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MiT / Games and Play

Benjamin J Robertson, Architecture and Control: “Natural” Constraints on Cultural Production in the Networked Society — Not sure what this has to do with Games and Play, but the basic idea appears to be a modification of Lessig’s “Code is Law”: natural law as constraining materialist (or in Lessig’s case, code) law.


Dan Roy, Constructing Identities of Mastery in Games: Games emphasize mastery — better than other media: help us see and overcome challenges.

What motivates mastery?
1. Personal relevancy: choice, engagement
2. Personal visibility: measurable
3. Social relevance: mastery obvious to group
4. Social visibility: opportunities for group to see individual mastery

MMORPGs as an example: “Leveling up” as a proxy measure of increased mastery. However, it’s only a measure of time, not mastery — thesis argues that there should be such a measure.

cf. Natural Born Cyborgs about the nature of self. (postmodern “soft” self)

Going to different selves to feel differently, e.g. adopt a self to feel masterful. [Is this why games are addictive?]. cf. Castronova’s concept of migration: “People will go where things are best for them.” Except that migration implies a one-way move. Today, a flexibility to move back and forth that’s less possible in the real.

What a great presentation: Dan was clear, used personal anecdotes/illustration, had a point to make. Dan’s also got a great blog.


McKenzie Wark, Gamer Theory (or “G4M3R 7H30RY”)

Existing studies seem focused on formalism, “ludology,” how do we secure this study?

Wark is interested in a critical theory:

1. World seems increasingly an unfair game. Whereas single-player games have a level playing field, “quasi-Utopian.” Rather than less, it’s in fact the world in a more perfect form — can hold this world to account for what it does not deliver.

2. Games as objects, not just a reiteration of cinema. Chose arbitrary games based on ability to see theory, including a “boring game.”

3. SimEarth: What is not quantifiable. What is cannot be modeled. What will be excluded?

4. SimEarth: It is a game you cannot win — the best you can do is get humans to blast off. It’s the “limit case” of the digital: a remainder that will come back to haunt us.



Gamer vs. Hacker: Work is now play, play is now work (you gotta be creative!). Contrast WoW — you pay to labor.

Presumptive irrelevance of race (de-racinated spaces): Dan purposefully side-stepped this issue in the thesis. Game spaces allow taking on a different race + potentially experience that… though then the assumptions break down about race? Ed. Arcade’s game “labyrinth” avoiding race, or even style (e.g. inserting “cool kids”). McEnzie: studying relationship among races, not just 1-to-1 mapping onto human races.

If games are Utopian, can they give us leverage?

[Look up recent paper of leadership] Ben Stokes: Can you get ‘certification’ of WoW guild master to real-life leadership. Dan: Rehearsal for real-world job market. Ben: Can we help these players translate these skills into jobs? Dan: Maybe a future of a unified identity that can from world to world, WoW to Facebook to blog…

A game designers’ perspective: imperative to make things “fun” — McEnzie: “fun” not thinkable (cf. Raph Koster) but rather opposite of boredom. Boredom is a constant referral to a self that cannot act. Fun is by definition something you think about as you’re doing it.

OK now we’ve wandered into philosophy of fun… and now we’re in game… and now fun… ok that’s a lot of theory that’s just blown by.

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  1. Eric Martindale | June 1, 2007 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Interesting points, especially on how in many games one pays to labor. What is the mentality behind this? I think some of the things I’ve discovered while running a roleplaying portal have helped me discover that it’s not about the fun – or rather, the fun isn’t based on the sole aspect of doing something that we may directly enjoy, but instead from the process of getting to that point. It is an addiction to process, not to the result.

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  1. Semioclast » Blog Archive » MiT5 | April 30, 2007 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    […] The session I was on was entitled Games and Play. I know very little little about game theory generally or the current state of video game research. My abstract does not mention games or really anything that, to my mind, could be construed as being about games. It does mention McKenzie Wark, however, and perhaps that’s why they put me on this panel. However, as was to be expected, everyone there wanted to either talk to Wark or ask questions of a more sociological bent (still about games, however) to the other speaker, Dan Roy, who talked about Identity and Cross-Platform Gaming. Now, I don’t fault anyone for wanting to have a conversation about gaming when they came to a panel about gaming. But I still bothers me that I was asked one pity question and ultimately wound up talking to absolutely no one about my paper/subject area when the whole conference, it seems to me, was entirely built around things I think about all of the time (although I expect that’s hardly unique to me–the part about the thinking, not about the not talking). What my presence on the panel led to, no doubt, is confusion, as evidenced by this blog post, who states, of my paper, “Not sure what this has to do with Games and Play”. Nothing, and I can’t fault anyone for not being interested in my paper, because, for the most part, I am generally not invested in games. […]