software. This list was soon expanded to collect dead ideas, or dead artifacts, and systems from the history of technical media: inventions that appeared suddenly and disappeared just as quickly, which dead-ended and were never developed further; models that never left the drawing board; or actual products that were bought and used and subsequently vanished into thin air.

machines can die

Sterling's project confronted burgeoning phantasies about the immortality of machines with the simple facticity of a continuously growing list of things that have become defunct.

technology and death

Once again, romantic notions of technology and of death were closely intertwined in the Dead Media Project.


Michelle is a writer, and she writes a book about Dutch paintings. To collect necessary information, she analyses different sources about Dutch culture, many of them in Dutch language. However, being a beginner in Dutch, she often has to translate phrases from and to English. She also needs to find additional information about particular concepts and facts. Instead of using several tools, such as online dictionaries, definition books and search engines, she decides to compose a simple service that aggregates all the services she needs.



Additionally we address the issue of

service-oriented computing


camera inputvoice input news reader

analogon of reality

Certainly, the image is not the reality but at least it is its perfect analogon and it is exactly this analogical perfection which, to our common sense, photography. This can be seen as the special status of the photographic image, it is a message without a code.




... documentary modality of black and white realism ...


visual grammar

grammar goes beyond formal rules of correctness. It is a means of representing patterns of experience. It enables human beings to build a mental picture of reality, to make sense of their experience of what goes on around them and inside them.

virtual reality

the idea of virtual reality only appears to be without a history: in fact, it rests firmly on historic art traditions, which belongs to a discontinuous movement of seeking illusionary image spaces.


the concept of immersion when implemented as an artwork surrenders most of the essential properties of an artwork.

properties of artwork(s)

collective memory

it is an apparent feature of the concept of immersion that it engages with the spatial and pictorial concentration of the awareness of one's own people, the formation of collective identity through powerful images that occupy the function of memory.

ecstatic transport

using contemporary image techniques, immersive art very often visualizes elements that can best be described as Dionysian: ecstatic transport and exhilaration.



a realism is produced by a particular group as an effect of the complex of practices which define and constitute that group.


each realism has its naturalism, that is a realism that is a definition of what counts as real, a set of criteria for the real, and it will find its expression in the right, the best, the most natural form of representing that kind of reality, be it a photograph or a diagram.


dominant paradigm(s)

the dominant standard by which we judge visual realism (and hence visual modality) remains for the moment, naturalism as conventionally understood, photorealism.



mass medium

thus, one year after Monet's death and fifty years after his Impression soleil levant, a late example of modern art reached the changed artistic landscape of the 1920's, transported in a derivative of the mass medium for images in the 19th century.

new media

a consequence of the constitutive function of artistic-illusionary utopias for the inception of new media of illusion is that the media are both a part of the history of culture and of technology.

cultural convergence

the cultural convergence of art, science, and technology provides ample opportunity for artists to challenge the very notion of how art is produced and to call into question its subject matter and its meaning in society.


human aspiration(s)

telepresence also combines the contents of three archetypal areas of human aspirations: automation, virtual illusion and metaphysical views of the self.


what is being preached is the phantasm of union in a global net community, cybergnosis, salvation through technology, disembodied as a post-biological scattering of data that lives forever.


what we observe are hyperzealots of a new technoreligion running wild, zapping, excerpting and floating in cyberspace.


since the eighteenth century, aesthetic theories have regarded distance as a constitutive element of reflection, self-discovery and the experience of art and nature.


aesthetic distance is no longer tenable when artist are engaging the same systems used in general communications and research



game event description format



11. game technology for serious applications



projects & further reading

As a project, develop a non-violent game using the Source SDK. For example, you may develop an application that gives a community of users access their personal collections of photographs.

One interesting feature to explore is the use of narratives, that is a kind of guided tour that gives a user an overview of the collection of photographs by means of a story, taking (in other words) the user by the hand in navigating the gane space.

For further reading I suggest, apart from the manuals and learning materials that come with the Source SDK, books on game development such as  [Game],  [VideoGame] and  [Magic].

the artwork

  1. digital beauties -- taken from  [Beauties].
  2. Masereel, social realist works
  3. Roy Lichtenstein, 1962
  4. Masereel, social realist works
  5. images from Samurai Romanesque, see section 1.3
  6. HalfLife 2 shader programming
  7. VU-Life 2 -- opening screen
  8. VU-Life 2 -- screenshots
  9. VU-Life 2 -- screenshots
  10. VU-Life 2 -- screenshots
  11. VU-Life 2 -- tools
  12. VU-Life 2 -- tools
  13. VU-Life 2 -- masterclass
  14. diagram AMICO core
  15. diagram AMICO applications
  16. Roy Lichtenstein, 1962, Stillives
  17. Monet, Nympheas
  18. Monet, Nympheas
  19. Monet, Nympheas
  20. Web 3Di -- diagram for Webvolution
  21. signs -- abstract,  [Signs], p. 146, 147.


towards an aesthetics for interaction

experience is determined by meaning

towards an aesthetics for interaction

learning objectives

After reading this chapter you should have an understanding of the model underlying game playing, and the role of narratives in interaction. Furthermore, you might have an idea of how to define aesthetic meaning in a cultural context, and apply your understanding to the creative development of meaningful interactive systems.

As in music, the meaning of interactive applications is determined, not only by its sensory appearance, but to a high extent by the structure and functionality of the application. This observation may, also, explain, why narratives become more and more important in current video games, namely in providing a meaningful context for possible user actions.

In this chapter, we take an interactive game-model extended with narrative functionality as a starting point to explore the aesthetics of interactive applications. In section 12.1, we will introduce a model for interactive video games, and in section 12.2 we will present a variety of rules for the construction of narratives in a game context. Finally, in section 12.3, we will characterize the notion of meaning from a traditional semiotics perspective, which we will then apply in the context of games and interactive multimedia applications.

game theory

  • system -- (formal) set of rules
  • relation -- between player and game (affectionate)
  • context -- negotiable relation with 'real world'

classic game (reference) model

  • rules -- formal system
  • outcome -- variable and quantifiable
  • value -- different valorisation assignments
  • effort -- in order to influence the outcome
  • attachment -- emotionally attached to outcome (hooked)
  • consequences -- optional and negotiable (profit?)

rules vs fiction

game fiction is ambiguous, optional and imagined by the player in uncontrollable and unpredictable ways, but the emphasis on fictional worlds may be the strongest innovation of the video game.

theory of interaction

are games relevant for a theory of interaction?

effective service management game(s)

  • rules -- service management protocols
  • outcome -- learning process
  • value -- intellectual satisfaction
  • effort -- study procedures
  • attachment -- corporate identity
  • consequences -- job qualification

additional criteria

  • scenario(s) - problem solving in service management
  • reward(s) - service level agreements

game play

... structure of interaction with game system and other player(s)

component framework

  • holistic -- playing games as an undividable activity
  • boundary -- limit the activities of people playing games
  • temporal -- describe the flow of the game (interaction)
  • structural -- physical and logical elements of the game system


  • resource management -- resource types, control, progress
  • communication and presentation -- information, indicators
  • actions and events -- control, rewards and penalties
  • narrative structures and immersion -- evaluation, control, characters
  • social interaction -- competition, collaboration, activities
  • mastery and balancing -- planning, tradeoffs
  • meta games and learning -- replayability, learning curve(s)

intimate media object(s)

  1. glow tags -- a subtle way to trigger the person who has placed it or who sees it
  2. living scrap book -- to capture and collect information and media digitally
  3. picture ball -- as an object of decoration and a focus for storytelling
  4. lonely planet listener -- enabling people to listen to a real time connection to another place

intimate media experience(s)

  • sensorial -- experience is visual, audible, tactile, olfaric
  • personalized -- objects embody meaning and memories
  • analogue -- people relate to physical objects
  • enhancement -- people already have extensive intimate media collections
  • serendipity -- it supports unstructured and flexible usage
  • longevity -- objects may exist over generations

experience as meaning

  • experience occurs during the interaction between the user(s) and the interactive system(s) in the lived environment
  • designers convey meaning (consciously or unconsciously) through the appearance, interaction and function of the system
  • user(s) construct a coherent whole that is a combination of sensual, cognitive, emotional and practical forms of experience

film as art

by still being read, the little treatise seems to prove that in spite of all the changes that have taken place in their form, content and function, films are still most genuinly effective when they rely on the basic properties of the visual medium.


... in film or theatre, so long as the essentials of any event are shown, the illusion takes place

patterns of light

... we can perceive objects and events as living and at the same time imaginary, as real objects and as simple patterns of light on the projection screen, and it is this fact that makes film art possible.

frames of reference

it is one of the most important formal qualities of film that every object that is reproduced appears simultaneously in two entirely different frames of reference, namely the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional, and that as one identical object it fulfills two different functions in the two contexts.

principles of montage

  • cutting -- unit length, whole scenes, cuts within scenes
  • time relations -- synchronized, before/after, neutral
  • space relations -- same place (different time), different place
  • subject matter -- similarity and/or contrast

film technique

  • camera -- position, focus, movement
  • transitions -- fading in/out, dissolving, stills
  • arrangement -- light/shade, color, sound

cinematographic motion

  • movement of objects
  • effect of perspective
  • motion of camera
  • montage of scenes

narrative implication(s)

  • objects -- the items in the image
  • vectors -- (imaginary) lines suggesting interaction
  • gaze -- inward (offer) / outward (demand)


composition, ..., relates the representational and interactive meanings of the picture to eachother, through three interrelated systems.


  • information value -- left/right, top/bottom, centre/margin
  • salience -- foreground/background, relative size, contrast
  • framing -- connecting or dissolving lines

information value

  • left/right -- given versus new
  • top/bottom -- ideal versus real
  • centre/margin -- important versus marginal

scientific context

  • mathematics -- matrix algebra, transforms
  • physics -- game physic, particle systems
  • computer science -- technological infra-structure
  • information theory -- compression and delivery
  • media theory -- history of communication
  • semiotics -- theory of meaning

societal context

  • cultural heritage -- digital dissemination of art
  • education & communication -- presentation of concepts and examples

technological context

  • modelling -- objects, characters
  • interaction -- game programming
  • architecture -- game engine design
  • rendering -- programming the graphics hardware

creative context

  • visual design -- style, models and attributes
  • story telling -- narrative structure


  • actionary level -- action and movements
  • sensory/iconic -- images and impressions
  • symbolic -- language and mathematics

basic geometrical shapes

... basic geometrical shapes have always been a source of fascination, even of religious awe. And our scientific age is no exception.

nervous system

(basic geometrical shapes) have been thought to have the power to directly affect our nervous system, for instance by the constructivist artist Gabo: the emotional force of an absolute shape is unique and not replaceable by any other means ...

semiotics -- a theory of meaning

  • signifier -- sign/symbol
  • signified -- what is referred to

semiotic modes

... is the move from the verbal to the visual a loss, or a gain?


... it has to be handled visually, because the verbal is no longer adequate?


the multi-modality of written texts has, by and large, been ignored, whether in educational contexts, in linguistic theorizing, or in popular common sense. Today, in the age of multimedia, it can suddenly be perceived again.


  • myth of transparency -- visual communication is always coded!
  • literacy -- standards for semiotic order
  • semiotic modes -- text, visual, auditive, ...
  • computer technology -- central to semiotic landscape
  • semiotic activities -- production, transformation, development

semiotic landscape

the place of visual communication in a given society can only be understood in the context of, on the one hand, the range of forms or modes of public communication available in that society, and, on the other hand, their uses and valuations.

sonic act(s)

what is the meaning of meaning in apparently meaningless expressions


one of the crucial issues in communication is the question of the reliability of messages. Is what we see or hear true, factual, real, or is it a lie, a fiction, something outside reality? To some extent the form of the message itself suggests the answer.

coding orientation

  • technical/scientific -- effectiveness, blueprint
  • sensory -- pleasure principle is dominant
  • abstract -- used by socia-cultural elite
  • naturalistic -- dominant common sense paradigm of realism

aesthetics of shock

it is within the realm of probability that the shock, which Walter Benjamin diagnosed as being film's aesthetic innovation, will undergo renewal and intensification with far more sophisticated means.


the most obvious symptom of this loss of distance will be a voyeuristic, dissecting penetration of representations of objects and bodies.


for the first time in the history of man's striving for understanding, simultaneity can be experienced as such, not merely translated as a succession in time.

sensory stimulation

although the new victory over time and space represents an impressive enrichment of the perceptual world, it also favors a cult of sensory stimulation which is characteristic of the cultural attitude of our time.

direct experience

proud of our inventions -- photography, film, radio, ... -- we praise the educational virtues of direct experience.


when communication can be achieved by pointing with the finger, however, the mouth grows silent, the writing hand stops and the mind shrinks.


... the decisive questions remain: who controls the channels, who distributes right of access, and who exercises economic and political authority over the networks?


... the history of technological visions is the history of our dreams, our vagaries and our errors. Media utopias fluctuate, often occurring in a magical or occult ambience.

synopsis course(s)

... the curriculum should emphasise basic principles, and to the extent possible employ open standards and open source. Practical assignments must be centered on local culture, and stimulate the young talent to explore innovative applications for cultural heritage, serious games and artistic expression.

where, what & why

  • where -- Ethiopia & VU
  • what -- introduction multimedia
  • why -- to develop curriculum


  • low end computers -- windows, linux
  • elementary skills -- programming, design


  • open source -- flex 2 sdk, Delta3D
  • open standards -- XML, X3D
  • basic principles -- exploratory development


  • local -- present local cultural heritage
  • serious -- develop serious game(s)
  • benefits -- promote local culture and commerce


  1. philosophy -- pathos, ethos, logos
  2. trailer -- drama, apocalyptic, appeal to player
  3. climate star -- scientific issues & game play
  4. game development -- architecture and project plan


  • art -- rethorics of the material
  • technology -- solving problem(s)
  • science -- establish a theory


  1. transcendental -- abstract form of experience,  [Kritik]
  2. speculative -- criteria for beauty,  [Urteil]
  3. phenomenological -- self-conscious subjectivity,  [Phenomenology]
  4. psychoanalytical -- sub-conscious meaning,  [Witz]
  5. pragmatical -- art as experience,  [Pragmatics]
  6. hermeneutical -- understanding of the senses,  [Hermeneutics]
  7. semiotics -- social construction of meaning,  [Semiotics]

dimensions of aesthetic awareness

  • spatial -- topological relations, layout of image
  • temporal -- order, rhythm, structure
  • dynamic -- interaction, reflection, involvement

projects & further reading

As a project, explore the ways narratives may be constructed from a collection of images. Deploy the various editing facilities for providing flashbacks, flashforwards, and other (temporal) relations within storytelling.

You may implement this using flash, VRML, or even try to embed such a narration facility in a game level developed with the Delta3D or the Source SDK.

For further reading I suggest you to take a look at more theoretical material from media theory, such as  [Remediation]. Also there is a large collection of books from MIT Media Press that is of relevance for our new visual culture.

the artwork

  1. einzelganger -- walking man of Alberto Giacommeti, taken from an aanouncement of the Ives Ensemble, Amsterdam.
  2. game component framework, from  [GamePatterns].
  3. diagram MIME
  4. diagram experience as meaning
  5. Roy Lichtenstein, 1962, (a) Kiss II, (b) Masterpiece, (c) Forget it, forget me.
  6. edgecodes -- showing George Lucas and his editoroid.
  7. El Lissitzky, suprematist works
  8. El Lissitzky, suprematist works
  9. Roy Lichtenstein, 1999, Still lifes with brushstrokes
  10. Les Demoisselles dAvignon, Picasso, 1908, regarded as the start of Cubism, and Le Goutier, Jean Metzinger, 1911, often referred to as the Mona Lisa of Cubism.
  11. poster for exhibition of dutch china work.
  12. signs -- abstract,  [Signs], p. 228, 229.