Real Games

From Playful Thinking

Real Games

What's Legitimate and What's Not in Contemporary Videogames

By Mia Consalvo and Christopher A. Paul

How we talk about games as real or not-real, and how that shapes what games are made and who is invited to play them.





How we talk about games as real or not-real, and how that shapes what games are made and who is invited to play them.

In videogame criticism, the worst insult might be “That's not a real game!” For example, “That's not a real game, it's on Facebook!” and “That's not a real game, it's a walking simulator!” But how do people judge what is a real game and what is not—what features establish a game's gameness? In this engaging book, Mia Consalvo and Christopher Paul examine the debates about the realness or not-realness of videogames and find that these discussions shape what games get made and who is invited to play them.

Consalvo and Paul look at three main areas often viewed as determining a game's legitimacy: the game's pedigree (its developer), the content of the game itself, and the game's payment structure. They find, among other things, that even developers with a track record are viewed with suspicion if their games are on suspect platforms. They investigate game elements that are potentially troublesome for a game's gameness, including genres, visual aesthetics, platform, and perceived difficulty. And they explore payment models, particularly free-to-play—held by some to be a marker of illegitimacy. Finally, they examine the debate around such so-called walking simulators as Dear Esther and Gone Home. And finally, they consider what purpose is served by labeling certain games “real."


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262042604 224 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 9 b&w photos


  • “What makes a game a game? Real Games is a terrific dive into this question—a question that remains intellectually complex and, for plenty of gamers, deeply fraught. If you've ever argued about it yourself, read this book.”

    Clive Thompson

    Wired magazine columnist; author of Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

  • “In Real Games, Consalvo and Paul redirect us from the question of 'what is a game?' to the much more politically important question of 'how have games been defined and by whom?' By looking at games that have consistently been deemed as lesser-than or ignored by the game industry, player communities, and scholars, they highlight the normative values behind every claim that something 'isn't a real game.'”

    Adrienne Shaw

    Associate Professor in the Department of Media Studies and Production at Temple University; author of Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture

  • Real Games is, without question, the jolt that game studies needs to get over the hang-ups and biases deeply ingrained in the field. The story is nuanced and clever, forcing readers to rethink often eschewed categories such as social networking games, mobile games, and walking simulators. The brightly written prose is a pleasure to read and welcome.”

    Shira Chess

    Assistant Professor of Entertainment and Media Studies at the University of Georgia; author of Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity