Paper: People, Places and Play

Written by Dennis Kappen


In the interest of getting some experience in blogging about a paper, I decided to choose the paper on People, Places and Play, with the main aim of formulating my thoughts regarding the hypothesis, synthesis and methodology/process of validation of the hypothesis and measurement techniques used by the authors. This paper closely relates to my area of interest which being; the socio-spatial dynamics between people, systems and the environment of use of the systems.

Reference Information

De Kort, Y.A.W., and Ijsselsteijn, W. A. 2008. People, places, and play: a research framework for digital game experience in a socio-spatial context. ACM Comput. Entertain, 6, 2, Article 18 (July 2008), 11 pages. DOI = 10.1145/1371216.1371221


The authors present the importance of digital games in creating engaging social interactions and discuss the relevance of co-players, audience and player engagement in defining player experience. The paper focuses on the psychological experience of social interactions while playing a game. The paper presents the condition that while flow and immersion is a trance-like focused state during gameplay, the presence of other people in a situated play could be a conflicting situation affecting player enjoyment. The paper discusses the presence of a co-player towards the experience of gameplay from the point of engagement, arousal and emotions. In co-located play, game characteristics, social affordances of the game interface and characteristics of player environment influences playability. The paper infers that the presence of others; social presences during gameplay becomes an extension of the game itself, influencing game play and game experience.


Playing digital games affords numerous opportunities for social interaction. The digital gaming environment presents itself as the medium which connects a player and the spatial environment that the game is played in. The gaming environment is different from the spatial environment of the game, wherein, the gaming environment represents the immersive game-space that engages the player; the spatial environment represents the contextual space in which the game-system (game, device and controllers) and player co-exist.

Spatial gaming environments can be the home environments, or public spaces such as a gaming arcade, a sports arena or virtual online environments. In each of these contextual spatial environments, while the player engages in the digital game, there are many instances wherein groups of friends serve as spectators to the gaming activity. This sub-group of people (audience) can serve as active or passive participants, which, depend on the level of engagement that the game-system affords. The level of participation can be in the form of sharing comments, encouraging the lead player in gameplay, or just watching the player be immersed in gameplay. The level of participation can also affect the level of enjoyment of the game for the player and the involved in gameplay.

The paper indicates that the social interactions due to gaming is in stark contrast to the popular notion that games are responsible for the social isolation of individuals engaged in digital gaming. Much research has been done on the positive aspects of gaming with reference to cognitive skills improvement, enhanced physical co-ordination, and motivated social involvement.

I believe that the relevant question should be: how does social interaction, facilitating the gameplay through audience engagement, affect game experience? Interestingly, the paper presents a comparison between flow and immersion which are central to game experience; however the social interactions could represent a conflicting mechanism of game enjoyment.  The paper also quotes ‘social interaction is not an element of flow and can often interrupt immersion in games’ (Sweetser et al., 2005), because the trance-like state, focus, or the loss of awareness of others (Holt et al., 2000) could be affected by social interaction. Hence, social interaction, and flow and immersion appear to be opposing energies in context of their definitions.

The paper also references the following terminology:

  • Collaborative gaming: playing a game together against another opponent
  • Situated play/experience: relationship between player, co-player(s) and audience, and physical and media context
  • Co-located gaming: multi-player gaming at a single location
  • Mediated gaming: aided by the media being used in gaming (audio-visual, emoticons, on-line chat, avatars/player representations), communication between players is filtered by media.
  • Virtual co-player gaming: playing a game against the AI of agent (single player or multi-player)
  • Sociality Characteristics: the characteristics of a social setting which shape game affordances

The most important aspect of this paper is the identification of the layered inter-relationship between people, places and play with reference to digital gaming. In my opinion, the category of people, in reference to this paper, can be further sub-layered into player (primary user), audience (secondary users) and virtual connections (tertiary users). On a similar level, the category of place can be sub-layered into system space, game-space and spatial environment encompassing the player and the game system. The play aspect of the category can be interleaved into the game system, game interface and game controllers.



The immersive interrelationship between the player(s) and the game-system, which is embodied in the game experience (GX), is itself a complex relationship. To superimpose the aspect of social interaction as an influencing or non-influencing factor adds another dimension to the above mentioned inter-relationship. Furthermore, to add the effect of engaging social interaction as an influencer to game experience, adds another interleaved layer which could be termed as social experience in affective gaming. There also exists the possibility of varying degrees of interactions at each layer, lending to numerous permutations and combinations of inter-relationships within the socio-spatial/environmental framework afforded by affective game design.

The above is a complex, interleaved relationship and is definitely a realm of detailed research interest to many researchers. I believe, there exists immense potential in exploring the aspect of social affordances facilitated by each of the above categories. Furthermore, a detailed understanding of the above inter-relationship will go a long way in helping game designers create more affective games in the gaming arena. I welcome your comments to make this review a rewarding experience.


Rogers, Y., Sharp, H., & Preece, J. (n.d.). Interaction Design: Beyond Human – Computer Interaction (2010th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Holt, R. & Mitterer, J. (2000). Examining video game immersion as a flow state. Paper presented at the 108th Annual Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

Sweetser, P., & Wyeth, P. (2005) GameFlow: A Model for Evaluating Player Enjoyment in Games. ACM Computers in Entertainment, 3 (3), July 2005.

2 thoughts on “Paper: People, Places and Play

  1. Michael Miljanovic

    Hi Dennis,

    I wasn’t aware we got to choose which articles we read yet. Anyway, I have a few comments about your writing:

    – You like to start sentences with “The paper” quite a bit…the summary in particular has 4 of 6 sentences that begin that way. This doesn’t detract from the quality of your writing, but it is a bit repetitive.
    – Some of your sentences are a bit awkward, particularly the ones that use “to add” or “to super-impose”. It just feels a bit awkward, but that might be just my opinion. In the first sentence of your discussion, I’m not sure “affords” is the appropriate word to use. Maybe “provides”?
    – It seems like your review of the paper is not heavily influenced by your opinion. What I mean is that your discussion seems to explain the concepts mentioned and related to the paper, but does not actually critique the article. Do you think the article was well written and designed? Or does it have multiple flaws with the procedures or theory that we should know about? I’m interested to hear what you think.

    Overall, I think you chose an interesting article to review and I look forward to seeing your thoughts in the future.


  2. Dennis Kappen Post author

    Hi Michael,
    Thank you for the feedback. As mentioned in the first paragraph, I selected this paper to “test drive” the experience of writing about the paper. Prof. Nacke will be assigning the papers to us on Thursday.
    From my perspective, I have interspaced my opinion and observations about the paper and the hypothesis in statements which begin with “I believe that …”, ” The most important aspect of this paper …”, the image and the last two paragraphs.
    Hence, I framed the structure of the discussion to be 50% paper and 50% my contribution to the topic at hand as opposed to judging the writing quality of the paper. Based on your feedback, I could increase my contribution to be 60% in the discussion portion of the assignment.
    I tend to keep away from ideas such as, whether the article was well written or not, because my intention was not to judge the paper on its writing, but to look at the topic that was presented and add my thoughts to the concept of “People, Places and Play”.
    I look forward to connecting again
    thank you


Comments are closed.