The “New Games” and “Experimental Art” games movements have been a focal point of the class discussions and reading in recent weeks. Although their exact definitions differ slightly, the spirit behind them is the same. These movements focus on a different type of gaming that subverts traditional notions of games, and refocuses on the elements of games that truly matter to the player. These types of games put “at least a part of the creative act in the hands of the player” (Pearce 70). They also “challenge the status quo and explore alternative ways of being in the world” (Fron). Proponents for these movements argue that this type of play is more meaningful than simply interfacing with a structured world where you are told what to do. They encourage exploration and creativity, leading to more meaningful experiences and creations. There have been many massively popular digital games developed in recent years which fall into these specifications, proving that this type of approach in gaming is one that appeals to the actual, popular user base. For the purposes of this assignment, I will be focusing on Little Big Planet, Minecraft and Second Life, each of which are excellent examples of games that follow these specifications.
One of the most prevalent and important concepts of these new gaming movements is that “there is a fluidity, a continuum between play and creation, and in this way, the player of a game … is also a co-creator or performer of the work” (Pearce 82). This subversion of the typical model of developer created games is appealing to users in several ways. Mainly, it works because the player has a larger hand in what happens in the game. The actions the the player makes in the game are more personal, relevant and meaningful to her. This idea is manifested in each of the games that I have chosen to focus on for this assignment. Little Big Planet is a game that has become massively popular do to its integrated level design tools as a focal point of the game. They are quick and easy to use, and the game allows players to easily upload their creations and play with other people inside of them. Minecraft, which became an instant classic within the span of a few weeks, has become so popular do to its large focus on open-source, collaborative, user-generated content. Players collaborate and play in constantly changing creations in real time. This is the same attribute that has made Second Life so popular, in which people can collaborate in real time by “modding” the game with their own art assets and scripting.
Another important aspect of these type of games that subvert that traditional notion of video games is that they are created with the “central purpose of creating a satisfying play experience” (Fron). Instead of being preoccupied with rules and goals, they are focused on creating an experience that is actually fun and engaging. There is a “global allegiance to the play of the game itself, rather than to the success of any particular team” (Fron). For one thing, this takes pressure of the player in that she can solely focus on enjoying themselves, rather than trying to accomplish some arbitrary goal. Also, it creates an overall more satisfying experience because the player is doing what she wants to do, not what the developer of a game wants her to do. Little Big Planet definitely falls into this category. In the user created content, the fun emerges from interacting with other people online in the content that they or you yourself created. The same goes for both Minecraft and Second Life. There is no focus on developer created goals or rules in their play experiences. They focus on creating and interesting and meaningful experience by interacting with other players in user generated content. In these games, the world can be whatever the user wants it to be. In the end, “digital gamers yearn to play free, rather than be confined within worlds that they never made” (Fron).
The last important aspect of these games, which up to this point has only been mentioned indirectly, is that they are always played with other people. This is the core reason why they are so fun. They maintain an aspect of “autodidactic communalism” (Pearce 75), or peer-to-peer knowledge exchange rather than teacher-to-learner. These maintains a since of camaraderie and community, which strengthens connections with other players in the game, making the overall play experience more meaningful. The very nature of the three games I have discussed in this blog embody this autodidactic communalism.
1. Brand, Stewart. “SPACEWAR: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums,” Rolling Stone, December 7, 2001. http://www.wheels.org/spacewar/stone/rolling_stone.html
2. Pearce, Celia. “Games as Art: The Aesthetics of Interactivity.” Visible Language: Special Issue on Fluxus. January 2006. http://lmc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/fluxus-pearce.pdf
3. Fron, J., Fullerton, T., Morie, J. & Pearce, C. (aka Ludica) (2005). “Sustainable Play: Towards A New Games Movement for the Digital Age.” Digital Arts & Culture Conference Proceedings, Copenhagen, December 2005. Download here: http://lmc.gatech.edu/~cpearce3/PearcePubs/DACSustainablePlay.pdf