In the 1987 Nintendo Entertainment System videogame Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, a character famously declared: I AM ERROR. Puzzled players assumed that this cryptic mesage was a programming flaw, but it was actually a clumsy Japanese-English translation of “My Name is Error,” a benign programmer’s joke.
The impulse toward play is very ancient, not only pre-cultural but pre-human; zoologists have identified play behaviors in turtles and in chimpanzees. Games have existed since antiquity; 5,000-year-old board games have been recovered from Egyptian tombs. And yet we still lack a critical language for thinking about play. Game designers are better at answering small questions (“Why is this battle boring?”) than big ones (“What does this game mean?”).
Games and art have intersected at least since the early twentieth century, as can be seen in the Surrealists’ use of Exquisite Corpse and other games, Duchamp’s obsession with Chess, and Fluxus event scores and boxes—to name just a few examples. Over the past fifteen years, the synthesis of art and games has clouded for both artists and gamemakers. Contemporary art has drawn on the tool set of videogames, but has not considered them a cultural form with its own conceptual, formal, and experiential affordances.
Competitive video and computer game play is nothing new: the documentary King of Kong memorably portrays a Donkey Kong player’s attempts to achieve the all-time highest score; the television show Starcade (1982–1984) featured competitions among arcade game players; and first-person shooter games of the 1990s became multiplayer through network play. A new development in the world of digital gaming, however, is the emergence of professional computer game play, complete with star players, team owners, tournaments, sponsorships, and spectators. In Raising the Stakes, T. L.
In life, uncertainty surrounds us. Things that we thought were good for us turn out to be bad for us (and vice versa); people we thought we knew well behave in mysterious ways; the stock market takes a nosedive. Thanks to an inexplicable optimism, most of the time we are fairly cheerful about it all. But we do devote much effort to managing and ameliorating uncertainty.
What if our whole life were turned into a game? What sounds like the premise of a science fiction novel is today becoming reality as “gamification.” As more and more organizations, practices, products, and services are infused with elements from games and play to make them more engaging, we are witnessing a veritable ludification of culture.
Rank-and-file game developers bring videogames from concept to product, and yet their work is almost invisible, hidden behind the famous names of publishers, executives, or console manufacturers. In this book, Casey O’Donnell examines the creative collaborative practice of typical game developers. His investigation of why game developers work the way they do sheds light on our understanding of work, the organization of work, and the market forces that shape (and are shaped by) media industries.
Gaming the System demonstrates the nature of games as systems, how game designers need to think in terms of complex interactions of game elements and rules, and how to identify systems concepts in the design process. The activities use Gamestar Mechanic, an online game design environment with a systems thinking focus.
Script Changers shows the ways that stories offer a lens for seeing the world as a series of systems. It provides opportunities for students to create interactive and animated stories about creating positive change in their communities. These projects utilize the Scratch visual programming environment.
Soft Circuits introduces students to the world of wearable technology. Using Modkit, an accessible DIY electronics toolkit, students learn to create e-textile cuffs, “electrici-tee” shirts, and solar-powered backpacks. Students also learn the importance of one component to the whole—how, for example, changing the structure of LED connections immediately affects the number of LEDs that light up.