Critical Play

Critical Play

Radical Game Design

Mary Flanagan

ISBN 9780262258760
368 pp.
September 2009

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Critical Play

Radical Game Design

For many players, games are entertainment, diversion, relaxation, fantasy. But what if certain games were something more than this, providing not only outlets for entertainment but a means for creative expression, instruments for conceptual thinking, or tools for social change? In Critical Play, artist and game designer Mary Flanagan examines alternative games—games that challenge the accepted norms embedded within the gaming industry—and argues that games designed by artists and activists are reshaping everyday game culture.

Flanagan provides a lively historical context for critical play through twentieth-century art movements, connecting subversive game design to subversive art: her examples of “playing house” include Dadaist puppet shows and The Sims. She looks at artists’ alternative computer-based games and explores games for change, considering the way activist concerns—including worldwide poverty and AIDS—can be incorporated into game design.

Arguing that this kind of conscious practice—which now constitutes the avant-garde of the computer game medium—can inspire new working methods for designers, Flanagan offers a model for designing that will encourage the subversion of popular gaming tropes through new styles of game making, and proposes a theory of alternate game design that focuses on the reworking of contemporary popular game practices.

Contents

  1. Preface and Acknowledgments
  2. 1. Introduction to Critical Play
  3. 2. Playing House
  4. 3. Board Games
  5. 4. Language Games
  6. 5. Performative Games and Objects
  7. 6. Artists’ Locative Games
  8. 7. Critical Computer Games
  9. 8. Designing for Critical Play
  10. Notes
  11. Bibliography
  12. Index