Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spontaneous play

In our chat earlier this week, my respondent made the distinction between spontaneous play as being social and intentional play as being directed and planned. Intentional play can be social in that friends decide to play together, but the nature of spontaneous play is more likely to arise from social interactions. This set me thinking about the nature of social play - is spontaneity more likely to occur or emerge as a result of the social interactions? Later, when I chatted with my respondent off the record, he noted that spontaneous play can most definitely emerge from planned play.

This reminds of me of Juul (2002), who identifies two basic game structures - emergence and progression. Games of emergence are based on simple rules and result in multiple variations that players can work with. Juul (2002) characterizes emergence in games as a result of rule interactions (i.e. A happens as a result of rule B), combination of rules and strategies that arise which are not immediately predictable from the game rules. Games of progression on the other hand, offer more control to designers in that players must proceed within a predefined framework in order to complete the game. Even as players proceed within a predefined framework or choose actions derived from simple rules, it is highly unlikely that designers can completely control players’ actions. This is especially pertinent given that players are able to modify both non-digital (i.e. board games) and digital games in many ways. In the former, players can change the rules of the game whereas in the latter, players create modifications to the software or hardware to execute functions that were not conceived by the original designers. While modifications are made by individuals, the changes to the rules impact normative structures and other social interactions, underscoring the social and communicative nature of games. While the description of play in my interview centered around types of play (e.g. spontaneous versus planned), it provided really useful insights into the changing nature of play - a theme that we have been encountering time and again.

This is of great interest to me given my design tendencies - what kinds of play would emerge from designed play? How would it align itself to the designed objective and how would players make sense of the discrepancies (if any) that may arise? Can we as designers create environments that might predict these sorts of emergent play?

1 comment:

  1. And where do "games with rules" fit. For e.g., many games that are played, for instance, most board games or card games are 'games with rules' and thus intentional, yet a social contract exists in most games allowing for 'fun' and spontaneity to occur. Consider, my family and I may engage in a game of Monopoly, and together, and after getting silly, change the rules regarding hotels and properties and add improvements like hot tubs, swimming pools, cabana boys, etc...Just having fun BUT remaining in the framework INTENDED. I'm thinking rigid labels are just not helpful, except in providing ways to stimulate thinking, perhaps.