Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now: On Self-Effacing Games and Unachievements

Douglas Wilson

    Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    In this paper, I use a party game that I co-designed, Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now (B.U.T.T.O.N.), as a case study to suggest some alternative possibilities for the design of digitally-mediated play and games. Specifically, I argue that that intentionally “broken” or otherwise incomplete game systems can help nurture a distinctly self-motivated and collaborative form of play. I propose two terms: “unachievements” and “self-effacing games," which help articulate the specific qualities that distinguish broken games like B.U.T.T.O.N. from more traditional digital games. In addition, I situate these games in terms of Henning Eichberg’s concept of the “impossible game” and Bernie DeKoven’s notion of the “Well-Played game.” In drawing our attention not just to players, but also to the relationships between them, Eichberg and DeKoven offer us provocative clues on what it might mean to design for togetherness.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGame Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


    • game design
    • togetherness
    • unachievements
    • achievements
    • cheating
    • physical games
    • indie games
    • folk games
    • broken games
    • design research


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