Legitimacy of Game Studies

If really learning something means internalizing it (deeply encoding data to make it knowledge, e.g.), then it’s important to see if what I read in seemingly desperate contexts can be applied to where I believe myself to be headed.

So, in that vein:

How can the rehabilitation of play as a serious philosophical and cultural concept be applied to user experience design?

– Gaming elements in traditional UIs (with kudos to The Vanguard Group) are actually being talked about…and implemented

People ask me, when I tell them I’m taking a class in ‘Serious Video Games’, how such a class can exist. “Serious games?” They repeat incredulously. And I was never able to quite rebut in a way that satisfied either them or myself, until reading Huizinga. Now, I can posit to them the notion that games bear just the sort of phenomenological weight that Huizinga describes.

Game Studies, as a field, emerged right around 2000 (perhaps even as early as 1997 with the book Cybertext). At that point, those on the vanguard were tasked with looking back to see who had discussed their interests before. They needed to legitimize themselves as a discipline. Gaming needed valence–otherwise, it would be thought of as “mere” or “merely a waste of time.”

Game and play are not synonymous terms. Play is a concept, an irrational activity, something that we do not need to do to survive (biologically speaking); you can play without form, without a goal.

Games, on the other hand, are highly rational, rule-driven. So too, is/are culture(s) and, then, civilization(s), where there are rules and systems that are collectively shared and understood.

The first computer game was tic-tac-toe. It was implemented in the late 1940s on a one-of-a-kind computer as a way of ’selling’ the power of the new machine, which was dubbed an “Electronic Brain.” The rationale was, if the machine could game (given what we said about games above), its status was elevated to that of being capable of a sort of legitimate ‘thought.’


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