The play that isn’t designed
[Disclaimer: Oh man, this is a topic I have opinions on].
The reading for this week focuses on several forms of play. Witticott, a psychoanalyst is interested in play as a creative activity and the affects it has upon the self. Schneider is interested in play and performance studies. Derrida, as far as I can tell, is interested in play and destroying all common sense of structure. So, good for him, I guess.
What these aspects about play don’t discuss, however, is the design of play. While some discuss play as a social phenomena that happens in a designated, almost spiritual space, they fail to look at play as an act in itself. This is largely what game studies is interested in: What do people play and what does this mean?
At least, my definition is rooted in that question. Many people begin looking at game studies from a “what is a game” opener, which I find problematic. Play exists in a larger circle that games and ignoring other aspects of play reduces the value of games in society. We see this in ways how people look at work like Wittgenstein and respond with an attempt at a definitive answer. We see it in how designers reference Caillois without trying to tackle discussions like religious ambiguity in play.
And these are important aspects in the field of game studies. Play is larger than games and games can’t exist without the understand of play. That’s why my thesis is oriented to explain how games design play and what we can learn through that lens. Play is a mental phenomena. Games are constructed. We should be examining the place where the two concept meet.