Your article “Games without Play” within the New Literary History, Vol. 40, No. 1, was a captivating read and created many new discussions on subjects that previously contained little thought and controversy. But now, questions are raised and I am look for answers. I will try to explain my interpretations then pose my question to you.
You describe play as something that must have rules, but a sort of “looseness” as well. Like a child’s game of hide-and-seek, where there are basic rules, but certain additives and changes can be made for each instance. Then to clarify as to what makes a game, you state “an activity entirely without rules cannot be a game” (Page 182 Para 1) to excuse any random time wasting activity. Your clause that to play there must be bendable rules, makes me wonder to what extent do you mean? Are the professional football or hockey athletes not “playing” when the enter the field or rink? The rules in professional sports are very ridged and not usually bent.
So what I mean to ask, is are you saying that to play there must be bendable rules, or freedom to make small changes within the parameters created by said “rules”? For within each game there are choices to be made, strategies, possibly breaking the rules on purpose to give an advantage, but breaking the rules does not change them. So where is that true distinction?
You choose to mention Nietzschean and Derridean on the subject of play. “On careful examination, many of the programs we call video games today much more nearly resemble something like work, embodying what literary theorists and philosophers recognize as a means of enacting a Nietzschean lust for power and, in Derridean terms, a desire to constrain play — much the opposite of what their construal as games might be understood to indicate.” (Page 179 Para 1) Continuing on the subject you infer that “the experience of leveling up matches what Nietzsche was getting at when he discussed the lust for power.” (Page 188 Para 3) Then I feel a slight contradiction when stated “perhaps just as much as one can “play the game” in WoW, one can work.” (Page 190 Para 1) Does that mean to say that play can be work?
Where is to say the work cannot be play? If there is pleasure, and there most definitely are rules, and a leveling up system that stimulates gratification upon achievement, it sounds like both work and play to me. An equally rewarding and beneficial use of time.
Thank you for your time.
A Curious Mind,
I would like to include that by finishing my comment to you I do feel “a great deal of the pleasure users get from WoW or Half Life, as from Excel or Photoshop, is a digital sense of task completion and measurable accomplishment, even if that accomplishment only roughly translates into what we may otherwise consider intellectual, physical, or social goal-attainment.” (Page 192 Para 1)
There is definitely a part of the human psychology that inexplicably creates tasks to be completed.