Seductive play in digital games

Ida Kathrine Hammeleff Jørgensen

Publikation: Konferencebidrag - EJ publiceret i proceeding eller tidsskriftKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review


A prevailing understanding of how games convey meaning relates to the idea of games as rule-based systems as expressed by Juul (2005) “A game is a rule-based system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values(…)". This understanding of games highlights formal aspects of a game, such as the rules or the mechanics, as the game elements that describe what the player can do in the game and how. These formal aspects thus become the meaning-carriers that shapes the game-play by giving the player information about how she can interact with the game significantly i.e. in a meaningful way within those conditions for play defined by the game (What Leino (2009) calls the gameplay condition).

But how then, do we approach games that does not have any rules or mechanics that informs the player about what to do and where the players actions does not have any significance to the outcome of the game. I don’t even game (Polac, 2010) is one such game. I don’t even game lacks any clear rules that allow the player to make sense of the game. The game can be condensed into the following opening statement of the game: "Hai plz. this game has no instructions. plz go right. plz". Moving to the right is the only mechanic in the game, and thus the only element that informs the player about what to do, which becomes clear as the game only responds when the player presses the right-key. Besides this, it is not clear whether almost any other tasks performed by the player in this game have a meaningful relation to the outcome of the game. In this sense I don’t even game is a meaningless game.

This paper introduces Baudrillard’s concept of seduction as a way to understand this meaningless game-play that this game affords.

Baudrillard’s idea of seduction is based on what he identifies as a void between the use value and the sign value of an object in Marxist terms and between the sign and its referent in semiotic terms, and furthermore appears as a critique of the psychoanalysis idea of ‘peeling the onion’ to unravel the real meaning (1990 [1979]), p. 53). To Baudrillard seduction is meaningless because it is nothing but appearances – a sign without reference.

In his conceptualization of seduction Baudrillard draws heavily upon Huizinga’s (1950) and Callois’ (1961) theory of play. To Baudrillard play is the mode of the seductive. But in contrast to both Callois and Huizinga, Baudrillard’s idea of play is essentially meaningless from a semiotic perspective since it consists only of signs that does not refer to anything. Play thus points to nothing but itself. Furthermore play is also infinite and not confined to a certain ludic space, as Galloway (2007) points out.

The concept of seduction offers an interesting framework for a poststructuralist analysis of play because it allows for a reading of game-play that is characterized more by indecisive and elusive negotiations between player and game than it is governed by structured and distinct rules or mechanics that convey meaningful play.

It is important here to point towards Baudrillard’s distinction between rules and the law. Rules are upheld by a pact between seducer and seduced or between player and game whereas the law relies on an idea of an end that can be transgressed. Rules on the other hand cannot be transgressed they can only be observed. If a player fails to observe the rules the pact between the player and the game is void and no game takes place (Baudrillard, 1990 [1979], p 140). This is in stark contrast to Sicart’s description of the rules of digital games as non-negotiable and ultimately upheld by the computer (Sicart, 2009, p. 27). This paper argues that this is exactly what distinguishes a game like I don't even game from more conventional digital games. I don't even game is completely empty of significance, and there are no non-negotiable rules governed by the system. As such the game only exists if the player observes the interaction with the game as play.

This paper offers a close study of I don’t even game (Polac, 2010) among other games and discusses the games with Baudrillard’s concept of seduction as point of departure. The games will be studied as played from a critical first-person perspective as suggested by Leino (2010). The paper introduces the idea of seductive game-play as a way to understand and describe the peculiar and meaningless game-play I don't even game affords. Finally the paper offers a discussion of the relevance and validity of the concept of Seduction in digital games in general.

Suggested bibliography:

Baudrillard. J. (1990 [1979]). Seduction. Montreal: New World Perspectives

Callois. R. (2001 [1961]). Man, Play and Games. Urbana: University of Illinois Press

Consalvo. M. (2007). Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames, Cambridge MA: The MIT Press

Galloway. A. (2007). “Radical Illusion (A Game Against)”. Games and Culture 2007; 2

Juul. J. (2005). Half-real. Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

Leino. O. (2009). “Understanding Games as Played: Sketch for a first-person perspective for computer game analysis” The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, Oslo

Leino. O. 2012. “Untangling Gameplay: An Account of Experience, Activity and Materiality Within Computer Game Play” In: Sageng, J.R., Fossheim, H., Larsen T.M. (eds) The Philosophy of Computer Games, Springer

Sicart. M. (2009). The Ethics of Computer Games. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press

Sicart. M. (2011).”Against Procedurality”. Game Studies, 11 (3)
StatusUdgivet - 2015
BegivenhedPhilosophy of Computer Games Conference 2015: Meaning and Computer Games - Berlin, Tyskland
Varighed: 14 okt. 201517 okt. 2015


KonferencePhilosophy of Computer Games Conference 2015


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