Date Archives August 2009

Enjoying games without thinking too much about them

As I've been thinking and writing about games, one of the most significant points I've stumbled upon is that having a method for analyzing aspects of games is just as important as having a method in other, more familiar, forms of analysis. I'm a fan of multiple playings of a game in order to experience the game from multiple viewpoints. Play to learn the game mechanic and narrative environment. Play to compete or win. Play to understand the teaching model or the story's structure. This approach has helped me learn from and about games.

This spring, I taught a class on research and information architecture. Teaching the same group of students twice a week for 15 weeks is very different from teaching a similar number of classroom hours distributed among different students each time. I got busy and involved in the class. I didn't have a lot of time to play games so I took a break from reflective gaming and went back to escapist gaming. I played the lasted Tomb Raider game, but didn't think about it much (other than wondering what it meant that I chose to outfit Ms. Croft in cargo-pants rather than the available short-shorts option.)

This summer, I had more time to devote to gaming so I dove into some games that I'd missed. I played Mass Effect. I played STALKER: Clear Sky. Both are excellent additions to the growing category of sandbox games. There is a wealth to explore there: questions to ask about the role of the author, user-generated narrative, player choice, linearity, the birth of a new storytelling medium, the limits of technology vs. the limits of imagination, etc.

Right now, I don't want to answer these questions. Hell, I don't even want to look at them through the lens of semi-formal analysis. I do want to enjoy them from the context of a player who enjoys a game environment that is rich in things to think about. I'm sure I'll feel the need to revisit some of these questions from the point of view of a commentator or theorist at some point in the future. For now though, I think I'll remain a player of games and be content.

I still would like to use information. games. as an outlet / bully pulpit. I just imagine that I'll be writing more about information than games. Currently I've been reading Everything is Miscellaneous, Here Comes Everybody, and The Wealth of Networks. Each of these is an attempt to make sense of our society's evolving relationship with communication and information. This is where my head is at, so I assume this is what I'll be writing about. So it may well be that the librarian part of my persona will be more prominent than the gamer part.

Or it may not. Any attempt to describe or understand our relationship with networks of information has to be able to be applied to gamers. Gamers are ahead of society as a whole when it comes to using and integrating emerging information trends. We make a good test group for theories. So I would imagine that if this new area of research pans out, I'll find a way to test it out on communities of gamers.