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Useful, joyful, willful: thinking about types of play
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies.
2014 (English)In: First Person ScholarArticle in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper I outline three perspectives that emphasize different characters of play: useful; joyful; and willful play. I further argue that designing for willfulness (e.g. rule-bending) will allow players to become game-changers rather than being played.

Generally speaking, computer games have created new arenas for play in several senses. Massive multiplayer online games have spurred, amongst other things, particular forms of social interaction and behavior; mobile and casual gaming has generated new breeds of gamers; the fundamentally code-based underpinnings of computer games make hacks and modifications possible; and grand ambitions of gamification, supported by digitization, even aims to turn ‘anything and everything’ into a race for points and badges. Instead of clearly situating itself within one particular practice, this paper will take an overarching perspective on play. It will go on to propose three perspectives that, in the light of processes such as the increasing specialization, quantification and rationalization of play, emphasize different characters of play. Useful play has connotations relating to instrumental, worthwhile and advantageous activities. Joyful play is perhaps most connected to the prototypical notion of play, as something different from work, done for the fun of it. Willful play conceptualizes play as a deliberate creation/visualization of problems and problematizations through games. These perspectives may, of course, overlap in actual practice, but as analytical tools they illuminate, what we may call, different characters of play. Out of these three characters of play, this paper will devote the most attention to willful play, as it is in that character where subversion, reconfiguration and opposition is most visibly performed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Waterloo: The Games Institute, Universty of Waterloo , 2014.
Keyword [en]
computer games, norm critical, queer theory, design
National Category
Media Studies
Research subject
Media and Communication Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-103411OAI: diva2:717354
Available from: 2014-05-14 Created: 2014-05-14 Last updated: 2015-12-09Bibliographically approved

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Skågeby, Jörgen
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