The playful practices, even the profiles of the players, vary according to the game systems: role-playing ( RPG ) face-to-face, in a network room, online ( Mmorpg ).

We will distinguish the devices according to the degree of socio-technical mediation in place:

face-to-face: no socio-technical mediation,

in association: organizational mediation,

in the network room: technical (computers and networks) and organizational mediation (the room manager),

online at home: technical (computer and network) and organizational mediation (design and production device, game management).

Role-playing and video games as well as online games seem to belong to a particular culture. We do not have the means here to explore this dimension as we would like, but it seems important to us to mention it. First of all, role-playing games are very recent: the 1970s in the United States. They would come from an adaptation of strategy games by creating complete fictional universes: the first game of this type traditionally mentioned being Dungeons and Dragons (Tremel, 2001).

Découvrir Cairn-Pro8It seems to us that there is a link between computer culture and these games. This is what Sherry Turckle (1986) seems to confirm when she points out that Dungeons and Dragons is a social environment structured like a machine: “The dungeon offers her a safe world (she said of a person she interviewed ) allowing him to build adventures from a complex set of rules. “” There is no computer in the first Dungeon games. But these artificial worlds are imbued with the spirit of the computer program. Their limits are imposed on them by rule systems, not by physical reality, nor by moral considerations. Time can go back, the characters can have superhuman powers, anything is possible. The only obligation is logic ”(Turckle, 1986).

These characteristics are multiplied by the appearance of network games in the 1990s. But it seems that, at the same time, table role-playing games leave more room for interpretation, the rules becoming less determining (Jaulin & Weil, 2003).

 The role play is based on three dimensions: imagination, hazard, respect for the rules. It is the different ways of playing that favor one of them. We can also consider that online games (and video games) fall into these three broad categories which partially group together the partition between play and game (Winnicott, 1975). The video game almost eliminates the imagination, the random tends to be mastered, respect for the rules is what is dominant, integrated into the technical system, there is hardly any choice, except to bypass the system (exit the game before the end, for example, for action games).

Online games differ in that some are action games, others role-playing games, or – if we are to believe the proponents of traditional games – attempts to transpose tabletop role-playing games. But even in what could be considered as online role-playing games, important differences exist due to the engineering of the game. These games are “an art of the device” (Jaulin & Weil, 2003), created universes. by “engineers of worlds” (Jaulin & Weil, 2003). The universe is made up of the rules of the game and the work of a scriptwriter who guides the modalities of the game: “If the experience system rewards combat rather than social bond, the face of the game changes completely. This story designis found even in the topography of places considered as amusement parks. In short, since Dungeons and Dragons , an art of the device has been put in place. It combines simulation, rules of the game, storytelling and communication to channel the imagination of players and allow them to bring these territories to life… ”(Jaulin & Weil, 2003).

The ways of playing, the attractiveness that we find in the game will largely depend on this engineering (Yee, 2002) But it seems to us that we can globally establish a comparison between table game and online games.

In online gaming, the imagination is less important since the virtual world is given by the software and not built by a player. The rules are partially inscribed in the technical system, partially established by the players, most of the time in a formalized way by the technical system (the software) and by the written rules established in a guild (sometimes these rules remain informal, but the majority of players claim that their guild has a written charter). The coordination of the action is central, it focuses everyone’s attention and activity, it is supported by communication tools such as chats, forums and by the organization of the game as it is inscribed in the software.

In face-to-face play, the role of the game master is decisive: it is he who offers a universe that the players will then share, it is he too who animates the game, gives the rules, enforces them. , regulates relations in the group. We are dealing with a kind of charismatic leader for the good functioning of the group: the interest and the pleasure of the game come from the game master. Common standards are essential, given and regulated by him. The coordination depends on the master of the game and the acceptance by each of the norms and rules. In all cases, and this also concerns action games, role-playing games are part of a system of rules and the roles and games of each are linked to the collective of players. “The interiorization of this organized set of roles corresponds to what, objectively, is an institutionalized group. The child – here we can say the adolescent, but also the adult -, thanks to regulated play, no longer only assumes the role of this or that partner, but ultimately that of a generalized other person, which precisely allows the conscious personality to develop from a social substrate. In the game governed by rules that are assigned to the player, the roles are institutionalized as in society, with a free choice of rules as in the which precisely allows the conscious personality to develop from a social substrate. In the game governed by rules that are assigned to the player, the roles are institutionalized as in society, with a free choice of rules as in the which precisely allows the conscious personality to develop from a social substrate. In the game governed by rules that are assigned to the player, the roles are institutionalized as in society, with a free choice of rules as in theagon  or in the hazard which are regulated games . We can consider that online games are of this type. Role-playing games on the table are also established according to rules, but the player has more freedom to shape his character and his evolution in the game, that is to say more room for mimicry , i.e. the simulacrum, the pretend .

Many players comparing the different game situations insist on opposing video games and face-to-face games by the difference in space left to the imagination. It is in games in co-presence that it occupies the largest space, while video games present more the repetitiveness of the machine: the unexpected is on the side of the human. But online play introduces a part of the unexpected that characterized face-to-face play since the avatars are ruled by humans. This game features a pre-programmed mix of play that most players believe limits the imagination and creative abilities of players, but maintains the uncertainty of human intervention.

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