Defining Play

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Re: Describe your previous understanding of “play,” one game from this semester, and how that game effected your understanding of play.

Before this semester, my definition of play as it pertained to videogames would have been centered on interacting with a game in a way that is fun. Also, playing would have at least required some kind of visual graphics besides text to interact with, and in most cases the ability to have some control over your success or failure in accomplishing whatever goals the game might have.

Queers In Love At The End of The World is a text-based game. The game consists of a black screen with off-white text describing romantic and/or sexual situations between “you,” the player/character, and another person, as a seemingly-world ending event approaches. There are clickable options in blue text, allowing you to choose which action to take, and in turn, which text (if any) will arrive on screen next. The entire game is only ten seconds long. There is a timer on the left hand side of the screen counting down as you read, click, or await the 0, and once the timer runs out, the current screen disappears and is replaced with the text “Everything is wiped away,” and the game ends. It does not matter what you have done or read, the ending is the same every time.

The ending of this game contradicts my sense of what constitutes play. The fact that it never changes, regardless of the player’s choices, makes the game feel futile and out of your control in a way that I did not previously associate with playing. I think this moment of seeing “Everything is wiped away,” and having no further moves to make in that playthrough helps define what “play” is in this game, because it shifts the focus to only the actions themselves, rather than on actions and their consequences, which is a different perspective than I originally had. Finally, the phrase is bleak and disrupts my expectation of finding fun in gameplay, and forces me to reconsider the necessity of fun for playing, or at least the way in which I create fun while playing. As a result, this game broadened my definition of play to include interactive experiences where your fate is already decided before you act, and games that focus on darker subjects.

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