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Game Studies

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What do we think about when we think about play? A pastime? Games? Childish activities? The opposite of work? Think again: If we are happy and well rested, we may approach even our daily tasks in a playful way, taking the attitude of play without the activity of play. So what, then, is play? In Play Matters, Miguel Sicart argues that to play is to be in the world; playing is a form of understanding what surrounds us and a way of engaging with others. Play goes beyond games; it is a mode of being human.

All games express and embody human values, providing a compelling arena in which we play out beliefs and ideas. “Big ideas” such as justice, equity, honesty, and cooperation—as well as other kinds of ideas, including violence, exploitation, and greed—may emerge in games whether designers intend them or not. In this book, Mary Flanagan and Helen Nissenbaum present Values at Play, a theoretical and practical framework for identifying socially recognized moral and political values in digital games.

An Evidence-Based Approach

Many strong claims are made for the educational value of computer games, but there is a need for systematic examination of the research evidence that might support such claims. This book fills that need by providing, a comprehensive and up-to-date investigation of what research shows about learning with computer games.

Design and Analysis

In the twenty-first-century digital world, virtual goods are sold for real money. Digital game players happily pay for avatars, power-ups, and other game items. But behind every virtual sale, there is a virtual economy, simple or complex. In this book, Vili Lehdonvirta and Edward Castronova introduce the basic concepts of economics into the game developer’s and game designer’s toolkits. Lehdonvirta and Castronova explain how the fundamentals of economics—markets, institutions, and money—can be used to create or analyze economies based on artificially scarce virtual goods.

Playing with Technoculture

The avant-garde challenges or leads culture; it opens up or redefines art forms and our perception of the way the world works. In this book, Brian Schrank describes the ways that the avant-garde emerges through videogames. Just as impressionism or cubism created alternative ways of making and viewing paintings, Schrank argues, avant-garde videogames create alternate ways of making and playing games. A mainstream game channels players into a tightly closed circuit of play; an avant-garde game opens up that circuit, revealing (and reveling in) its own nature as a game.

In this book, Astrid Ensslin examines literary videogames—hybrid digital artifacts that have elements of both games and literature, combining the ludic and the literary. These works can be considered verbal art in the broadest sense (in that language plays a significant part in their aesthetic appeal); they draw on game mechanics; and they are digital-born, dependent on a digital medium (unlike, for example, conventional books read on e-readers).

How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics

Anyone who has ever been to a public hearing or community meeting would agree that participatory democracy can be boring. Hours of repetitive presentations, alternatingly alarmist or complacent, for or against, accompanied by constant heckling, often with no clear outcome or decision. Is this the best democracy can offer? In Making Democracy Fun, Josh Lerner offers a novel solution for the sad state of our deliberative democracy: the power of good game design.

Music in video games is often a sophisticated, complex composition that serves to engage the player, set the pace of play, and aid interactivity. Composers of video game music must master an array of specialized skills not taught in the conservatory, including the creation of linear loops, music chunks for horizontal resequencing, and compositional fragments for use within a generative framework.

A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife

We purchase video games to play them, not to save them. What happens to video games when they are out of date, broken, nonfunctional, or obsolete? Should a game be considered an “ex-game” if it exists only as emulation, as an artifact in museum displays, in an archival box, or at the bottom of a landfill? In Game After, Raiford Guins focuses on video games not as hermetically sealed within time capsules of the past but on their material remains: how and where video games persist in the present.

Computer games usually take one of two approaches to presenting game information to players. A game might offer information naturalistically, as part of the game’s imaginary universe; or it might augment the world of the game with overlays, symbols, and menus. In this book, Kristine Jørgensen investigates both kinds of gameworld interfaces. She shows that although the naturalistic approach may appear more integral to the imaginary world of the game, both the invisible and visible interfaces effectively present information that players need in order to interact with the game and its rules.

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