Wednesday, 7 March 2007


Everyone appreciates rewards. They are a standard requirement we expect after working hard at something, where without them we would have little motivation to succeed. Rewards are thus expected in every aspect of our lives, where games intentionally incorporate rewards in order to correspond to the consumers desires.

It is commonly presumed that media forms such as games are simply helping to reinforce the assumption that we are a generation of "thrill seekers", where the 'simple pleasures' gained while gaming are able to comply to the demands of the "masses" (NPR Website). This idea can relate to the concepts discussed by Steven Johnson, where he argues that games in fact supply the exact opposite. Johnson suggests that generally games are much more mentally stimulating than suspected and are in fact a key tool for 'making today's culture smarter' (NPR Website).

Games such as Theme Hospital for example may be perceived by many to be simply a source of entertainment that requires no intellect. In reality this is far from the case where this particular game demands intelligence in order to achieve, where a series of rewards such as a larger hospital, more responsibility and a quest for prestige encourage players to exercise their intelligence.

Ultimately rewards are fundamental pre-requisites in order for games to be completed successfully. Perhaps without them kids would never get a chance to expand their knowledge outside of education, and may have a more delayed appreciation for the general consensus in many workplaces, which is the idea that 'you pay for performance'(Beck and Wade 2004: pg 94).

.Beck, JC. and Wade, M. (2004) 'Got Game', Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing).
.NPR Website. Retrieved on 7th March from World Wide Web:

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Homo Ludens

Playing and gaming are a fundamental part of our culture. When referring to video games writers such as Huizinga emphasise how such activities are 'essential to civilised society' (Poole 2000), as they are able to act as a pleasurable activity where play is exercised within fictional boundaries of time, space and rules. This concept can be refereed to as the magic circle, where unlike reality a gamer can choose to discipline themselves with rules and regulations. If relaxation is the objective during play then a gamer can simply select a game which has no rigid boundaries allowing the gamer to escape the stresses of everyday life.

This distinction between levels of control can relate to Huizinga's play categorize which include 'Ludus' and 'paidia'. Both at opposite ends of the spectrum they reflect the different 'dimensions of formality' that directs the play experience (Rulter and Bryce 2006: pg 80). Paidia for example can be described as such play which is categorized by a 'lack of rituals and rules' (Rulter and Bryce 2006: pg 80). In this sense a game can have no official objective as long as it satisfies the need of the gamer (ie to entertain). 'The Sims' is an example of such a game, where by allowing the gamer free will there is no sense of competitiveness. It is up to the player to find success through their own desired goals which they may manifest during the game.

Ludus in contrast is demonstrated by 'formal competition' (Rulter and Bryce 2006: pg 80), and is categorized by rule based play. The video game 'Fired Up' is an elicit example, where the primary objective for the player is to kill all other machines in sight. Unlike Sims, time restrictions call upon a competitive gamer, where it is only the quick and aggressive who will survive in this game!

Ultimately, this magic circle is always entered while playing a game. The boundaries regarding time, space and rules are simply conditioned to the type of game which is selected.

.Poole,S. (2000) 'Trigger Happy', New York: Arcade Publishing
.(Rulter, J. and Bryce, J. (2006) 'Understanding Digital Games', London: SAGE Publications LTD)

Saturday, 24 February 2007


Rhetoric is persuasive language. It is often used in order to encourage others to reason with your way of thinking. In this sense a persons values should be made evident if someone was to use rhetoric, as they would be attempting to engage their listener to their line of thought.

When relating this concept to games it is predictable that the producers of games will use rhetoric in order to consciously interpellate their target audience. Advertising would be a good way to draw in the desired players by using the necessary components. For example, the official 'Medal of Honour: Heroes' website is able to successfully attempt this by using rhetoric such as 'prepare for your finest hour' (EA Games website). Accompanied with exciting visual images and a black background a sense of adventure is instilled in to the audience's imaginations, consequently encouraging them to cohere to the values of the creator- kill or be killed! These values are continuously reemphasized while playing the game. Messages alerting you, the player, who has already been killed and by which opponent urges you to quickly take action or else it is suggested that your fate is sealed. The short intervals of play time, promotes the value that it is the survival of the fittest and that there is no room for second thoughts. There is simply only one objective- to kill!

These values are strongly contrasting to the values in which 'The Sims' producers are encouraging. The entire goal of the game, which is to achieve material success through delayed gratifications, promotes values which are similar to the Protestant work ethic. In this sense you are compelled to work hard, where the rhetoric of the game could be considered to persuade the audience that material gain in good. Such ideological messages could be perceived by Marxists such as Gramsci to be 'maintaining the status quo and promoting capitalist ideas', by making the values within the game seem legitimate and normal (Rulter and Bryce 2006: pg 152). Therefore, such values exhibited in the game are able to support Gramsci's thesis of hegemony.

Gramsci's concerns can also relate to Stanley Cohens's concept of Moral Panic. Considering that we live in a media saturated environment, ideological values and this notion of rhetoric are difficult to escape. Especially from excitable children who can fixate on the most trivial of things. Unfortunately computer games are one of these things, where the concern today is that the overload of violence in the mass media may 'desensitize young people to the real world' (Beck and Wade 2004: pg 52). Moral panic can quickly be created through over stimulation by the media, often exaggerating the truth by playing on the public's fears. This process can be referred to as the Media amplification spiral and can ironically help boost game sales if a particular game has received allot of attention. 'Manhunt' is an example of such a game which became a house hold name after controversy in 2004. I personally feel that influences such as rhetoric in games are powerful, but cannot be considered contributing factors for illegal activity. A possible explanation to why someone may want to imitate something they have seen in a game is because they cannot distinguish between reality and fiction!

.EA Games Website. Retrieved on 24th Febuary from the World Wide Web:
.Rulter, J. and Bryce, J.(2006) 'Understanding Digital Games', London: SAGE Publications Ltd
.Beck, JC. and Wade, M. (2004) 'Got Game', Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing).

Friday, 23 February 2007

Wittgenstein on games

Unique games are difficult to find. Like films, games are often very similar sharing recognisable characteristics which are intentionally included in order to satisfy consumer choice.

This idea can relate to Wittgenstein's theory of family resemblance. He used this concept in order to illustrate how items can have 'overlapping resemblances' with one another (Virtual Philosopher Website). When relating this concept to the family he wanted us to recognise how there can often be 'various resemblances' between the members of a family (Philosophical Investigations Website). These similarities however do not have to be shared by an entire family, but rather that each member may resemble another. In this sense it could be argued a persons genetic makeup is composed to make them appear individual when in fact they are not, since one aspect of their being is similar to some one else in their family. For example, I share the same eye colour as my dad even though we do not look alike.

His complex theory can also be useful for understanding how games can share similar trates without being classified in the same genre, or even seem remotely alike. 'The Sims' and 'Grand Theft Auto' are an example of such games. These two games could not appear to be more opposite. One focuses on family cohesion, and the other on ruthlessly homicidal and illegal behavior. However, despite the many dissimilar aspects a common resemblance can be recognised with the fact that both are concerned with the pursuit of material gain. Although this wealth within the games may be acquired in very different ways this feature is still apparent in both. This is not to say however that all games are unanimously united by a set of rules, but rather that elements in one game are likely to be exhibited in another.

Another recognisable feature shared by both is the quest for status. In 'The Sims' this status is achieved through establishing and progressively working on healthy relationships with others. By working hard in your profession status is also obtained, where power and wealth are coherently linked with the outcome of a higher status. In 'Grand Theft Auto' on the other hand, status is gained through the more illegal activity you participate in. The more enemies you create the higher your status, where in this game being feared generally results with the outcome of a more powerful stance. However, wealth is important for both in relation to status where the more money you have the more recognised you become. This characteristic of status elicit in both games is able to further exemplify the idea of 'overlapping resemblance' (Virtual Philosopher Website). Features within a game may be shared by many and it is naive to believe that a game can be uniquely individual.

Perhaps this plural view can be applied to wider issues. For example it can be recognised how almost everything shares a similarity with something else. The mass media are a prime example, where films are able to demonstrate how it is almost impossible to find a text which does not have single distinguishable element that has not been seen before. Wittgenstein's theory is therefore very much in tune with the dynamics of our modern day society, and is useful since it can be applied to almost all items and issues.

.Virtual Philosopher Website. Retrieved on 9th febuary 2006:
.Philosophical Investigations Website. Retrieved on 9th Febuary 2006: