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I’ve been reading Bernard Suits’ “The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia” and will share some of the highlights.

On rules, Suits writes the following:

“Rules in games thus seem to be in some sense inseparable from ends, for to break a game rule is to render impossible the attainment of an end.” (p. 24). And: “I obey the rules just because such obedience is a necessary condition for my engaging in the activity such obedience makes possible.” (p. 31)

Thus, you need to adhere to the rules to be able to play and complete the game. Something that relates to the “lusory attitude” (p. 38) a player has when playing. There are always rules in games, even if they are hidden in agreements over starting times, place and opponent (p. 67). What then, I thought, if the game is as such that you can only win it once you start breaking its rules? I think the definition still holds, because that would imply another rule which states the breaking of the other rules. Indeed, Suits argues that

“it is not these manoeuvres [efforts to mislead in order to gain an advantage] that make the activities in which they occur games; it is the constitutive rules of those games which make these kinds of misdirection the useful manoeuvres that they are.” (p. 152).

Which also says something about the creative interaction that can take place with rules. This is possible because “[g]ame rules are not ultimately binding” (p. 26) and “other rules can always supersede the game rules” (p. 27) or one rule can be placed higher than the other.

A note about the assumption of roles in games is that they should always stay assumed. When the role is adopted as a serious business, the game seizes to be a game (p. 112). A reference to the fact that games are described as being outside everyday life, which Suits touches upon with his term ‘lusory attitude’. A possible outcome of assuming game roles in everyday life could be that the audience is forced to change their behaviour in acting along with the player to not disturb the illusion (p. 124).

This is something that should be remembered when designing urban games that involve the public. An example was the game Snatch Ball that I played at the Cultural Sunday, in which the designers explained a game instance in which one man decided to help the players for a longer period of time, ruining the game premise of persuading by passers in helping you.

This is the day I handed in my master’s thesis for the research master Media and Performance Studies at Utrecht University. It was supervised by dr. Joost Raessens and my second reader was dr. Jami Weinstein. This is the abstract:

“The term virtual is frequently used by game scholars to describe the space presented in computer games. This space is usually typified as unreal and contrasted with unmediated real space. The conception of virtual as fake originates in the popularity of virtual reality technology in the 1980s. There are roughly three descriptions of the virtual in the meaning of unreal: The virtual is seen as an unreal reflection of the real world, as an imitation of it that however much perfected is never the real itself, and as having very real effects.

The dichotomy between virtual and real can be traced in game literature in the conception that game space is a representation of real space. The idea that games could thus be analysed as texts prevailed at the outset of the study of games as an academic subject. However, this perspective was soon criticised by scholars who opted to study games foremost as interactive media. This focus on the interactive element of games led to a growing amount of work on the importance of the body during play and, more recently, to a focus on the role of the player as a performer who actively creates space. Studying game space from these approaches, the opposition of real versus unreal virtual space is no longer of use.

Constructing an alternative terminology of the virtual drawing inspiration from the work of Deleuze, leads to an understanding of games as processes of virtualisation and actualisation that involve affect. This enables an explanation of the reality of game space, accounts for the convergence between player, machine and game and respects the specific characteristics of games. I recommend the use of the new terminology of the virtual that I formulated, to enable a true break from the perspective of games as representations and maps for the approaches of interactivity and embodiment, and to provide a firm ground for the approach of performativity to study the creation of spatial realities in respect to the specificity of the medium.”

Front page of RMA thesis.

A virtual version of the thesis can be found on this blog on the page “Written work” and on the website of my university’s library.

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