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I Fought the Law: Transgressive Play and The Implied Player

Aarseth, E., (2007) I Fought the Law: Transgressive Play and The Implied Player in DiGRA ’07 – Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play pp. 130-133 The University of Tokyo, [September, 2007]

This paper addresses the role of the player in producing the experience of narrative or play. Aaresth outlines the importance of the player experience of the text, and that the game may be designed to be experienced in a certain way; but the unfolding of the text, by the player, creates new undesigned encounters for the player. The paper outlines and maps the splits in game studies between different disciplines, focusing on the different methods of game analysis between Humanities and Social Sciences.

Aarseth draws on his previous writing, and that of Wolfgang Iser and Umberto Eco to outline the “ideal player” for a game, which is implied by the games text. The ideal player is implied by the games interface, avatar, and interaction design.

There is a focus, early in the paper on how the role of the player is formed and how a person becomes a player. This section may hold some important points about ACI as Aarseth emphasises the importance of instructing the player as part of the induction process (p 130).

Useful quotes
“A generic player is an unthinkable, not merely ahistorical, figure. Games, on the other hand, can exist without actual, current players, as material and conceptual game objects (“texts”).” (p 130)

“The potential player, before becoming an actual player, must receive some instructions, either from the game itself, or from a guide or accompanying material. Thus, the player is created, by these instructions, and by his or her initial learning experience. In many cases, this experience is social, and the player learns from other, more experienced players. But this is far from always the case, especially with singleplayer games.” (p 130)

“By accepting to play, the player subjects herself to the rules and structures of the game and this defines the player: a person subjected to a rule-based system; no longer a complete, free subject with the power to decide what to do next.” (p 130)

“Smith outlines four main approaches: 1) the susceptible player model (from effects research), the Selective Player Model (from media studies), 3) the active player model (from computer game studies) and 4) the Rational player model (from game design and economic game theory).” (p 131)

“For the humanist, the player is a function of the game, a slot in a game machine that can be filled by any rational, critical, informed person – a model reader, in Umberto Eco’s terms[3]. For the sociologist or ethnographer, the player is an actual, historical person, or better, persons.” (p 131)

“By positioning the ideal reader as a function of the text, the humanist is trying to exclude himself from the interpretation, while acknowledging that this is impossible” (p 132)

“The implied player, then, can be seen as a role made for the player by the game, a set of expectations that the player must fulfill for the game to “exercise its effect'” (p 132)

“The game houses expectations for a player’s behavior, which is supported by an interface, and represented in-game by an avatar (but not the latter in all games). Even more than the implied reader, the implied player has a concrete, material existence, because the game will not be realized unless some mechanism allows player input” (p 132)

Further reading
Smith, J. H., (2006). Plans And Purposes: How Videogame Goals Shape Player Behaviour. PhD dissertation. IT University of Copenhagen.

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