Friday, 9 March 2007


Aesthetic of play suggests why we enjoy games. There is considered to be 3 theories of pleasure to playing a game, reward, flow and initiation. In this blog I am going to be looking at the rewards we can get from computer games. We know that according to Dr Spock (1998 p.625) that computer games don’t really do much for the developing person and that the best to be said for them is that they can improve hand eye coordination. So it is considered that there is no material reward to be gained from a computer game.

It is shown that the human brain is wired to wanting a reward, what the reward is, is irrelevant. Greenfield (1984 p.92) found that the presence of a goal or achievement such as a reward was the single most important factor in determining the popularity of a game. In a game there is considered to be four types of reward; glory, substance, access and facility. To show what each of the rewards consists of I am going to relate them to the game Crash Bandicoot 2 in which you are a dog on a mission to save your sister who has been captured by an evil man who plans to take over the world and wants Crash to collect diamonds for him. To achieve this goal Crash has to complete 5 courses on 4 different levels.

For me there was a great sense of glory when I completed the first 5 courses without losing any lives. This can also be linked with the reward of substance. Substance is the reward of character maintenance, such as the health peak of the player. As it was the furthest point I had achieved in the game with the highest health points.

The reward of access, is gaining access to new locations and recourses, such as passwords, level completions etc. in crash you are only able to move onto the next level once you have completed the first 5 courses.

The reward of facility is when you can enhance or gain new abilities such as new weapons, magic items, extra strength. In relation to Crash you can gain a magic face which gives you a one of protection from dying. However if you gain 3 faces you are given magic time where you are invincible for 1 minute.

I conclude that the computer may not reward you with anything materially but it does reward you with the simple pleasure (although it can course huge frustration but well leave that for another debate).


Greenfield, P.M (1984) Mind and Media; The effects of television, computers and video games. Great Britain; Fontana Paperbacks.

Magic Circle

Huizinga (1980 p.13) suggests that the characteristics of play are a voluntary activity knowingly outside our “ordinary” life, and perceived as “not serious”, however at the same time as this we are utterly absorbed in the activity. No “real” material profit can be gained by it, it proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. (copied for a book needs to be rearranged a bit).

Suit (12093u2) states the Lusory attitude which is the formula states the necessary and sufficient conditions for any activity to be an instance of game playing. It is the attitude taken be the game players towards playing the game, defined as “the acceptance of constitutive rules just so the activity made possible by such an acceptance can occur”.

As I pick up the guitar in the warehouse hold it in both hands and proceed to take it behind my head and to swing it round to hit the zombie standing in front of me good and hard, I fear for my life as I know that if I do not kill him I will die. I am completely absorbed by this and very little could take my attention away for saving my own life. But deep down at the same time I also know that its not real its just a computer game. However, when I picked up that controller I chose to play a game and I therefore step into “the magic circle”. The game zombie its self is very realistic to the world in which we live…minus the zombies. First level involves you basically killing all the zombies around you and trying to find as many survivors as possible (humans that have not been infected). As unrealistic as this may sound when I play I become completely absorbed in the game and actually I refuse to play on my own as the game at some point does scare me, but all I would have to do is turn off the game and I would no longer be scared as I would be stepping out of the magic circle. Losing myself in the medium can be creative and in a way liberating, however Lister (2003 p.263) worries that there is a possibility that this immersion can be hypnotic, seductive, ‘mindless’ as well as bodiless.


Huizinga, J. (1944) Homo Ludens: a study of Play-Elements in Culture, London; Redwood Burn Ltd.

Lister. M, Dovey. J, Giddings. S, Grant. I, and Kelly K, (2003) New Media: A Critical Introduction, New York; Routledge.

Frther reading:
Bradford, G. (2003) Retrieved: 26th February for the World wide web;


Rhetoric is defined as the art of effective communication. It is a persuasive discourse that attempts to persuade an audience of the importance and truth of the communicators values and beliefs. Rhetoric can be applied to many different areas, such as the areas of digital computer games. By studying the rhetoric of digital games it helps us to examine the representation of games and also to examine the rhetoric within the games themselves. As the digital game becomes more of the every day cultural furniture, it has been that more areas of the game has become an interest of exploration and the effects that the games may have on peoples minds.

There have been many investigation in to the effects of digital games on the players, however, Squire suggest that these are very problematic as they lack real world evidence, have multiple-variables and he considers them to make wild logical leaps in linking constrained inverse correlations between games and violent behaviour.
To look at the rhetoric of a game I chose to play the game Grand Theft Auto. The aim of the game is to earn enough points to complete each level. You earn points by ramming cars, mugging, beating people up and killing policemen. To gain enough points to finish the level you take on missions which also get paid. You can also steal cars and take them to the docks and sell them to make money. When I first started playing this game I was quite shocked to discover that it was teaching criminal ways, but after literary 8 mins I was really into the game and wanting to attack people just because I found it funny. This is not to say I would consider myself an aggressive person in fact quite the opposite. I would say that the rhetoric does not exactly convey a message of high morals. In fact it rather suggests a life of criminal activity is fun and rewarding, with lots of cash.
In October 2006 it was reported by The Daily Mail that teenage gangs were committing robberies as part of a violent new initiation game. It was said to be “a bit like a computer game for the kids, except this is real life." It involved kids going around and robbing, mugging and in general just doing juvenile attacks. Much like the game Grand Theft Auto. However not all games have the same rhetoric.

Unknown (2006) Teen gangs score points for crime in 'initiation ceremony' Retrieved on the 19th of February 2007 from the World Wide Web:
Squire, K. (date unknown) Cultural Framing of Computer/Video Games. Retrieved on the 19th of February 2007 from the World Wide Web:

Further reading:

Lister. M, Dovey. J, Giddings. S, Grant. I, and Kelly K, (2003) New Media: A Critical Introduction, New York; Routledge.

Friday, 2 March 2007

What is a game?

“What is a game?” This is the question we were asked in our first lecture on “Playing the game”. The word “game” is used frequently in our everyday language and we all understand what we mean by it. So it’s not until you are asked to define it as accurately as possible that you realise how broad the term “game” is. There appears to be no precise boundaries in defining it.

Indeed, Wittgenstein observed that games don’t all share similar features but rather have overlapping similarities instead. He regarded the game to be like family resemblances. For instance, family members may share features such as similar eyes or hair but are not identical, as individuals may have different temperaments. Likewise, Wittgenstein believed the definition of the game has blurred edges. A good example of this is Desert Storm, Sims and online Bingo. These games are defined as a “game” and yet are all completely different, coming from very different genres.

Desert Storm for example, is a shooting game involving the player controlling the actions of an English soldier who is sent on different missions (which correspond to different levels) against the Iraq army. The aim of the game is to win the war. In brief, this game is not based on luck but skill at controlling the actions of the English soldier. In fact, this game involves competing against the videogame itself.

Sims is similar to Desert Storm in that it is a skill game with a competitive element. The game however involves controlling of peoples’ lives as successfully as possible. The skill in this game is being clever about the acquisitions you make and thinking about the family you have.

In contrast, Bingo online is based on luck with no skill involved, but it is still a competitive game because you are shown how many other players there are and given the option to buy in. No skill is required as the computer flags the numbers that have been called.

In short, the definition of a game is very broad and in fact is becoming wider with more types of games becoming available. The videogames mentioned above for example, did not exist twenty years ago. In fact, Poole (2000) goes so far as to state that the videogame has become part of the “cultural furniture” for our (my) generation. And I totally agree with this. I do not think that the stereotype of men being more interested in videogames is unfair but there are many women who enjoy them too. I, for example, enjoy the skill games (although this may have more to do with my competitive streak wanting to beat my dad). However, this brings me no nearer to defining exactly what is a game.

Poole, S. (2000) Trigger Happy, New York; Arcade Publishing.