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This blog article by accident neatly sums up what I’ve been developing to be a continuation of my master thesis on Deleuze and games. I thought: What if I compare Deleuze’s dynamic conception of the virtual to understand game play and confront it with the rigid framework that rules compose? Would one theory win or can they be combined to form another? Realising the difference between digital and non-digital games, I decided that pervasive games would be a fruitful area to look at to provoke answers.

Almost the same questions and premises are posed in the blog post by augmented reality (AR) research Blair MacIntyre. Only he develops his ideas from the difference between digital and non-digital card games. About the difference between them he states:

“I was thinking about the ways games enforce rules, and how board games and card games are fundamentally different than computer games. With board and card games, rule enforcement is left up to the players; they know the rules, and they abide by them.”

“Computer games, on the other hand, encourage players to do anything the game allows to win. Because the system is closed and the rules are enforced by the computer, finding ways to get around the system is part of the fun for many players.”

Rules as restraining element or as source for inspiration.

Besides the consequences MacIntyre sees for game design, he stresses how the challenging question is to be answered academically. Which is exactly what I was thinking of doing as my new project. Good case of synchronicity apart from the difference in subject between his card games and my pervasive games.

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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