I had not heard of the Jace Hall show, but being a glutton for attention, I provided them with a quote when they asked for my thoughts on their selection of the top 50 videogame endings.
My response – perhaps predictably – was that “endings” aren’t something intrinsic to videogames and in fact most of my favorite games don’t have an ending. Here’s the quote from me that they ran:
…traditionally games don’t have endings. Games like Basketball, Chess, and Scrabble are activities meant to be repeated, rather than a series of levels to be beaten or a story to be played through. Many digital games, from Asteroids and Tetris to Street Fighter and Smash Bros to Sim City and Civilization are on this model of games designed for repeated play – and they don’t have endings. I prefer these kinds of games, as they are less premised on a desire to imitate cinema or linear storytelling and they are more focused on games as games -as systems of rules that reward deep and repeated exploration.
I guess that says it all. I don’t even want to say that games should or should not be something – there is certainly room in the possibility space of game design for games with endings – but it all does strike me as a little bit odd. The game equivalent of early films set on proscenium stage and shot from the auditorium seats.
Let a million flowers wilt.
This week an article I wrote appeared in Gamasutra.com, a website dedicated to the game development community. The article is Jerked around by the Magic Circle – Clearing the Air Ten Years Later. It’s about the seminal “magic circle” concept that has been plaguing game design and game studies, for better or for worse, since my textbook Rules of Play came out.
The genesis of the article was attending an academic game conference in Vienna this fall, and listening to paper after paper bashing the idea of the magic circle. The problem was not only that I was largely the one whose ideas were being attacked, but the concepts attributed to me were confused and inaccurate. This happens so often with this magic circle idea that I decided to try and set the record straight in an essay.
The result is an article that is in part autobiographical and in part theoretical. I did manage to write about some of the other things I am interested in these days, such as how disciplines collide in the study of games and the nature of design as theory. I’ve been told it’s a humorous and enjoyable read.
Since the audience for the article is really the academic game studies crowd, I first approached Gamestudies.org but I was told that it just wasn’t scholarly enough of a piece for that site. (And to be honest, it’s not in any way a scholarly work.) Although there are other great academic game journals like Game Culture, I wanted to put the essay on the internet in order to facilitate discussion around the piece. So far the comments on Gamasutra are piling up and I look forward to the discussion that this essay might generate.