From Walking Simulator to Reflective Simulator
A Practice-Based Perspective
The aim of this paper is to contribute both theoretically and methodologically to discussions on walking simulator video games. We base our reflection on results grounded in a video game design project conducted as part of our master's thesis. Our research perspective is rooted in pragmatist and constructivist theories of design, such as the epistemology of practice (Schön, 1983; 1992) and project-grounded research (Findeli, 2005). To define the player's experience, we relied on John Dewey's (1934) concept of aesthetic experience. In this context, an individual's experience is characterised as reflective, i.e., meaningful, introspective, creative, and situated. Our project consisted in designing a tailored reflective experience for a unique player—the designer's younger sister. This involved creating a playable prototype featuring gameplay characteristics that game theorists and critics might consider elements of a walking simulator. We describe how the player had a reflective experience both during her interaction with the game and thereafter. Adopting a reflective approach allowed us to better describe and appreciate the life-changing potential of simulators and to ultimately shed light on their capabilities, rather than concentrate on their limitations (Clarke, 2017). We therefore propose a new label, namely, “reflective simulator,” as a way to contribute to theoretical discussions about walking simulators. This case study provides a methodological contribution to thefield of game studies by describing and reflecting upon the theoretical anchors underpinning game design
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