Thursday, 8 March 2007


Pleasures of play- Flow
Play, huizinga (1970:p25) says, is “a non material activity”. I agree with this statement, though there is pleasure involved and I am going to examine the pleasure of play we derive from flow. Flow is , Csikszentmihalyi says, “a particular state of mind in which a participant achieves a high degree of focus and enjoyment” (salen and Zimmerman, 2004:p336). Csikszentmihalyi goes on to say it is a zen like state. Flow is according to csikszentmihalyi, a state where “action follows upon action according to an internal logic that seems to need no conscious intervention by the actor” ( poole, 2000:p168).
I experienced this state while I was playing Max Payne, in which the player has to shoot everyone they see (well that's what I do) get to the next level by finding the correct way. Csikszentmihalyi says that there are 8 components of flow which are (salen and Zimmerman, 2004:p336-338) clear feedback and goals, control in uncertain situations, challenging activity, merging of action and awareness, concentration, loss of self consciousness and transformation of time. I remember a special stage in Max Payne where I experienced flow. In this stage the character was in a big hall and there were lots of people coming to kill the character. That was when I experienced flow. Their was a clear goal: kill all the people without dying and reach the other end of the hall. The feedback was my health bar and the number of people I was killing. Though I had control to kill people and save my life but also with it the risk of dying. The whole stage was very challenging of not difficult. When I was in this stage I started shooting wildly at first but after a little while I started shooting spontaneously with good results and a high level of concentration, shooting and ducking without being perfectly aware of it. Every step and movement was casual and without any sense of time until of course my character was killed. After the death of my character the feeling was like coming out of a trance. When it was over I was aware that I had been in a flow state. I tried to complete the stage three times at last giving up and not in a state of flow anymore. Flow is a very common concept that I think every gamer experience’s (with or without being aware of what it means in theory) at some point or another.

Word Count:410

Huizinga,J.(1970) HOMO LUDENS a study of the play element in culture
Poole, S.(2000) TRIGGER HAPPY videogames and entertainment revolution
Salen,k. and Zimmerman, E. (2004) RULES OF PLAY game design fundamental


Rhetoric as (Dixon, 1971:p3) says is “the art of speaking well, of using words to their best advantage”. Rhetoric can also be understood as (retrieved from the World Wide Web from the site mentioned below) “a technique of persuasion through the use of oral or written language”. In simple words rhetoric is a tool to persuade people. It can be through speech (written or oral) or various other sorts of non verbal communications.
I will be taking the example of the game Mafia and will apply the concept of rhetoric to it as in: how it was marketed? And what are its values and rhetoric.
In Mafia one plays a character (Tommy) who is a cab driver who joins the mafia in order to save his life from the hands of rival gangs. Then the player has to complete a series of missions which involve stealing cars, shooting people and a host of other crimes. It was marketed as an action/gangster game with serious music in the background and different characters holding weapons appearing, dressed as suave early 19th century gangsters. The representation itself persuades us to believe that the game is one filled with violence crime and gangsters. I find the name itself has an element of rhetoric which tries to persuade us into believing what the game is about.
The objective of this game is to complete a series of missions by accomplishing crimes like murder, bootlegging and destroying things etc. or a player can also take no mission and go around killing people when he likes to. The emphasis of this game is on combat, aggression, crime and general chaos.
The values of this game I think are kill people and commit crime to get ahead and if someone tries to come in the way kill them. When I was playing Mafia and broke a traffic signal I was amused to find that I didn't get arrested in the game rather the police man just gave me a ticket and let me go. It is mentioned in the game that the police is on the payroll of the mafia. I thought that this particular feature indicates a value that killing and getting away with it is not that difficult. I think the rhetoric in this game are that killing and stealing is okay

Word count:386

Dixon,P. (1971) RHETORIC
Retrieved from the world wide web on 8 march:


Wittgenstein on Games
Games. We all play games (more or less). But what is the definition of a game. Wittgenstein says (retrieved from the World Wide Web from the site mentioned below) “that there is nothing common to all games rather they have certain similarities and relationships they share with each other”. He goes on to tell his reader “not to think, but to look” at the games. He says that games have overlapping features (not exactly the same) like a rope. Wittgenstein also says that games have games have overlapping features which he associates to the concept of family resemblance. He says like people of a family share certain characteristics i.e. build, features, colour of eyes etc. games also do (retrieved from the World Wide Web from the site mentioned below). Games also have certain overlapping and criss-crossing features.
Now I would like to take the example of few games and apply it to what Wittgenstein said. My first example is Fifa 2002. It is a typical sports game in which a person has to select on side and play football against the other with fairly simple rules (that of football) and my other example is Age of Empire II.AOE II is a strategy game very much like civilization II where the player has to develop and expand his civilisation and defeat his enemy (or enemies if one chooses so). Both of the games are very different to each other and yet both have certain similarities like both have a win or lose criteria, both have a certain level of competition, both have rewards. I would also like to take the example of Doom II which is a “shoot everyone you see” sort of a game. It is also very different from the above mentioned games yet has certain overlapping characteristics it shares with Fifa 2002 and Age of Empire II. Doom II has an element of skill and competition which Fifa 2002 also has. Similarly it has element of skill, reward and luck that it shares with Age of Empire II. Until now every game I have played has characteristics described by Wittgenstein in some way or the other.

Word Count-358

Retrieved from the world wide web on 8 march:


The magic circle and lusory attitude
“The frame is a concept connected to the question of “reality” of a game, of the relationship between the artificial world of the game and the “real life” contexts that intersects. This frame is called magic circle” (salen and Zimmerman, 2004:p94). The magic circle is according to salen and Zimmerman an enchanted zone with fixed boundaries and rules (2004:p94-95). We can thus say that the magic circle is a frame that a player enters when playing a game, with set boundaries and rules. I would like to discuss the magic circle with the example of grand Theft Auto Vice city. Playing it is also like entering a magic circle. When you start to play (on a computer) you cut yourself off with the real world entering the magic circle, this is just the physical aspect. Psychologically you enter another world that of this game being the case vice city. It has boundaries, you can roam around but cannot go over the boundaries of vice city similarly it has rules, If you go inside the water you will be wasted or if you shoot a cop you will get a wanted level. These rules and boundaries are very different from the ones in real life. You cannot kill people that easily in real life as you can in vice city. Thus you enter the magic circle and abide by the rules and boundaries of the game. You do stuff in the magic circle (vice city) safely whereas the same stuff in real life can have dire consequences. The cutting off from real life and entering in the word of the game can be said as entering the magic circle.
When a player “adopts rules which require one to employ worse rather than better means for reaching an end” is called a lusory attitude (salen and Zimmerman,2004:p97). They go on to say that when a player adopts an attitude to derive pleasure by complying with the inefficient rules of the game they are playing. A point which they illustrate by giving an example of boxer’s wearing soft gloves (salen and Zimmerman, 2004:p97-98). Even while playing GTA one adopts a lusory attitude when entering the magic circle (vice city) like killing people is okay, settling disputes with guns, stealing cars etc. things one would never do (well maybe not never but seldom) in real life. Thus to enter the magic circle players adopt a lusory attitude.

Word count: 403

Salen,k. and Zimmerman, E. (2004) RULES OF PLAY game design fundamental