Critical Play: Radical Game Design (MIT Press)

Critical Play: Radical Game Design (MIT Press)

Mary Flanagan

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0262518651

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

For many players, games are entertainment, diversion, relaxation, fantasy. But what if certain games were something more than this, providing not only outlets for entertainment but a means for creative expression, instruments for conceptual thinking, or tools for social change? In Critical Play, artist and game designer Mary Flanagan examines alternative games -- games that challenge the accepted norms embedded within the gaming industry -- and argues that games designed by artists and activists are reshaping everyday game culture.

Flanagan provides a lively historical context for critical play through twentieth-century art movements, connecting subversive game design to subversive art: her examples of "playing house" include Dadaist puppet shows and The Sims. She looks at artists' alternative computer-based games and explores games for change, considering the way activist concerns -- including worldwide poverty and AIDS -- can be incorporated into game design.

Arguing that this kind of conscious practice -- which now constitutes the avant-garde of the computer game medium -- can inspire new working methods for designers, Flanagan offers a model for designing that will encourage the subversion of popular gaming tropes through new styles of game making, and proposes a theory of alternate game design that focuses on the reworking of contemporary popular game practices.



















In these configurations, van Hoogstraten plays a guessing game with viewers to tease out questions concerning domestic norms and their rituals. In another, even more striking series, van Hoogstraten went so far as to make paintings into viewing-boxes. These were called “peepshow boxes” by fans and collectors,7 building on the work of Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446) and Carel Fabritius (1622–1654) and their experiments with perspective. Van Hoogstraten’s examples are desktop-sized wooden

games were most interesting in those projects operating outside the software, board-game, or theme park industries—not only among those who are independent game developers but also those who thought of making play scenarios or games within the context of being artists. Art has long been intertwined with politics; the twentieth century has witnessed provocative materials produced during the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Constructivist political design used in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the

officer Frances Glessner Lee is one of many examples of adults engaged with doll culture. As a doll maker, Glessner Lee produced ghoulish scenes, called the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. These toys were used as models to train police officers in forensics and crime scene investigation. Giving each diorama an unsettling name like “Burned Cabin” or “Dark Bathroom,” Glessner Lee created custom clothing, crime weapons, and gore, and was assisted by a professional carpenter who followed the

are games like The Sims pleasurable? Is it satisfying to complete tasks that maintain the status quo, or pleasurable to control characters and their environments, both playing within and pushing against the game’s rules? Rarely if ever do players feel disempowered in domestic game scenarios, and this is essential to the wide appeal of these games. The player desires growth and achievement, but these accomplishments are secondary to pleasure derived from the assertion of the familiar. The fun of a

championing the performative potential of everyday objects, foods, and organic products as Cage championed the operations of nature, “making my responsibility that of asking questions instead of making choices,”87 Knowles said. She would frequently set up a table or situation in which to share food, a celebration on the pleasure of the mundane. In her Events by Alison Knowles (1962–1964), the following events were devised: Proposition Make a salad. 1962 Giveaway Construction Find something you

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