Tuesday, 6 March 2007


Atkins, B. (2003). The Aesthetics of Iteration: The Plurality of Spectacle in Narrative Video Games. Retrieved on 2nd March 2007 from the World Wide Web: http://uk.geocities.com/barry.atkins3@btopenworld.com/diagra.htm

Cohen, S. (1980). Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers, 2nd edn., Oxford: Martin Robinson.
Poole, S. (2000). Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution, New York: Arcade.

Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. (2004).The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology, Cambridge: MIT Press

Saunders, W. (2000). Family Resemblances: The Life of Games. Retrieved on 2nd February 2007 from the World Wide Web: http://www.gamepuzzles.com/tlog/tlog12.htm

Wittgenstein, L. (1968). Philosophical Investigations, 3rd edn., Oxford: Blackwell


Games are like no other form of media as they have many distinct aspects that make them pleasurable. One of these distinct aspects is iteration. Iteration is much like repetition but with a difference. When playing a game we get pleasure through iteration as we repeat but with difference and it is our choice as to whether we repeat or not. Atkins (2003) states that if we ever began to repeat without difference then we would be in danger of tedium. After playing the game Simpsons Hit and Run for a period of several weeks I have found that I have become stuck on a particular mission as the game has become too tedious I have stopped playing. I have tried to complete this particular mission for several weeks however the play has moved from iterative to repetitive as I always know what is going to happen and after trying everything possible to complete it I know I just cannot. According to Atkins (2003) iterative play is pleasurable as there is a possibility that you may win this time or you may be able to find a new shortcut. Atkins puts it that there is an opportunity to see and do again differently and this gives pleasure. In Simpsons Hit and Run I have tried every kind of new route and short cut in order to complete the game but always fall short by a matter of seconds outside of the time boundaries of the game. “Enough space for iterative repetition and I will play on” (Atkins 2003). Poole (2000, p.172) looks at the psychological aspects of repetition. If the action is rewarded then it will be repeated, this is why I have been able to get as far I have in the game as when I did win the missions my reward was moving to the next level and I enjoyed this which is why I have tried so hard on the current mission I am stuck on.

Entering the magic circle and adopting a lusary attitude

The inner life of a videogame and how it works is tied up with the inner life of the player (Poole 2000, p.11). Bernard Suits wrote a chapter in Salen and Zimmerman (2004). He describes what is unique about game playing, unifying the elements of game playing into one giving the necessary and sufficient conditions for any activity to be called a game. One of these elements is the lusory attitude (taken from Latin, ludus=game) “the acceptance of constitutive rules just so the activity made possible by such acceptance can occur” (Suits in Salen and Zimmerman 2004, p.190). When we play games we are trying to overcome unnecessary obstacles and we do this voluntarily and the question is why. In real life it would be seen as irrational to go through obstacles in order to achieve goals. It is always thought better to take the easy option however, without the cheats to a game it is impossible to take a short cut. To be successful in the game you must follow its rules no matter how irrational. From personal experience playing the game Tomb Raider III, in order to progress through the game successfully moving from level to level you must prove that you are worthy by being able to kill a certain thing, get to an enemy in a particular way or obtain a certain artefact without being killed. Usually when you do this you will be rewarded by progressing to the next world or obtaining another health pack, etc. But why go through all this when there is an even easier way. Being able to obtain cheats for the game I was able to skip certain missions, open a gate without the key or obtain a health pack without diving deep to get it. However, with other games such as San Andreas I do not know the cheats for this game and so whilst playing I adopt a lusory attitude by following the rules and playing the missions properly in order to earn money and respect. Salen and Zimmerman (2004) also discuss Johan Huizinga’s ideas about the magic circle. According to Huizinga if you trespass against the rules of the game then you are a “spoil-sport”. A person that cheats in a game pretends to play the game but still acknowledges the magic circle which creates a “spatial separation from ordinary life” (Salen and Zimmerman 2004, p.113). The magic circle may be physical e.g. a pitch or tennis court or it may be psychological such as a game of eye spy between friends. When inside of the magic circle there is no concern for what others outside of it are doing. As Salen and Zimmerman (2004) say the formation of social groups is promoted as friends get together to play the game. Sometimes when playing Tomb Raider III my friends and I get together we discuss cheats, what level we have managed to get to and we try and help each other out. Those outside of the magic circle whom may have never played Tomb Raider III do not know what we are talking about as they have never entered into the boundaries of the game.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

GTA - Rhetoric Values

A common feature between most games that I have played such as Sonic, Mortal Kombat and Super Mario is violence, it is sad but the most popular games seem to be the most violent ones. Quite rightly Salen and Zimmerman (2004, p.613) state that “video games allow you to play a sinner as a saint”. These violent games have been the cause for much controversy and what Cohen (1980) calls ‘Moral Panics’ where the media fixates on a group or behaviour which then becomes a menace to society and dangerously deviant.

Rhetoric is behind these moral panics as the mass media hold certain values and beliefs about video games and express them to the public. Those whom do not know much about the games believe what they are told as they know no better. The information is also presented in the media as if solid fact. Salen and Zimmerman (2004, p.302) describes rhetoric as persuasive discourse or an implicit narrative that “persuades others of the veracity and worthwhileness of their beliefs”. Rhetoric is not just expressed through writing it may also be verbal or visual. Each video game expresses its rhetoric through visuals and instructions in the game. GTA or Grand Theft Auto is a very well known violent, ‘gangster’, morally incorrect game. Personally I am a big fan of the game GTA: San Andreas. As a player you become Carl Johnson whom has just been released from prison and whose mother has been murdered, you are encouraged to fight, steal cars, kill cops, use guns, gamble and kill anybody who gets in your way in order to gain respect and earn money. Obviously I know that the world outside would not except these behaviours but as long as I am in the world of GTA it is ok to behave like this and this is the message they send out. Salen and Zimmerman (2004, p.483) quite rightly point out that to be successful in games like this then you must follow their rules and beliefs whether or not you agree with what is being done you must do it to complete the game “they accept rules so that they can play a game, and they accept these rules so that they can play this game” (Salen and Zimmerman 2004, p.181). There is a suggestion that the world of GTA is much better than the real world as you can do what you want to get what you want. When watching the opening credits of Street Fighter the words “Show No Mercy” flash up on the screen, this rhetoric is much like GTA, also expressing the belief that you have the power to do what you want and not feel sorry for anybody that gets in your way.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

How do you define 'game'?

How do you define ‘game’? Ludwig Wittgenstein tries to answer this in his book of Philosophical Investigations. Salen and Zimmerman (2004) discuss the fact that Wittgenstein uses games to show that it is impossible to give a definite and clear cut definition of any real – world phenomenon. Wittgenstein asks that we “don’t think, but look”, he discusses the fact that if you look between games there is nothing common but there are similarities and relationships much like the similarities between those in a family “much that is common is retained, but much is lost” (Wittgenstein 1968, p.31). In a family there are similarities such as hair and eye colour, facial features and build. Wittgenstein says that these similarities overlap and criss-cross all over the place between all sorts of game whether played digitally online, outside (Olympics), card games, board games, etc. The word game is unregulated as it has no boundaries which is probably why games are such fun and entertaining (or most of them anyway!) as anything can become a game.

What Wittgenstein is saying has much truth behind it. When trying to define the concept of ‘game’ myself I tried to look at all the similarities between them and the usual concepts such as competitive, entertaining, there’s always a winner and a loser, there’s always an aim, they’re challenging, etc. However, after playing Samorost 2 a game where the aim is to solve puzzles and rescue your dog and Fishy a game where the aim is to eat fishes smaller than you and avoid the ones that are bigger than you online I found that it is very true that some characteristics stick with both games and others drop. Samorost 2 is a puzzle game it is entertaining, challenging and there is an aim to it. However, in comparison to other games such as Fishy the entertainment and addictive value is not as high as Samorost 2. Although what the relationship between both games is, is that neither have a winner or loser, both games have an aim/goal and both are interactive. Saunders (2000) describes these sought of games as hybrids as they could be described as both games and puzzles although, one may feel more like one thing than another. Saunders states that the hybrids help to signify what characteristics belong together within games.