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.


















play can continue to manifest critical thinking. As Marcel Duchamp said in 1946, The great trouble with art in this country [the United States] at present, and apparently in France also, is that there is no spirit of revolt—no new ideas appearing among the younger artists. They are following along the paths beaten out by their predecessors, trying to do better what their predecessors have already done. In art there is no such thing as perfection. And a creative lull occurs always when artists of

Revolution Game (ca. 1850s), is a variation on the well-known Jeu de l’Oie, the French version of Snakes and Ladders. The players move along a path made of squares, and move ahead using a die thrown alternatively by each player (figure 3.13). The first player to reach the end of the path is the winner; on the way, if a player lands on the “jail” square, he or she must wait there until another player is jailed, replacing the player. In Jeu de la Révolution, the end of the path is the National

does not look like any film that had been made before it. The images are all disks of eccentric circles within circles and spiral lines. The words are nothing more than single sentences (in Rrose Sélavy’s manner) printed spirally on disks, winding from outside in. The eye grasps the disks as wholes; their motion induces an optical illusion of three-dimensionality. Some seem to protrude from the flatness of the screen; others look like conical depressions. The viewer’s response to this structure

activity its name is the first sentence ever derived from the game: “Le cadavre—exquis—boira—le vin—nouveau.” This simple language game can either be played by knowing only what the last person in a group work contributed, or by following a language pattern rule (such as adjectivenoun-adverb-verb-adjective-noun). The order must be respected to produce grammatically correct sentences. The exercise, invented through inspiration from an existing parlor game at a gathering at a house shared by a group

used costumes ranging from monsters and vampires to sailors and masked, alien figures to foreground female transgression and desire, for her various selfportraits. These images do not merely present a play-act, however, or “portray” something. “They look back.”36 They have the indexical qualities of a photograph, the connection to the subject through light, the real “writing itself,” and the iconic reference to a problematically gendered body, providing surreal “counter archives” of the female

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