Thomas Malaby has been writing more on games over at Terra Nova – Against Exceptionalism: A New Approach to Games is his latest treatise on the way games scholarship is conducted and he asserts that there are some fundamental mistakes being made.
Malaby in Stopping Play: A New Approach to Games suggests a new framework for examining games:
If we are ever going to be able to ferret out what is powerful and important about games, we must work from an approach that: (1) sees them as never fully separable from other aspects of experience, (2) recognizes what is at stake in them (they are never entirely “consequence-free”), and (3) avoids normative, culturally-located assumptions (about “pleasure” or “fun”). In short, this approach must see games as processual — like everyday life, they
are open-ended sites for social practice.
All games, I argue, include the incorporation of one or more sources of contingency (the paper identifies four: stochastic, social, performative, and semiotic), carefully calibrated (by design or cultural practices) to create a compelling experience. This is the first aspect of games. The second aspect of games is their capacity to generate meaning. The outcomes that games generate (never perfectly predictable) are subject to interpretations by which more or less stable culturally-shared meanings are generated; the key point about this generation of meaning is that it also is open-ended, potentially
transformed by the unfolding of the game itself.
This is important to the work of educational games developers. So many educational games seem to suffer from the seperation aspect that Malaby discusses – that is they are deemed to be disconnected from “real-life” experiences… when in fact that are another aspect of experience. The capacity for games to generate meaning is a significant claim in my approach to developing experiences that are mediated by the principles of drama as pedagogy, the motivational aspects of computer gaming and the relative ubiquity of access to online environments – I tend towards the belief that it is possible to generate a satisfying learning experience that can address the institutional demands made of Drama teachers in schools.
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