So I started this whole blog about how I was going to be making a game, and then spent my first two posts talking about digital filter bubbles and echo chambers. However, to properly document the research process for this project it was pivotal that I did some work on understanding the content that I would put into the game. Those posts were informed by research and interviews with professors at a variety of institutions (who I cannot thank enough for giving me time out of their lives to help). But now that we have gotten a handle on what we mean by filter bubbles and echo chambers, we can talk about how they can fit into a game.
Based on the conducted research the game has already had a bit of a change. Rather than explicitly focusing on these ubiquitous concepts, the game will focus on what we understand by digital personalization. Echo chambers and filter bubbles both fall under this larger term, and it better recognizes them outside of binary perceptions. Personalization simply refers to the individual specific curation of content on a platform. Such as your social media feed vs my social media feed. However this extends beyond social media. Search engines, online shopping sites, and news organizations can all personalize the content you see. While sometimes beneficial, this process can quickly create mini echo chambers or filter bubbles. One example could be the recent claims linking youtube’s platform and pedophile rings (see Fisher & Taub, 2019). These systems are complex, hard to understand, and hard to even research. This brings us back to my MA.
A central goal of the project was to present digital issues within an analog space. This goal raises its own set of questions, which only become furthered by the concept of personalization. How do you personalize a stagnant space? How do you make a game feel unique to each player if you physically construct it? How do you represent an algorithm in a real-world setting? The list keeps going, and as I worked on the blueprint for the game I still have questions on how this will all come together. I will write later on the brainstorming process as well as process for design, specifically addressing the methodology piece.
Creating an analog game that is personalized to users forces me to think about red herrings as a personalized experience cannot feel mixed up. The escape room genre offers a strong setting, an investigative story, and controls focused on piecing together parts. In this manner, the space needs to feel personalized, yet the choices are somewhat prescribed. Rather than total player autonomy, I had to remember that the game can have explicit restrictions that provide some agency but ultimately get the players to do what I want. While I am still working on some specifics, the environment offers a distinct space to have users see their experience reflected back to them.
Moving forward, the blog posts will be discussing specific design choices, questions I came across, and my overall methodology. As I prepare to playtest next month, I have a lot to solve in a short time frame.
Fisher, M., & Taub, A. (2019, June 3). On YouTube’s Digital Playground, an Open Gate for Pedophiles. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/world/americas/youtube-pedophiles.html