The paper explores the recent growth in critical gameplay, an application of critical design to the production of computer games. Critical gameplay games demonstrate alternative gameplay models. They reveal assumptions about the ways in which we play, offering new experiences by reflecting on the old ways of playing. Such games include the Lindsay Grace’s Critical Gameplay collection, Awkward silence game’s One Chance, Zach Gauge’s Lose/Lose and others.
Where the affirmation design of industry standards seeks to expand through increasingly deep exploration of shallow mechanics, Critical gameplay seeks to expand through the shallow exploration of deeper mechanics. It is not a matter of improving the way we shoot or jump, but instead asking if there are more meaningful actions that we can afford players. Perhaps it is the opportunity to undo our biggest mistakes as in Healer, or to help us understand that in life, there really is but, One Chance.
Instead of imparting values or delivering allegory, these games impart new ideas through their game verbs or rules. Sometimes they comically remind us that walking on a sword is dangerous, instead of a mechanic for collection. Others are serious, costing us the contents of our Hard Drive (Lose/Lose), or leaving us with the guilt of all the virtual people we’ve killed (Bang!).
These games reflect an art practice that is both intellectual and visceral. It serves as an experiment, eliciting player response and seeking to understand why these alternative ways to play had not been demonstrated previously. Each of the games pursues a single hypothesis with resolved specificity. The games ask questions about player values, gameplay heuristics and how we find entertainment. It recognizes the democracy of play, understanding that people not only like to play differently, but that they playing differently expand the potential of games as expressive entertainment.
- Lindsay Grace is a professor, game designer, programmer, artist and writer. Lindsay is the Armstrong Professor of Fine Arts within Miami University’s Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies and the School of Fine Arts. His research areas include game design, human-computer interaction, critical gameplay, and web design. He also writes about design and education. Lindsay has served industry as an independent consultant, web designer, software developer, entrepreneur, business analyst and writer. Lindsay’s creative practice is focused on ?uses of interactive media to explore cultural standards. Extending the foundations of human computer interaction, play design and design anthropology, the work explores the ignored. This work is computer game, ?gallery art, animation, sculpture or some interdisciplinary amalgamation. Lindsay’s work primarily pursues educational experiences and editorial critique of the social relationship between computers, humans and each other. Lindsay has taught games, interaction design, and writing at the college level for more than 7 years. He is an alumnus the Electronic Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois and holds two degrees from Northwestern University. Lindsay’s new media work has been exhibited internationally in a variety of venues. professorgrace.com
Full text (PDF) p. 1021-1026