Monday, 12 November 2012

Weekly assignment 2: A hands-down with playing and studying games

Passage by Jason Rohrer

What is the essence of games? Is it the rules or the act of playing? The rules make the game what it is but the act of playing ultimately blows the spark of life into an otherwise inert rule system.

The answer, I am sure, is somewhere in between (or maybe nowhere near at all), and it is exactly this conundrum that you get to examine during this week's assignment.

Jason Rohrer is a California-based game designer known for his thoughtful approach to game design. His third game Passage, released in 2007, garnered a fair amount of attention for causing strong emotions in many players.

The game was made for the Gamma 256 design challenge and as such it follows the strict guidelines of the challenge: The graphics are minimalistic and the whole game takes no more than 5 minutes to play through. Yet it has been widely regarded as a good example of clear and beautiful game design. In a very compact package it showcases many of the strengths and possibilities of game narrative.

Miguel Sicart is a game studies scholar who has specialized especially on the ethics of digital games. In his article Against Procedurality he raises a point about how important it is to not only understand the rules and systems of a game but the players and the players' playfulness as well.

1) Download Passage for free from the game's website, or get it for your iOS device from the App Store (0,79€). Play the game through, then read Rohrer's statement about the game and play Passage again, or at least reflect what you read against your playing experience.
2) Read Against Procedurality by Miguel Sicart.
3) Write about your experience playing Passage, and about how reading the author statement affected (or did not affect) your interpretation and emotions. Based on your experience with the game, what do you make of Sicart's question: "If rules contain the meaning, what is the need for an author statement?"

Once again, keep your word count somewhere around 500 words (don't worry about going over the limit if you have more to say on the topic, I don't mind), and email your answer to me by 19.11.

Some Notes

A note on Passage. I've yet to hear of any computer unable to play the game. If you, however, have trouble getting it to work, contact me and we can work something out. Also, when playing Passage, keep in mind Rohrer's hint regarding the game:
"General Hint: The game only lasts 5 minutes. If you don't get the point at first, please keep playing."
A note on Against Procedurality. The article focuses a lot on theories of game studies that I am not in any way expecting you to be familiar with. Read Sicart's article for his arguments and the big picture he paints. You don't need to pay attention to the specific theories and details unless you explicitly wish to.

A note on deadlines. Has everyone turned in their assignment from the first week? If you still haven't, please do so as soon as possible. Don't make me start posting deadline-related internet memes, because I totally will.

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