17-04-2014 mag 8 /

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#8 The Age of Play: Editorial

Abstract: 

This volume presents an EBOOK with a compilation of the best and most innovative research papers written during the MA courses 'Game Studies' and 'Software Studies'.

The Ludic Century is an era of games. When information is put at play, game-like experiences replace linear media. Media and culture in the Ludic Century is increasingly systemic, modular, customizable, and participatory. Games embody all of these characteristics in a very direct sense.
Increasingly, the ways that people spend their leisure time and consume art, design, and entertainment will be games - or experiences very much like games.

(Zimmerman 2013).

In September 2013, influential game designer Eric Zimmerman wrote his manifesto about the so-called Ludic Century. In it, he heralds the coming of a playful century where everything is defined by games. Games and play will become omnipresent, noticeable in every corner of society. In this edition of the New Media Studies Magazine, we have moved from visual culture to playful culture. In this edition, we would like to introduce you to the broad field of play.
As Zimmerman argues, play is everywhere. From serious games in health care to gamification in business. Even politics is undergoing a ludic turn. Play isn’t only connected to games, and in this edition of the magazine, we would like to play the game of play with you. As you read this magazine, with every chapter, a next level is achieved. Every level of this magazine of play provides you with a new angle, a new perspective on games and play, unlocking more knowledge as you read.

The papers presented in this magazine, are selected from two courses of the New Media and Digital Culture master’s program. Most papers have been selected from the Game Studies course by Joost Raessens, but you will also find papers selected from the Software Studies course, given by Ann- Sophie Lehmann. By not only selecting papers from the Game Studies course, we can show you how the concept of play has already found itself in different academic areas.
Level 1 is where we start with a common concept of play; a game. In this case, Lara Coomans talks about the videogame Minecraft. The game however, is discussed from a software studies perspective. This means that in level one, Lara plays with the idea that the non-photorealistic visuals of the game and the underlying techniques to create these visuals, afford creative play, which is the key feature of this incredibly successful game.
Moving on to level 2, we find ourselves in another level of visuals, the world of the Oculus Rift. By looking at game design, game development as well as technical game research, Menno provides us with a realistic image of the Oculus Rift and the possibilities of future gaming. As we have now achieved more technological knowledge in the gaming field, and having looked at games from a more software studies perspective, it is time to move on to another level. From here on, we look at subjects through the lens of game and play.
In level 3, Antje Ziska focuses on the subject of identity. Tapping into the works of Jos de Mul, she adds to the discourse of ludic identity: the idea that we construct our identities in interaction with game content. In her article, Antje describes how playing The Sims may construct the players identity, and how in turn The Sims is a ludic reflection of the player’s own identity. As we find ourselves in the realms of identity, we move on to level 4.
Here, Mara Vandorou also taps into the idea of identity construction through playing games, but approaches it from an entirely different angle. As you might have thought you had unlocked the level of identity, level 4 is here to change that. In her article Mara focuses on the aspect of education and shows how epistemic games can help construct a professional identity of our current young digital natives.
Related to applied gaming such as epistemic games, is level 5, where we move on to the so-called exergames. Critically discussing theories of Ian Bogost, Emma slays the zombies of level 5, and runs with the idea that narratives can be used as a rhetoric tool to get people to exercise with games.
Leaving zombies behind, we will now portal to level 6. Here, Kevin Willemsen enters the world of politics from a playful angle. Moreover, Kevin argues how we need gamification to understand the complex systems we find in politics.
Where Kevin has helped us unlock the understanding of gamification, in level 7, Ben Borrow critically discusses this idea, and how it has been implemented in, for example, marketing. In level 7 we burst myths and provide tools for the future of gamification. We have unlocked level 1 through 7 as we enter yet another world we can see through the lens of play.
In level 8, Stephanie de Smale brings us back to the manifesto of Eric Zimmerman, as she shows us how the hacking of and tinkering with a 3D printer is part of a tension towards a ludification of culture.

What all the articles have in common, is that they show how the concept of play opens up a variety of subjects and research fields to be discovered in a new light; that of play. This magazine shows how hacking, politics, health, education, visuals and identity can all be discussed through play. Research on Games and Play is an emerging academic field, which means there is not yet a lot of focus on studying these phenomena in varying disciplines such as humanities, social science or computer science. There is good news though, as Utrecht University is organizing an interdisciplinary Summer School on Games and Play research! More on this later in the minigame in this issue.

As you have opened this e-book in front of your screen, we want you to come and play. Play with the academic ideas and questions that are posed within the articles. Join the players that have written the articles in battle, and reach the next level with every chapter. Unlocking the field of play along the way.

Works cited

Zimmerman, Eric. “Manifesto for a Ludic Century”. In Steffen P. Walz & Sebastian Deterding (eds.): The Gameful World: Approaches, Issues, Applications. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, to appear 2014. http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/Manifesto_for_a_Ludic_Century.pdf