This roundtable generated quite a discussion, which I wasn’t able to capture in my notes. My notes of the four panelists’ opening statements follow:

Aki Jarvinen
Three processes/purposes for research: Research into design (traditional humanities- and social-style research), research through design (project based), research for design (game design, develop methods)

Stephen Bjork – stepping stones between design and theory
Focus on games (not gamers and gamer communities), focus on designed gameplay (not emergent; game with authors w/ intended gameplay) – “Game play Research” as type of interaction design; artifact and/vs activity. Test theories through design.

Design and Theory
Design – supported by methods, directed by theories
Methods – tested by designing, motivated by theory
Theory – validated by designs, applied by methods
(fluid shift between the three types)

Pirates! game example, where the team shifted between the 3 as they created the game.

Eric Zimmerman
Questioning Game Design + Theory
3 questions:
Game design as master discipline? Should research be relevant for game design? Or should scholars focus on their own field in relation to games without worrying about making sure that the ideas are relevant for game design?

Why the prevalence of formalism? The idea that games can be “known” and formally described. The “essence” of games. What does it leave out? Why this renewed structuralism? Why no ethnography of game design process or game designers?

Design as theoretical investigation? The academy as a possible space for games that would be avoided by the risk-adverse industry.

Slides soon available at:

Can’t design, won’t design. On one hand, there is the idea that if you haven’t made a game, you don’t know what you are talking about. On the other hand, academics sometimes see designers as anti-intellectual, which is false as well. Advocate pure theory – long term, few specific goals, (anecdote: “where are you going with this?” “If I knew I wouldn’t take another step in that direction”). Practical projects as clutter – disrupts distance from object. Storytelling – no good explanation of the relationship between games and storytelling. Hasn’t been solved by design. Necessary to have a group that isn’t invested in design, but interested in dialoguing with these groups. 3 main channels of communication: pure theorists and designer. Design theorists and working designer. Pure theorists and design theorists. Request to all bloggers that all blogged comments be attributed to “the other Aarseth.”


2 Responses to DIGRA – Bridging Theory and Design

  1. andrew stern says:

    thanks for these Jason – I linked to them in the comments of my DiGRA post at GTxA.

    Too bad we didn’t meet at DiGRA, or if we did and I forgot, I apologize in advance 🙂

  2. Jason says:

    I think we missed each other Andrew – the curse of a busy schedule and concurrent sessions. Next time perhaps!

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