The Lost Levels

of New Games Journalism


In reality, this mode of criticism brings us closer to, not further from, the majority of people who play games. Thinking through sensations of motion, for instance, helps to explain popular experiences with mechanics like quick-time events, exposing both their promise and their failings. When you are sensitive to the way a game literally feels, you can understand why some quick time events feel rewarding—they adeptly simulate a physical sensation—and why some don’t, like mere button-mashing that bears no resemblance to the action taken by the avatar on screen. Continue Reading

Useful, Joyful, Willful

Thinking About Types of Play

Essay - UsefulJoyfulWillful

In this paper I outline three perspectives that emphasize different characters of play: useful; joyful; and willful play. I further argue that designing for willfulness (e.g. rule-bending) will allow players to become game-changers rather than being played.

Generally speaking, computer games have created new arenas for play in several senses. Massive multiplayer online games have spurred, amongst other things, particular forms of social interaction and behavior; mobile and casual gaming has generated new breeds of gamers; the fundamentally code-based underpinnings of computer games make hacks and modifications possible; and grand ambitions of gamification, supported by digitization, even aims to turn ‘anything and everything’ into a race for points and badges. Instead of clearly situating itself within one particular practice, this paper will take an overarching perspective on play. It will go on to propose three perspectives that, in the light of processes such as the increasing specialization, quantification and rationalization of play(Pargman & Svensson), emphasize different characters of play. Continue Reading

Voluntary Constraints

How Players Can Impose an Ethical Critique

Commentary - Voluntary Constraints

Developers and publishers may seek to define what constitutes gaming capital through engagement with the player community, but it is the players that typically have the final word on what gaming capital is and how best to accrue it. As such, the production of more paratexts through player-authored walkthroughs, popular YouTube channels or mod communities has a sympathetic relationship with the exchange of gaming capital. Consalvo concludes the book by re-articulating the shaky definition of “cheating” in games and how that relates to “cheating” outside of games, where players that would never cheat outside of digital worlds think nothing of tapping out IDDQD for god mode in Doom. She uses this fracture to suggest that “we need a better understanding of how ethics might be expressed in gameplay situations, and how we can study the ethical frameworks that games offer to players.” (187). I’d like to extend some of Consalvo’s work on paratexts and gaming capital into the realm of voluntary or non-coded constraints that players impose upon themselves. Continue Reading