Sunday, February 6, 2011

Power-Play: Where Play Ends and Work Begins

Hello, people! I’m Joy Powell, a gamer made desperate by her isolation from consoles; my brother had “inherited” (‘cough,’ stolen) my PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii consoles when I left for college, leaving online gaming and the occasional venture to a console-bearing friend as my sole outlets. However, this attitude I’ve taken towards gaming since starting college brings up a point that Huizinga brings in his "Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon:” play serves only its own purpose, but in that loose description can serve infinite purposes.  Play’s only seeming boundaries are that it is voluntary and that it has no rules, otherwise it becomes a structured game or a job if play is forced. This makes me question the true purpose of video games in the environments of conventions and tournaments.

Conventions, particularly those delving into fandoms such as video games, comics, and anime, tend to be both the most expensive and simultaneously most lucrative exploits of producer and developer companies. They use the tantalization and allure of yet-to-be-seen demos and games to bring in their fans with expendable incomes; onsite interactive displays and competitions encourage fans to get a taste and (hopefully) get hooked on their latest releases. Entire floors are sectioned off for card game tournies and MMORPG arenas as they are displayed on massive screens for onlookers to see and envy. So much planning, production, and organization is put into these for the fans that it leaves one questioning if there is any play truly to be had in such a strict, organized environment.

One could argue that it is the fans, the players themselves that determine this distinction, but it only brings up more problems. People often go to these cons with their main goal being to explore, discover, and try out any and all available games; more still go to play in competitive tournaments focusing not on the act of play but for competition and even prizes. I’m not saying that play is impossible within the confines of a tournament, but it is difficult to discern where play begins and work/games ends with the set-up and rules implemented. 

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