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Critical Gameplay – Design Techniques and Case Studies

Grace, L. (2010) Critical Gameplay – Design Techniques and Case Studies in: ed. Gibson, D. & Schrier K. Designing Games for Ethics: Models, Techniques and Frameworks Information Sciences Reference Hershey PA pp. 128-141

This chapter by Grace explores how critical gameplay can help to explore ethics for the player; drawing on a number of case examples, Grace’s approach is proceduralist and outlines how the designer as game author inscribes the game with values to communicate to the player.

Useful quotes
“Taking the notion that, design is reflection of designer values, this chapter outlines methodologies for exposing the intrinsic values in play and creating gameplay models from alternative ethics and values.” (p 128)

“critical gamelpay is created by observing a set of standard assumptions, deconstructing the assumptions in that standard, and reorienting that set of assumptions through the production of an alternate model of play.” (p 128)

” game design can benefit from the understanding and acceptance that games are not merely a reflection of social values, but they actually prescribe models of ethics (Barr, Noble, & Biddle, 2007).” (p 129)

“The first step in critical gameplay design is observation. These observations are lead by asking critical questions. Critical questions are not difficult to formulate. They are constructed by looking past assumption toward the logical trajectory of the game as a medium. They begin by asking how games function. What types of order are employed or even enforced?” (p 130)

“These objects serve as artifacts of critical questions about social interactions.” (p 130)

“In terms of game design, critical cartography demonstrates how slight changes in a designer’s value system project themselves into finished products.” (p 131)

“Adapting the play centric techniques of Tracy Fullerton (Fullerton, 2008), you begin to also unearth the primary perspective of gameplay. It is intrinsically, player focused. The verbs in games are primarily focus on the player as a singular, world-centric concept.” (p 132)

“Consider how few games ever retreat from this fundamental value. In discussing this observation of games, you will even find that some consider it an unfair criticism. The claim reads that as a person in the world, I, the player, have always understood the world from my own perspective and through my own senses. The world is necessarily player-centric, because we are simulating the universal experience of being.” (p 133)

“the critical questions arise from following the line of logic that defined the convention.” (p 133)

“The un-initiated player is a wonderful resource for identifying ethics creep. Those players who are unfamiliar with the standards of gameplay, although often dismissed, are sometimes touchstones for the transparent values in games.” (p 136)

Further Reading
Barr, P., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2007). Video game values: Human–computer interaction and games . HCI Issues in Computer Games , 180- 195.

Bogost, I. (2009, June 30). Persuasive Games: Gestures as Meaning. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from Gamasutra:

Mary, F., & Anna, L. (2009). Anxiety, Openness, and Activist Games:A Case Study for Critical Play. Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory . London: Digital Games Research Association.

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