Playing a video game

What happens when I play a game? What mode of practice do I switch into as I try to play through a game like Rock Band or Civ IV? When I get home from work and choose to play a video game I am going to have to engage and think my way through the game to win, or progress in it. Clearly spending an hour or so a night playing a game means I have some deep motivation in doing this. I’m willing to learn the rules, grind through aspects of the game play because there’s a purpose or goal in the game which matters to me. I am fully engaged in the moment of the game in ways that only playing something you like can really deliver. The game is testing and challenging my problem-solving, I’m exploring the environment of the game and processing the knowledge that it present me so I can figure out how the game works and how I can progress through it. Jenkins (et al) argues that there is a type of scientific process in the act of gaming:

“Games follow something akin to the scientific process. Players are asked to make their own discoveries and then apply what they learn to new contexts. No sooner does a player enter a game than he or she begins by identifying core conditions and looking for problems that must be addressed. On the basis of the available information, the player poses a certain hypothesis about how the world works and the best ways of bringing its properties under their control. The player tests and refines that hypothesis through actions in the game, which either fail or succeed. The player refines the model of the world as he or she goes. More sophisticated games allow the person to do something more, to experiment with the properties of the world, framing new possibilities, which involves manipulating relevant variables and seeing what happens. Meta-gaming, the discourse that surrounds games, provides a context for players to reflect on and articulate what they have learned through the game.” (Jenkins etal 24)

I think this is a great overview of the value of looking at the practice which happens as people game. Seeing it as having a real value, rather than justifying games through using them as a tool to learn about something else. Here the process of gaming itself has value and significance.


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