Thursday, 8 March 2007

Gaming, Pleasure and Pain

Rewards are what people work towards, what they strive to reach: “The result of successful strategy, adding value to the organisation and the individual” (Internet Definition). Within games there are three aesthetic theories of play; reward, flow and iteration. Most games all have an element to them not being enjoyable; there is the prospect of losing, being injured or dying and a lot of repetition. However people still play games to try and reach the goal although it may be slightly repetitive. One reason that keeps people wanting to succeed is that there are many rewards within a game. There is the chance to get new lives, improve to the next level, get bigger and better equipment, enlarge or gain new powers. There are constantly goals to be aiming for, so you keep playing despite the frustration of not succeeding quickly with the intention that there will be another reward soon.

Hallford and Hallford (2002) proposed four different rewards; glory, sustenance, access and facility. Applying each of these four models to games that I have played, a reward of glory can be found in Tetris in which there isn’t much impact but it is still pleasurable trying to calculate a high score and get as many rows as possible. A reward of sustenance can be seen in Doom II as there is a lot of character maintenance having to attack and shoot everything rewards are given such as new lives and armour. A reward of access is evident in ‘Robots’ where you have to go around the city finding diamonds and along the way there are rewards such as medical health, new armour and ammo. Rewards of facility is seen also in Robots as the better you do as you go up in level the robot gains new abilities and has more ammo.

In conclusion, whether it is within computer games or day to day life, humans strive for rewards, as the human brain is wired to seek them. This is why people keep playing games, wanting to succeed for the specific rewards that are there to gain.


Author Unknown (Date Unknown) Rewards, Retrieved on the 5th March 2007 from the World Wide Web.

Further Reading

Cameron, C. (2003)Recognition Without Rewards, Portage and Main Press: London and New York.

Cameron, J. Pierce, D. (1997) Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation, Bergin Gervey: New Jersey.


John Huizinga devised the term ‘homo ludens’ meaning ‘playing human’. He researched into the aesthetics of play and examines the experience and joy received by a player whilst playing a game. In terms of playing games he describes the characteristics as: “Voluntary, outside the ordinary life boundaries, secluded and limited in time and space” (Aycock and Duncan, 1992 p.20). These characteristics can be adapted to relate to all games, for example my group chose to relate ‘Sonic’ to his theory. It is voluntary as I chose to play the game. It was outside ordinary life boundaries as I was running around a maze as a hedgehog trying to find an escape whilst collecting as many gold rings as possible. I was also limited in time and space, as I only had a set time to complete the level and I was secluded to only being able to get through certain ways. He set out to distinguish why people got the pleasure that they do from playing games, and links play with culture: “The play element is then almost completely hidden behind cultural phenomena” (Aycock and Duncan, 1992 p.20). Implicating that games are a lot more popular due to them being popular culturally and therefore bring social groups together.

Huizinga came up with the notion of a ‘magic circle’ as it is outside the boundaries of ordinary life with fixed boundaries of time, space and rules. He split games into two categories whether they were physical or psychological and when you play a game you enter into the magic circle. Interestingly, he believes that within the magic circle, whilst playing a game you cross a boundary, whereas Wittgenstein believed that when playing games there are no boundaries. Within the magic circle you are safe and convert into a new magical world where you have no limits on what you are able to do. I played on a ‘Wii’ on a Tennis game and crossed into the magic circle as psychologically I thought I was actually playing tennis, and was physically swinging for the ball.

Another aspect of playing games is making the change into a ‘lusory attitude’: “The lusory attitude to be one of accepting the rules because they make the game possible.” (Suits, 2005 p.15) This is seen as a contract between the players, so they are both within the circle together and therefore able to enjoy the game. Whilst playing Tomb Raider I played against an opponent and therefore made the exchange into a lusory attitude by accepting the rules and therefore converted into the magic circle of being able to step outside the boundaries of ordinary life, fighting new found enemies, and it being acceptable by changing my frame of mind.


Aycock, M. Duncan G. (1992) Diversions and Divergences in field of play, Praeger: Greenwood.
Suits, B. (2005) The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia, Broadview Press: London.

Further Reading

Salen, K. Zimmerman, E. (2003) Rules of Play, MIT Press: London and New York.

Ban These Evil Games

Rhetoric refers to persuasive language, the art or study of using language effectively and persuasively (Dictionary Website). Rhetoric is more than just language; it can be verbal, visual, behavioural and written. Within most games the background music plays a key role: “The tempo increases as the computer plays more and more games faster and faster.” (Mannix, 1992 p.68) This demonstrates that there are many factors that make up the rhetoric within the game not just the language used. The clothes and behaviour of the characters also play a key role.

Many games released are seen as very controversial, as they contain a lot of violence and swearing. There have been many games that people have tried to get banned. Manhunt, released in 2003 by Rockstar for example caused huge controversy. In February 2004 Warren Leblanc killed his friend Stefan Pakeerah in a park, the victims parents believe that it happened due to Manhunt. The Daily Mail reported this claim and due to the negative publicity many games stores withdrew the game from the shelves. However, due to the media hype surrounding the story the game then became more sought after and ended up being put on sale for £100. Rhetoric can be related to Manhunt as after watching the trailer it is evident to see the message that it is conveying, that it is acceptable to kill. Not only as a player do you have to kill as part of the mission, the deaths are extremely brutal. Games can often be seen to promote brutality and disagreement within friends, and is seen by some that there are not many benefits of playing games.

Nonetheless, games can also be seen to have positive rhetoric. I played a game called ‘Buzz’ with a group of friends. Rhetoric can be related to it as there is a male host who speaks in a light hearted comedic way talking the players through each level. Visually it was bright and colourful giving a fun feel to the game, and is just played to have fun rather than to relieve stress or have any form of violence. This shows that not all games have a negative rhetoric, however through the media they are the only games that we hear about more due to the controversy.


Mannix, P. (1992) The Rhetoric of Anti Nuclear Fiction: Persuasion Strategies, Lewisburg, Bucknell University Press: London and Toronto.

Unknown Author (Unknown Date) Rhetoric, Retrieved on the 28th February from the World Wide Web.

Further Reading

Koch, E. (1998) Pascal and Rhetoric: Figural and Persuasive Language, Rookwood Press: Charlottesville.

What Are Games? (Wittgenstein)

There are many perceptions of what a ‘game’ is. It can be something played as a social activity, for satisfaction, a challenge against others or can be used within an educational process.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher of the 20th century makes the observation that games don’t share all of the same features; however do all have an association with each other. Whilst playing ‘Deal or No Deal’ with my family and then playing ‘Tomb Raider’ I noticed definite similarities. Both games had a competitive drive to win and to succeed, as Tomb Raider was testing skill and Deal or No Deal tested knowledge, both were highly competitive. I found that greater challenge within a game arouses more pleasure for the player, as according to King and Krzywinska: “A higher quotient of pleasure might result when more work has been required for more difficult success to be achieved.” (Myers, 2006p.151). This demonstrates that the harder the game, the more the player is eager to succeed.

He also thought that a game is like a rope, a rope having many fibres and not just one single thread. He concluded that a game is like this as it has many different components, for example within Tomb Raider there were many different routes that could be taken each one ending in a different result, with the correct route gelling all of the fibres together. He believes that the concept of a game has many blurred edges, he states that: “The rules of chess determine the possible moves of a chess piece.” (Baker and Hacker 2005, p.48). This demonstrates that to each different game there are specific rules to follow, which determine how a game is played.

He considers that there are no boundaries to a game, as there are many different types of games which all have several different goals. Applying Wittgenstein’s theory to games I have played, Tomb Raider has many different threads and obstacles to it. Whereas Deal or No Deal only has a limited amount of threads which make up the game, you either win or lose. However in Tomb Raider you are given lives and chances to revive back to the game. Samorost 2 is also a good example highlighting that games have blurred edges as it takes you into a surreal, inhuman galaxy, leaving the player many options and allows them to decode the hidden choices given. Therefore I believe that Wittgenstein is correct in his findings as at first glance all games are slightly different, but when looking closer it is evident that they follow the same motives.


Baker, G. Hacker, P. (2005) Wittgenstein: Understanding and Meaning, Blackwell: London.

King, G. Krzywinska, T. (2006) Tomb Raiders and Space Invaders, I. B. Tauris: London and New York.

Further Reading

Author Unknown. (Date unknown) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 27th February.