July 10, 2007 Computer games of the future are easily accessible online games that fit into our busy everyday life. The market has exploded and adult women in particular are taking part in this growth wave. A young researcher, Jesper Juul from the IT University of Copenhagen, has been recognized for his scrutiny of the relationship between computer games and other games.
The computer games industry is increasing its focus on the market for more accessible games to get more people to play. This new genre is called ‘casual games’ and is attracting players, investors and game developers from all around the world. "These new games are quick to learn and the focus is on fun rather than on making the games difficult or time consuming", explains lecturer Jesper Juul, who has through his research placed a focus on computer game design at the IT University of Copenhagen.
"Games should not be seen as just being a pastime, but rather should be seen as encapsulating the desire to challenge ourselves and learn something new", says Jesper Juul. He explains that all games are about learning. “When you play a new game, you begin with little knowledge, but you gradually develop game skills and strategies. Learning is one of the core pleasures of all games - from card games to computer games”.
Feelings at Play: I Promise I Will Be Unhappy if I Lose
Playing is to a great extent about feelings. As a player, you are emotionally attached to the outcome of the game. "Even if you flip a coin with another person, it is difficult to avoid being a little happy if you win or a bit unhappy if you lose", Jesper Juul explains.
"When you play a game, you enter into a contract where you promise to be happy if you win and unhappy if you lose. If you play a game with other people, you must enter into this contract or you be considered a spoilsport and will not be asked to play next time. Casual games are relaxation games which allow you to play for short periods of time. This means that you as a player are measured less on the amount of time you use on the game, but more on the strategies you can create. The increasing degree of difficulty forces the player to redefine their strategies. It is this continuous challenge which more and more people are attracted to", says Jesper Juul.
Casual games fit into the social contexts of everyday life, and designed to be interruptible. "All types of people are attracted to the games", says Jesper Juul, who points out that the most surprising aspect of this type of game is that they primarily attract women players in the age group of 35 to 50 years. A part of the explanation can be that these women are looking for a different type of gaming experience than the young men who you traditionally see play computer games. "The new players are not interested in using hours or days on getting started. They want to have fun in the first few minutes of play", Jesper Juul explains.
Broad Recognition From the Research World and the Games Industry
The IT University each year identifies exceptional research which both contributes new knowledge and provides proposals on how the new insight can be used. Jesper Juul’s research has just been recognized as one of the best research contributions from the IT University’s research in 2006. The accolade is, in addition to Jesper Juul’s basic research, for his book Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds¸ which is published by the American publisher MIT Press.
A central tenet of the book is that computer games are half-real. "You play with real rules while imagining yourself in a fantasy world. You win or lose a game in the real world but you kill (for example) a dragon in the imaginary game world. As a player, you navigate between two perspectives - one moment you imagine that you are moving around a fantasy world, in the next moment you are relating to the game’s rules and looking to optimize your strategy," Jesper Juul explains.
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