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Lesson 2 Resources

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Welcome to the resources section for lesson 2, a lesson that deals with some fundamental questions, like
what does it mean to play a game? In this preliminary analysis, we can surmise that play turns into a more
game-like activity when rules and structure are added.
Simulation games are a good example of programs marketed and sold as games, but where the user's
activity can often be viewed as play. In simulations games, the activity is generally unstructured, and player
goals are often self-determined.
There are several game scholars with ideas about the defining characteristics of play and games. Roger
Callois put play and game on a spectrum; where play, at one end, is unstructured and spontaneous, while
game, at the other end, is a rule-based and explicit activity. Johan Huizinga believes that play is outside
everyday experience, but was also part of it. He suggested the existence of a magic circle, which
delineates the border between reality and a play-world.
In general, games can be defined as activities having rules, goals, a winning conditions and requiring
player effort.
Other scholars have put forward their own theories that define the taxonomy of games. Chris Crawford
created a set of dichotomies starting with the schism between art and entertainment. Brian Moriarty
asserts, among other things, that play is a superfluous action, while a game is a toy with rules and a goal.
Finally, Thomas Malaby broke the connection between play and game, theorizing that they were two
distinct and unrelated activities.

Required Reading:
The reading for this lesson is Playing and Gaming: Reflections and Classifications by Bo Kampmann
Walther. In it, Walther seeks a method to distinguish playing from gaming. He defines play as an openended territory in which make-believe and world-building are crucial factors, while games are confined
areas that challenge the interpretation and optimizing of rules and (2003). Try not to get too bogged down
in some of the theory he uses. Instead, focus on how he shapes and presents his argument and how that
argument fits into our earlier discussion of play and game.
Walther, Bo Kampmann. (2003). Playing and Gaming: Reflections and Classifications. Game Studies
3.1: http://www.gamestudies.org/0301/walther.

Notes on the Reading:

Problem Statement
What is play, and what is a game? How can we distinguish between play and game through ontological
and epistemological lenses?

The purpose of this paper is to clarify the distinctions between play and game through the use of a systems
theoretical framework.

Walther seeks a method to distinguish playing from gaming. He defines play as an open-ended territory in
which make-believe and world-building are crucial factors, while games are confined areas that
challenge the interpretation and optimizing of rules and tactics - not to mention time and space (2003).
While play-mode is a second order representation of the real world demarcated by boundaries (separating
play from non-play), game-mode exists as a third order representation. Games exist within the realm of
play, but are structurally more complex in form and organization. While play is grounded in the prolonging
of presence, games assume presence while requiring progression. He argues that gaming should not be
troubled by playing as the purpose of the game is about finding the most efficient and entertaining way to
proceed appropriately.

There have been many definitions of play:
Walther (2003): an open-ended territory in which make-believe and world-building are crucial factors
Huizinga (1938): playing constitutes cultural forms and modalities of meaning that facilitate the norms
and codes of societal semiotics. It is older than culture itself, temporally and spatially confined, and
sets the subject free to perform actions without material consequences
Callois (1958): play is something someone does, but it is also the name of a thing
Bateson (1972): play is paradoxical because it is both within and outside our normal social semantic
space. Play is a meta communication that refers exclusively to itself, and not to any external source or
receiver...it can be shared and communicated with other by referance to a code. Playing is selfgenerating (autopoietic) and self-motivating (autotelic)

There have been many definitions of game:

Walther (2003): confined areas that challenge the interpretation and optimizing of rules and tactics - not
to mention time and space
Caillois (1958): had many different categories for games, including two categories for games generally
and four categories for specific types of games.
1. paidea: freely organized games (almost play)
2. ludus: highly organized games
a. agon: games which are based on competition or conflict as in match and racing games
b. alea: games that are nested in chance or luck
c. mimicry: has to do with simulation and make-believe
d. ilinx: games founded on dizziness, as in roller coasters

Walther begins by distinguishing between modes of gaming and modes of playing (game-mode and
play-mode). Play-mode can be identified as a kind of feedback loop, or continual rearticulation of the
play world and real world. Game-mode, on the other hand, assumes the rearticulation of play-mode as
a means to protect the rule-binding structure of the game. While in play-mode, one tries to prevent
slipping back into the real world; in game-mode the focus is on forward movement within the structural
confines of the game itself. Gaming can be viewed as something that takes place on a higher level, in a
structural and temporal sense.
Walther argues that both play and games cope with complexity, build structural dynamics, and deal
with forms. In an attempt to establish workable distinctions between play and game (without relying on
socio-cultural interpretations) the challenge is to test play and game with a systems theoretical
Walthers step away from socio-cultural interpretations borrows from Brian Sutton-Smith, who
describes the difficulty in viewing play and games from a neutral and ontological viewpoint. This is
because our observations of phenomena are entangled in our very understanding of what is
observed. In observing play and games, the how obstructs the what.
Historical research on play and games by Huizinga and Callois has attempted to define, situate, and
categorize the terms. But as Sutton-Smith and Walther have described, meaning is not always
straightforward depending on ones point of observation.
Aside from arguing for the spatial and temporal articulation of play and game, Walther sides with
Huizinga on their cultural significance. He asks what is in a game, and how do we get there?
The move from play-space to game-space involves a demarcation of boundaries. This requires the
internal formulation of a real space versus an other or play space, as well as an understanding that
the play space is bound by specific rules of interaction (strategies employed to advance in the game)
and adaptation (responding to and learning from the game).
The basic structure of play lies in its ability to create contingent resorts based on distinctions which are
open to meaning. The basic structure of a game adopts this praxis of distinction, but its central "law" is
furthermore its unique ability to reduce the complexity of play by way of a set of well-defined, nonnegotiable rules. One discusses tactics in chess, not rules.
Games are distinguishable from play in their form, complexity and organization.

Additional Resources:
If you'd like to explore the demarcation between play and game more, and see how that conversation
contributes to game studies research, here are a few works you might find interesting:
Caillois, R. (1961). Man, Play and Games. Trans. Barash, M. New York, Free Press of Glencoe.
Flanagan. (2009). Critical play: Radical game design. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Malaby, T. M. (2007). "Beyond Play A New Approach to Games." Games and Culture 2(2), 95-113.

Games We Mention in this Lesson:

Here are some of the games we mentioned in this lesson. If you don't know a game we mention, follow one
of the links we provide below. Again, we dont control these files, so some of the links may expire. Help us
keep the links fresh by letting us know if one goes down. Also, you can find play-throughs, trailers, and fan
sites for just about any game you can imagine, so a quick google search will give you a taste of how a
game works.
The Sims
This is a tutorial of how to get your Sims to race through a maze.
Pinball Constructor Set
A brief look at Atari's Paintball Constructor Set. Watch first few minutes to get general idea.
Gameplay of the 1989 SimCity
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002
A shaky take-off in Flight Simulator 2002
Hakuoki Demon of the Fleeting Blossom
Gameplay of the visual novel style game. Watch first few minutes to get the idea.
Desert Bus
Desert Bus gameplay. Watch to 3m00s.
Gameplay of this highly addictive game.
Clip shows gameplay
Brian Moriarty's Game.

Created Mon 18 Aug 2014 4:32 PM PET

Last Modified Fri 23 Jan 2015 3:18 PM PET