Mia Consalvo

Mia Consalvo is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University in Montreal. She is the author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Video Games and Atari to Zelda: Japan's Videogames in Global Contexts, both published by the MIT Press.

  • Real Games

    Real Games

    What's Legitimate and What's Not in Contemporary Videogames

    Mia Consalvo and Christopher A. Paul

    How we talk about games as real or not-real, and how that shapes what games are made and who is invited to play them.

    In videogame criticism, the worst insult might be “That's not a real game!” For example, “That's not a real game, it's on Facebook!” and “That's not a real game, it's a walking simulator!” But how do people judge what is a real game and what is not—what features establish a game's gameness? In this engaging book, Mia Consalvo and Christopher Paul examine the debates about the realness or not-realness of videogames and find that these discussions shape what games get made and who is invited to play them.

    Consalvo and Paul look at three main areas often viewed as determining a game's legitimacy: the game's pedigree (its developer), the content of the game itself, and the game's payment structure. They find, among other things, that even developers with a track record are viewed with suspicion if their games are on suspect platforms. They investigate game elements that are potentially troublesome for a game's gameness, including genres, visual aesthetics, platform, and perceived difficulty. And they explore payment models, particularly free-to-play—held by some to be a marker of illegitimacy. Finally, they examine the debate around such so-called walking simulators as Dear Esther and Gone Home. And finally, they consider what purpose is served by labeling certain games “real."

    • Hardcover $30.00 £25.00
  • Atari to Zelda

    Atari to Zelda

    Japan's Videogames in Global Contexts

    Mia Consalvo

    The cross-cultural interactions of Japanese videogames and the West, from DIY localization by fans to corporate strategies of “Japaneseness.”

    In the early days of arcades and Nintendo, many players didn't recognize Japanese games as coming from Japan; they were simply new and interesting games to play. But since then, fans, media, and the games industry have thought further about the “Japaneseness” of particular games. Game developers try to decide whether a game's Japaneseness is a selling point or stumbling block; critics try to determine what elements in a game express its Japaneseness—cultural motifs or technical markers. Games were “localized,” subjected to sociocultural and technical tinkering. In this book, Mia Consalvo looks at what happens when Japanese games travel outside Japan, and how they are played, thought about, and transformed by individuals, companies, and groups in the West.

    Consalvo begins with players, first exploring North American players' interest in Japanese games (and Japanese culture in general) and then investigating players' DIY localization of games, in the form of ROM hacking and fan translating. She analyzes several Japanese games released in North America and looks in detail at the Japanese game company Square Enix. She examines indie and corporate localization work, and the rise of the professional culture broker. Finally, she compares different approaches to Japaneseness in games sold in the West and considers how Japanese games have influenced Western games developers. Her account reveals surprising cross-cultural interactions between Japanese games and Western game developers and players, between Japaneseness and the market.

    • Hardcover $35.00 £28.00
  • Cheating

    Cheating

    Gaining Advantage in Videogames

    Mia Consalvo

    A cultural history of digital gameplay that investigates a wide range of player behavior, including cheating, and its relationship to the game industry.

    The widely varying experiences of players of digital games challenge the notions that there is only one correct way to play a game. Some players routinely use cheat codes, consult strategy guides, or buy and sell in-game accounts, while others consider any or all of these practices off limits. Meanwhile, the game industry works to constrain certain readings or activities and promote certain ways of playing. In Cheating, Mia Consalvo investigates how players choose to play games, and what happens when they can't always play the way they'd like. She explores a broad range of player behavior, including cheating (alone and in groups), examines the varying ways that players and industry define cheating, describes how the game industry itself has helped systematize cheating, and studies online cheating in context in an online ethnography of Final Fantasy XI. She develops the concept of "gaming capital" as a key way to understand individuals' interaction with games, information about games, the game industry, and other players.

    Consalvo provides a cultural history of cheating in videogames, looking at how the packaging and selling of such cheat-enablers as cheat books, GameSharks, and mod chips created a cheat industry. She investigates how players themselves define cheating and how their playing choices can be understood, with particular attention to online cheating. Finally, she examines the growth of the peripheral game industries that produce information about games rather than actual games. Digital games are spaces for play and experimentation; the way we use and think about digital games, Consalvo argues, is crucially important and reflects ethical choices in gameplay and elsewhere.

    • Hardcover $38.00 £32.00
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00

Contributor

  • Achievement Relocked

    Achievement Relocked

    Loss Aversion and Game Design

    Geoffrey Engelstein

    How game designers can use the psychological phenomenon of loss aversion to shape player experience.

    Getting something makes you feel good, and losing something makes you feel bad. But losing something makes you feel worse than getting the same thing makes you feel good. So finding $10 is a thrill; losing $10 is a tragedy. On an “intensity of feeling” scale, loss is more intense than gain. This is the core psychological concept of loss aversion, and in this book game creator Geoffrey Engelstein explains, with examples from both tabletop and video games, how it can be a tool in game design. Loss aversion is a profound aspect of human psychology, and directly relevant to game design; it is a tool the game designer can use to elicit particular emotions in players. Engelstein connects the psychology of loss aversion to a range of phenomena related to games, exploring, for example, the endowment effect—why, when an object is ours, it gains value over an equivalent object that is not ours—as seen in the Weighted Companion Cube in the game Portal; the framing of gains and losses to manipulate player emotions; Deal or No Deal's use of the utility theory; and regret and competence as motivations, seen in the context of legacy games. Finally, Engelstein examines the approach to Loss Aversion in three games by Uwe Rosenberg, charting the designer's increasing mastery.

    • Hardcover $30.00 £25.00
  • Fun, Taste, & Games

    Fun, Taste, & Games

    An Aesthetics of the Idle, Unproductive, and Otherwise Playful

    John Sharp and David Thomas

    Reclaiming fun as a meaningful concept for understanding games and play.

    “Fun” is somewhat ambiguous. If something is fun, is it pleasant? Entertaining? Silly? A way to trick students into learning? Fun also has baggage—it seems inconsequential, embarrassing, child's play. In Fun, Taste, & Games, John Sharp and David Thomas reclaim fun as a productive and meaningful tool for understanding and appreciating play and games. They position fun at the heart of the aesthetics of games. As beauty was to art, they argue, fun is to play and games—the aesthetic goal that we measure our experiences and interpretations against.

    Sharp and Thomas use this fun-centered aesthetic framework to explore a range of games and game issues—from workplace bingo to Meow Wolf, from basketball to Myst, from the consumer marketplace to Marcel Duchamp. They begin by outlining three elements for understanding the drive, creation, and experience of fun: set-outsideness, ludic forms, and ambiguity. Moving from theory to practice and back again, they explore the complicated relationships among the titular fun, taste, and games. They consider, among other things, the dismissal of fun by game journalists and designers; the seminal but underinfluential game Myst, and how tastes change over time; the shattering of the gamer community in Gamergate; and an aesthetics of play that goes beyond games.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £22.50
  • Transgression in Games and Play

    Transgression in Games and Play

    Kristine Jørgensen and Faltin Karlsen

    Contributors from a range of disciplines explore boundary-crossing in videogames, examining both transgressive game content and transgressive player actions.

    Video gameplay can include transgressive play practices in which players act in ways meant to annoy, punish, or harass other players. Videogames themselves can include transgressive or upsetting content, including excessive violence. Such boundary-crossing in videogames belies the general idea that play and games are fun and non-serious, with little consequence outside the world of the game. In this book, contributors from a range of disciplines explore transgression in video games, examining both game content and player actions. The contributors consider the concept of transgression in games and play, drawing on discourses in sociology, philosophy, media studies, and game studies; offer case studies of transgressive play, considering, among other things, how gameplay practices can be at once playful and violations of social etiquette; investigate players' emotional responses to game content and play practices; examine the aesthetics of transgression, focusing on the ways that game design can be used for transgressive purposes; and discuss transgressive gameplay in a societal context. By emphasizing actual player experience, the book offers a contextual understanding of content and practices usually framed as simply problematic.

    Contributors Fraser Allison, Kristian A. Bjørkelo, Kelly Boudreau, Marcus Carter, Mia Consalvo, Rhys Jones, Kristine Jørgensen, Faltin Karlsen, Tomasz Z. Majkowski, Alan Meades, Torill Elvira Mortensen, Víctor Navarro-Remesal, Holger Pötzsch, John R. Sageng, Tanja Sihvonen, Jaakko Stenros, Ragnhild Tronstad, Hanna Wirman

    • Hardcover $40.00 £32.00
  • Playing Smart

    Playing Smart

    On Games, Intelligence, and Artificial Intelligence

    Julian Togelius

    A new vision of the future of games and game design, enabled by AI.

    Can games measure intelligence? How will artificial intelligence inform games of the future? In Playing Smart, Julian Togelius explores the connections between games and intelligence to offer a new vision of future games and game design. Video games already depend on AI. We use games to test AI algorithms, challenge our thinking, and better understand both natural and artificial intelligence. In the future, Togelius argues, game designers will be able to create smarter games that make us smarter in turn, applying advanced AI to help design games. In this book, he tells us how.

    Games are the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence. In 1948, Alan Turing, one of the founding fathers of computer science and artificial intelligence, handwrote a program for chess. Today we have IBM's Deep Blue and DeepMind's AlphaGo, and huge efforts go into developing AI that can play such arcade games as Pac-Man. Programmers continue to use games to test and develop AI, creating new benchmarks for AI while also challenging human assumptions and cognitive abilities. Game design is at heart a cognitive science, Togelius reminds us—when we play or design a game, we plan, think spatially, make predictions, move, and assess ourselves and our performance. By studying how we play and design games, Togelius writes, we can better understand how humans and machines think. AI can do more for game design than providing a skillful opponent. We can harness it to build game-playing and game-designing AI agents, enabling a new generation of AI-augmented games. With AI, we can explore new frontiers in learning and play.

    • Hardcover $21.95 £17.99
  • How Games Move Us

    How Games Move Us

    Emotion by Design

    Katherine Isbister

    An engaging examination of how video game design can create strong, positive emotional experiences for players, with examples from popular, indie, and art games.

    This is a renaissance moment for video games—in the variety of genres they represent, and the range of emotional territory they cover. But how do games create emotion? In How Games Move Us, Katherine Isbister takes the reader on a timely and novel exploration of the design techniques that evoke strong emotions for players. She counters arguments that games are creating a generation of isolated, emotionally numb, antisocial loners. Games, Isbister shows us, can actually play a powerful role in creating empathy and other strong, positive emotional experiences; they reveal these qualities over time, through the act of playing. She offers a nuanced, systematic examination of exactly how games can influence emotion and social connection, with examples—drawn from popular, indie, and art games—that unpack the gamer's experience.

    Isbister describes choice and flow, two qualities that distinguish games from other media, and explains how game developers build upon these qualities using avatars, non-player characters, and character customization, in both solo and social play. She shows how designers use physical movement to enhance players' emotional experience, and examines long-distance networked play. She illustrates the use of these design methods with examples that range from Sony's Little Big Planet to the much-praised indie game Journey to art games like Brenda Romero's Train.

    Isbister's analysis shows us a new way to think about games, helping us appreciate them as an innovative and powerful medium for doing what film, literature, and other creative media do: helping us to understand ourselves and what it means to be human.

    • Hardcover $24.95 £20.00
    • Paperback $15.95 £12.99
  • Works of Game

    Works of Game

    On the Aesthetics of Games and Art

    John Sharp

    An exploration of the relationship between games and art that examines the ways that both gamemakers and artists create game-based artworks.

    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. For their part, game developers and players focus on the innate properties of games and the experiences they provide, giving little attention to what it means to create and evaluate fine art. In Works of Game, John Sharp bridges this gap, offering a formal aesthetics of games that encompasses the commonalities and the differences between games and art.

    Sharp describes three communities of practice and offers case studies for each. “Game Art,” which includes such artists as Julian Oliver, Cory Arcangel, and JODI (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans) treats videogames as a form of popular culture from which can be borrowed subject matter, tools, and processes. “Artgames,” created by gamemakers including Jason Rohrer, Brenda Romero, and Jonathan Blow, explore territory usually occupied by poetry, painting, literature, or film. Finally, “Artists' Games”—with artists including Blast Theory, Mary Flanagan, and the collaboration of Nathalie Pozzi and Eric Zimmerman—represents a more synthetic conception of games as an artistic medium. The work of these gamemakers, Sharp suggests, shows that it is possible to create game-based artworks that satisfy the aesthetic and critical values of both the contemporary art and game communities.

    • Hardcover $21.95 £17.99
  • Play Matters

    Play Matters

    Miguel Sicart

    Why play is a productive, expressive way of being, a form of understanding, and a fundamental part of our well-being.

    What do we think about when we think about play? A pastime? Games? Childish activities? The opposite of work? Think again: If we are happy and well rested, we may approach even our daily tasks in a playful way, taking the attitude of play without the activity of play. So what, then, is play? In Play Matters, Miguel Sicart argues that to play is to be in the world; playing is a form of understanding what surrounds us and a way of engaging with others. Play goes beyond games; it is a mode of being human.

    We play games, but we also play with toys, on playgrounds, with technologies and design. Sicart proposes a theory of play that doesn't derive from a particular object or activity but is a portable tool for being—not tied to objects but brought by people to the complex interactions that form their daily lives. It is not separated from reality; it is part of it. It is pleasurable, but not necessarily fun. Play can be dangerous, addictive, and destructive.

    Along the way, Sicart considers playfulness, the capacity to use play outside the context of play; toys, the materialization of play—instruments but also play pals; playgrounds, play spaces that enable all kinds of play; beauty, the aesthetics of play through action; political play—from Maradona's goal against England in the 1986 World Cup to the hactivist activities of Anonymous; the political, aesthetic, and moral activity of game design; and why play and computers get along so well.

    • Hardcover $20.95 £16.99
    • Paperback $15.95 £12.99
  • Uncertainty in Games

    Uncertainty in Games

    Greg Costikyan

    How uncertainty in games—from Super Mario Bros. to Rock/Paper/Scissors—engages players and shapes play experiences.

    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. Is it any wonder, then, asks Greg Costikyan, that we have taken this aspect of our lives and transformed it culturally, making a series of elaborate constructs that subject us to uncertainty but in a fictive and nonthreatening way? That is: we create games.

    In this concise and entertaining book, Costikyan, an award-winning game designer, argues that games require uncertainty to hold our interest, and that the struggle to master uncertainty is central to their appeal. Game designers, he suggests, can harness the idea of uncertainty to guide their work.

    Costikyan explores the many sources of uncertainty in many sorts of games—from Super Mario Bros. to Rock/Paper/Scissors, from Monopoly to CityVille, from FPS Deathmatch play to Chess. He describes types of uncertainty, including performative uncertainty, analytic complexity, and narrative anticipation. And he suggest ways that game designers who want to craft novel game experiences can use an understanding of game uncertainty in its many forms to improve their designs.

    • Hardcover $25.00 £20.00
    • Paperback $14.95 £11.99
  • The Art of Failure

    The Art of Failure

    An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games

    Jesper Juul

    An exploration of why we play video games despite the fact that we are almost certain to feel unhappy when we fail at them.

    We may think of video games as being "fun," but in The Art of Failure, Jesper Juul claims that this is almost entirely mistaken. When we play video games, our facial expressions are rarely those of happiness or bliss. Instead, we frown, grimace, and shout in frustration as we lose, or die, or fail to advance to the next level. Humans may have a fundamental desire to succeed and feel competent, but game players choose to engage in an activity in which they are nearly certain to fail and feel incompetent. So why do we play video games even though they make us unhappy? Juul examines this paradox.

    In video games, as in tragic works of art, literature, theater, and cinema, it seems that we want to experience unpleasantness even if we also dislike it. Reader or audience reaction to tragedy is often explained as catharsis, as a purging of negative emotions. But, Juul points out, this doesn't seem to be the case for video game players. Games do not purge us of unpleasant emotions; they produce them in the first place. What, then, does failure in video game playing do?

    Juul argues that failure in a game is unique in that when you fail in a game, you (not a character) are in some way inadequate. Yet games also motivate us to play more, in order to escape that inadequacy, and the feeling of escaping failure (often by improving skills) is a central enjoyment of games. Games, writes Juul, are the art of failure: the singular art form that sets us up for failure and allows us to experience it and experiment with it.

    The Art of Failure is essential reading for anyone interested in video games, whether as entertainment, art, or education.

    • Hardcover $21.95 £17.99
    • Paperback $17.95 £14.99
  • Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat

    Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat

    New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming

    Yasmin B. Kafai, Carrie Heeter, Jill Denner, and Jennifer Y. Sun

    Girls and women as game players and game designers in the new digital landscape of massively multiplayer online games, “second lives,” “modding,” serious games, and casual games.

    Ten years after the groundbreaking From Barbie to Mortal Kombat highlighted the ways gender stereotyping and related social and economic issues permeate digital game play, the number of women and girl gamers has risen considerably. Despite this, gender disparities remain in gaming. Women may be warriors in World of Warcraft, but they are also scantily clad “booth babes” whose sex appeal is used to promote games at trade shows. Player-generated content has revolutionized gaming, but few games marketed to girls allow “modding” (game modifications made by players). Gender equity, the contributors to Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat argue, requires more than increasing the overall numbers of female players. Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat brings together new media theorists, game designers, educators, psychologists, and industry professionals, including some of the contributors to the earlier volume, to look at how gender intersects with the broader contexts of digital games today: gaming, game industry and design, and serious games. The contributors discuss the rise of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and the experience of girl and women players in gaming communities; the still male-dominated gaming industry and the need for different perspectives in game design; and gender concerns related to emerging serious games (games meant not only to entertain but also to educate, persuade, or change behavior). In today's game-packed digital landscape, there is an even greater need for games that offer motivating, challenging, and enriching contexts for play to a more diverse population of players.

    Contributors Cornelia Brunner, Shannon Campe, Justine Cassell, Mia Consalvo, Jill Denner, Mary Flanagan, Janine Fron, Tracy Fullerton, Elisabeth Hayes, Carrie Heeter, Kristin Hughes, Mimi Ito, Henry Jenkins III, Yasmin B. Kafai, Caitlin Kelleher, Brenda Laurel, Nicole Lazzaro, Holin Lin, Jacki Morie, Helen Nissenbaum, Celia Pearce, Caroline Pelletier, Jennifer Y. Sun, T. L. Taylor, Brian Winn, Nick YeeInterviews with Nichol Bradford, Brenda Braithwaite, Megan Gaiser, Sheri Graner Ray, Morgan Romine

    • Hardcover $19.75 £15.99
    • Paperback $30.00 £25.00