Abstract

This is a copy of the abstract I submitted to the International PlayTrack 2017 Conference. If I manage to buy a plane ticket, this should give you an idea of the research I intend to present in Denmark at the Aarhus University conference which is funded by the Lego Foundation.

Update: You can contribute to my fundraiser to help buy a plane ticket here. Please do.


This poster will show the results of textual analysis on fifteen larps published during 2012-2017. Having selected fifteen live-action roleplaying games of a similar format, I intend to perform a comparative textual analysis to determine the game designers’ assumptions about play. I have selected five games each from three larp designers, Avery Alder, Caitlynn Belle, and Jackson Tegu. These designers publish 5-16 page American Freeform and experimental larp games through Patreon. Examining quantifiable features like word length, word frequency, sentence length, lexical density, and Gunning Fog Index readability, we can infer several things about play experience of these games.
Every game designer makes assumptions about play. By examining the complexity of the text, we can infer the assumed education level of the player. By cataloguing undefined game terms, we infer what prior game experience the designer assumes for a player. By textual analysis of gender, age, and sensory terms, we can even infer the demographic profile of assumed players.


In addition to assumptions about players, textual analysis also exposes designers’ assumptions about play experience. The explicit rules for play give a skeleton of the designer’s intent for play experience. Various textual features flesh out that play experience. The number of phases or scenes in the game, the number and length of instructional steps for those phases, the ratio of procedural text to diagetic text on each page—even the presence or absence of game art—are quantifiable textual features that reveal the author’s intended play experience.

I select these designers and these larps because of their similarity in publication format, year of publication, page length, and game genre. By analyzing the instructional text of a handful of games from Alder, Belle, and Tegu, this poster will visibly, quantifiably indicate similarities and differences in these designers’ intended play experiences.

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