More Than Affordances

Limitations and the Systems They Create: A Review of Ian Bogost's Play Anything

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Throughout my time in Grad School, I have been intensely curious about the word play and increasingly disenchanted by the idea of game studies. If play and culture are inexorably intertwined then it seems to me that studying games does little, whereas studying play in things that are not games can give unique insight into culture itself. However, in order to really get at this concept one would have to embrace the work of Johan Huizinga in a way that is often overlooked, discarded, avoided, or reduced to absurdity – the magic circle. When I found out that Ian Bogost was writing a book specifically about this concept of play, I was excited to see what he had to say on the subject. To that end, Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, & The Secret of Games may be one of the important books on the study of play I have found. Unfortunately, the book will most likely remain largely ignored because it is nearly impossible to pin down what the book exactly is. Continue Reading

Sonic Meditation

How sound design in Inside creates a mindful experience

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When I was younger, and I found myself feeling dizzy from too many thoughts swirling in my head, I’d sit on the stairs of our house and listen to the outside world bounce off the curved walls of our foyer – birds chirping, cars driving by, the stiff bones of our house settling – until inevitably, the noise fell to silence. I’d be sitting there alone again, until I’d hear something else and focus solely on that sound. It became a ritual. Continue Reading

Play the Game, Know the Game, Shape the Game

Football Manager and Football

Tactics menu in Football Manager

Football Manager (FM) is a videogame belonging to the sports management genre. When games media talks about football videogames, they more often than not mention FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) and FM alongside one another (De la Porte, 2014; Wilson, 2015). They are–after all–the best sellers in their category, and at first sight, they seem to have much in common. Yet, although FIFA and PES are both sports video games and are actually competitors, they are confused or lumped together with FM, a game that not only belongs to another genre, but also to another culture. Continue Reading

Mobile Games, SimCity BuildIt, and Neoliberalism

A screenshot of a city in SimCity BuildIt

EA Mobile’s SimCity BuildIt, released for iOS and Android in 2014, is the newest entry in the historic SimCity franchise. With forty million players worldwide, SimCity BuildIt is also the most played SimCity game ever released (Lazarides, 2015). Its expansive international community seems, at first, to procedurally deliver on the promises of free market globalization, achieving an equitable marketplace in which anyone, anywhere can participate. While playing SimCity BuildIt, I have traded goods with players who speak Arabic, French, Japanese, and Russian (though we have never exchanged a word). Continue Reading

Designer Lenses

A Review of Jennifer deWinter’s Shigeru Miyamoto

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“Beware of Heroes.”

Frank Herbert offers these words as an overarching thesis for his novel Dune, which chronicles the exploits of Paul Atreides as he rises, unwittingly, to his destiny as an intergalactic messiah, fuelled by prophecies of genocide he can foresee, but can no longer forestall. Continue Reading

Self-organisation in Video Games:

Political Message v Political Possibilities

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In the above comment on hackaday.com, commenter “matt” is referring to [Masterjun]’s (going by “true” on this message thread) hack, Total Control. In it, the games Pong and Snake were recreated within Super Mario World (1990), using what appeared to be random controller commands. In fact, they were frame-specific inputs exploiting various bugs to alter the source code on an original SNES running an unaltered game cartridge, all done live at the Awesome Games Done Quick 2013 event. Taking into account the very limited resources available, [Masterjun]’s effort in highlighting the flexibility of this medium is remarkable; simply by manipulating known input glitches, [Masterjun] changed the game as we know it. Continue Reading

The Game Jam

Creativity and Community

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Game jams are not without controversy. Ostensibly a community-based event that fosters enthusiasm and creativity, game jams do not always reflect these ideals in practice. As the lead organizer of two game jams in Waterloo, Ontario, I’ve had the opportunity to develop a perspective on what this event is—and no, it doesn’t live up to its hype, but jamming is not a terrible idea. The enthusiasm, creativity, and community promised by game jams are important and needed in a performance-obsessed society, and although game jams do not always deliver on these ideals in practice, they have the potential to do so. Continue Reading