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Setting a reading intention helps you organise your reading. You can filter on reading intentions from the list , as well as view them within your profile. Setting up reading intentions help you organise your course reading. It makes it easy to scan through your lists and keep track of progress. Here's an example of what they look like:.

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Your reading intentions are also stored in your profile for future reference. The potential to create an immersive effect, in which the player is absorbed into the game, is an important aspect of gameplay. Immersion in the sense of establishing an illusion of quasi-physical sensory presence in the on-screen world of the game is considered in greater detail in Chapter 2. A game, or part of a game, that is too challenging for the player is likely to cause anxiety; one that is too easy is likely to create boredom.

A player starting with a low level of skill will require modest challenges initially, but these will need to be increased, incrementally, to match the increasing skill gained with practice by the player. This is precisely what is offered in many videogames. In some cases, these functions are performed in what are framed as training modes, in locations such as the indoor and outdoor obstacle courses at the palatial home of Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider games. The availability of a range of challenges appropriate to player skills, and earned player-character capacities and equipment, is built very clearly into a MMORPG such as EverQuest.

An assortment of creatures and monsters populates the various landscapes of the game, each being labelled explicitly in terms of the level of challenge it would present if engaged in combat by the player. Creatures that offer a reasonably safe and useful source of experience points in the early stages are barely worthy of notice once a few levels are gained unless they possess something required in a particular quest , a pleasurable sense of progression being created by the gradual ability of the player to take on opponents that are more challenging and bring greater rewards as they level-up.

In this case, what is involved is the level of skill embedded in the player-character more than that of the player hm- or herself.


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The same factors enable the player-character to embark on increasingly elaborate quests and to become a more valuable resource to others in group activities. An increase in the number of gameplay hooks makes the game more complex and demanding. Too many hooks can become overwhelming, as Howland suggests; too few, and boredom is likely to set in once the initial novelty of a new title is exhausted. To engage effectively in challenging activity, matching skill against challenge, it is essential that a clear sense is established of what has to be achieved.

Unambiguous feedback is also required: a clear sense of the extent to which any activity by the player succeeds or fails. Many games offer instant feedback. The centrality of shooting to a wide range of games might be explained as much by its suitability for the provision of action that creates an immediate feedback response as by any broader cultural factors, as Marie-Laure Ryan suggests. In some types of games, especially strategy games, the fruits of action are delayed into the future — the time it takes for a particular resource to be developed — but instant feedback is usually provided to signify that the process is underway and some indication is given of how long it will take to be completed.

Without a framework of clear goals and feedback, gameplay is liable to be confusing, which can be the case, especially for new players, in extremely open-ended games such as MMORPGs or largely non-directive games such as Animal Crossing More complex interfaces can provide greater functionality, however, than those which are most rapidly grasped. Repeated usage results in the creation of customized neural pathways in the brain, reducing the amount of processing required for reaction to on-screen events. One of the potential pleasures of immersive absorption in activities such as gameplay is the opportunity they provide for other preoccupations and anxieties to be forgotten.

A strong focus of attention on the tasks at hand leaves little or no room for anything else. Gameplay, like other sources of leisure and work that require sustained concentration, can provide an orderly arena into which the player can move to escape the multitude of disorders and uncertainties often characteristic of everyday life. Another dimension of this kind of experience is the sense of control gained by the player. The player is granted a certain scope for controlling agency in all games, yet this is determined by the particular rules and parameters of any individual game.

The pleasure of playing lies, often, in a particular combination of freedom and determination, control and lack of control. The sense of control is strongest when the player has freedom to complete tasks in more than one way, but this, itself, is determined by the game. This is largely illusory, however, given that the player usually has no control over the challenges set or parameters such as those determining the requirements needed to attain a higher level. In multi-player games, the sense of accomplishment and control felt by experienced players can be increased by the practice of helping new players; much of the in-game chat revolves around the comparison of strategies and skill levels, including frequent boasting about achievements.

An experience often reported by gameplayers is the sense that time passes differently during anything other than short periods of gameplay, particularly that it tends to pass more quickly, that hours can disappear in what seem like minutes. Intense levels of absorption or immersion in the game, and the closing out of the external world, imply a move into its rhythms and timescales rather than those of the real-world clock.

How much frustration can be contained within this experience, without creating alienation for the player, is likely to vary from one example to another. In shooters such as Doom and Halo , for example, the number of enemies decreases on easier settings.

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When it is switched on, enemies can be hit merely by shooting in their general direction rather than requiring more accurate aiming, a change that can make all the difference in the heat of the action and when subject to panic-induced button fumbling. Consciousness of the existence of relatively arbitrary game devices is likely to reduce immersive potential.

Hit-point systems, for example, used to calculate the relative strength of characters and to chart their state of health during combat, have a number of advantages, Jonathon Schilpp suggests, including their ease of use, versatility and familiarity to players. Hit-point systems lay bare the numerical models used by game software, especially when their dynamics are presented explicitly to the player, as is the case in the on-screen information supplied during combat in examples such as EverQuest. Many subsequent games map health status onto the appearance, behaviour and capacities of the playercharacter.

Numerous other factors can also intrude on the gameplay experience, reducing the likelihood of reaching anything like an optimal state. Gameplayers often seek a private space in which outside interference can be minimalized, using devices such as headphones where necessary to increase separation from the surrounding world,61 but it is not always possible to prevent interruption.

A variable balance exists between the relative strength of demands posed by real and game-world activities. Such theories can be seen as products of a particular social, economic and cultural conjunction, dominant in contemporary western society, in which an emphasis is put on notions of individual freedom. This does not make such concepts of any less use in the understanding of contemporary videogame play, but suggests that they should not be elevated to the status of universals. Gameplay does not exist in a vacuum, any more than games do as a whole.

It is situated, instead, within a matrix of potential meaning-creating frameworks. The extent to which contextual material or associations are likely to come into play during play is variable, according to factors relating to the nature of the game and the manner in which it is played in a particular gaming context.

In some situations, quite commonly at the height of the gameplay action, contextual material is likely to recede from view. But games, like other cultural products, always contain potential for the creation of extrinsic as well as intrinsic meanings.

Some of these are considered in greater detail in Chapter 4, in which we focus more broadly on the social and cultural dimension of games and gameplay. The remainder of this chapter considers the role of contextual frameworks, principally those established by narrative and genre associations. In the last part of the chapter, we consider more closely the relationship between gameplay and contextual material: the extent to which such dimensions are likely to be in-play, rather than relegated to a position in the background, during particular sessions of gameplay.

NARRATIVE The narrative potential of videogames has been one of the dominant concerns for a number of theorists, including some coming to games from a background in literary studies. The narrative dimension of games tends to be seen in this context as somewhat crude and debased. One of the main reasons for objections to any emphasis on the narrative components of games, where they exist, is that the narrative dimension itself is not usually interactive, and therefore lacks the quality seen as the most distinctive element of videogames as compared with other media.

Aspects of narrative are present in many others, but they often play a marginal role. Little more than a minimal backstory is created in some cases. More substantial overarching narrative frameworks are developed in others, along with localized narrative components. Games of emergence, as suggested above, are those in which a number of simple rules combine to form a wide range of interesting variations.

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Such frameworks play a far less directing role, however, than is usually the case in games of progression. Substantial advance can be made through the game — exploration, combat, the pursuit of quests, increasing the experience and skills levels of the playercharacter — without any more than passing engagement with this kind of narrative background. In EverQuest, the choice of whether or not to worry about narrative is made explicit in the form of a control that can be used to turn on or off a story mode in which narrative updates are provided.

Players can also choose to invest more strongly in narrative context by reading books in which a mythic background is elaborated or by visiting new areas that might be opened up temporarily in line with a new story arc. In online role-playing games, this investment is likely to be increased because players interact with others in the guise of their chosen characters: the attributes of character to some extent frame the manner in which players regard one another. The player can choose to avoid the process of ongoing character-development, but not without severely limiting the scope for other forms of emergent gameplay an increase of character experience being necessary if freedom is to be gained to roam the game-world in relative safety and to embark on a wider range of activities.

If players of games of emergence can, among other activities, generate a variety of emergent narratives or tellable stories from the initial parameters, one of the tasks set by some games of progression is to realize a narrative structured in advance into the gamescape. This is not the case with all games of progression, some of which have little substance in the narrative dimension.

The basic dynamic is one of repetition of gameplay activities at increasingly higher levels within a context that remains essentially static after being established at the start: reiterations of the same types of actions. Narrative material is developed during the course of the game, often interspersed with gameplay activities in which the dynamic is much the same as that suggested above: broadly similar assortments of tasks to perform but often more testing, and with access to more resources, as the game proceeds.

Comments by nonplayer characters in the early stages build expectations that something is amiss, creating an explanatory context for subsequent events.

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A number of messages await Freeman but cannot be accessed because the computer system is down — narrative information that is missing, in other words, increasing the overall impression of suspense. A number of plot twists impact on gameplay as the game proceeds. It soon becomes apparent that they are shooting at the player-character, however, although maybe too late to prevent the character being killed and the player having to return to the last save-point.

Why the troops are shooting at the player-character, here and subsequently, becomes another source of enigma, background to the immediate task of having to deal with another hostile force. The carefully crafted narrative of Primal pivots around the fact that chaos and order are no longer in dualistic equilibrium. The main playercharacter, Jen, is plunged inadvertently into a mythical realm and charged with the task of rebalancing these primal forces.

A number of different devices are used to supply this kind of narrative material. Some, such as cut-scenes, entail a break out of the main gameplay arena. The cut-scene casts its meanings forward, strengthening the diegetic, rhetorical dimension of the event to come. Scenes important to the plot of Half-Life remain fully interactive, allowing the player to move around while information is relayed by non-player characters and other integrated devices.

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In games such as these, the challenge offered to the player includes realizing the pre-existing narrative structure and making sense of the narrative context in which gameplay occurs. Damaged, blood-spattered interiors and the remains of carcasses from which shape-shifting aliens have emerged provide both evidence of recent events, as constructed in the narrative past, and warning about the likely kinds of events to come.


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It also matters to many game designers, an important point given the tendency of some commentators to treat narrative as essentially a concern brought to games from outside, principally from those seeking to impose on games study perspectives more relevant to other media such as literature and cinema. The provision of narrative material can be seen as a reward for successful gameplay. The unveiling of a new plot development often comes after the completion of a series of gameplay tasks. The balance of pleasure might change from one game to another — depending on the relative quality of both gameplay activities and narrative development — and from one player to another, depending on individual preferences.