Gordon Calleja

Gordon Calleja is Associate Professor of Game Studies at the University of Malta's Institute of Digital Games, which he founded in 2012, and the author of In-Game: From Immersion to Incorporation (MIT Press). A game designer at Mighty Boards, a board game design studio, he has designed and published Will Love Tear Us Apart?, a videogame adaptation of the Joy Division song, and several board games, including Posthuman Saga and Excavation Earth.

  • Unboxed

    Board Game Experience and Design

    Gordon Calleja

    An in-depth exploration of the experience of playing board games and how game designers shape that experience.

    In Unboxed, Gordon Calleja explores the experience of playing board games and how game designers shape that experience. Calleja examines key aspects of board game experience—the nature of play, attention, rules, sociality, imagination, narrative, materiality, and immersion—to offer a theory of board game experience and a model for understanding game involvement that is relevant to the analysis, criticism, and design of board games. Drawing on interviews with thirty-two leading board game designers and critics, Calleja—himself a board game designer—provides the set of conceptual tools that board game design has thus far lacked.

    After considering different conceptions of play, Calleja discusses the nature and role of attention and goes on to outline the key forms of involvement that make up the board game playing experience. In subsequent chapters, Calleja explores each of these forms of involvement, considering both the experience itself and the design considerations that bring it into being. Calleja brings this analysis together in a chapter that maps how these forms of involvement come together in the moment of gameplay, and how their combination shapes the flow of player affect. By tracing the processes by which players experience these moments of rule-mediated, imagination-fueled sociality, Calleja helps us understand the richness of the gameplay experience packed into the humble board game box.

    • Paperback $30.00
  • In-Game

    In-Game

    From Immersion to Incorporation

    Gordon Calleja

    An investigation of what makes digital games engaging to players and a reexamination of the concept of immersion.

    Digital games offer a vast range of engaging experiences, from the serene exploration of beautifully rendered landscapes to the deeply cognitive challenges presented by strategic simulations to the adrenaline rush of competitive team-based shoot-outs. Digital games enable experiences that are considerably different from a reader's engagement with literature or a moviegoer's experience of a movie. In In-Game, Gordon Calleja examines what exactly it is that makes digital games so uniquely involving and offers a new, more precise, and game-specific formulation of this involvement. One of the most commonly yet vaguely deployed concepts in the industry and academia alike is immersion—a player's sensation of inhabiting the space represented onscreen. Overuse of this term has diminished its analytical value and confused its meaning, both in analysis and design. Rather than conceiving of immersion as a single experience, Calleja views it as blending different experiential phenomena afforded by involving gameplay. He proposes a framework (based on qualitative research) to describe these phenomena: the player involvement model. This model encompasses two constituent temporal phases—the macro, representing offline involvement, and the micro, representing moment-to-moment involvement during gameplay—as well as six dimensions of player involvement: kinesthetic, spatial, shared, narrative, affective, and ludic. The intensified and internalized experiential blend can culminate in incorporation—a concept that Calleja proposes as an alternative to the problematic immersion. Incorporation, he argues, is a more accurate metaphor, providing a robust foundation for future research and design.

    • Hardcover $35.00