Mary Flanagan – Critical Play, Radical Game Design

Mary Flanagan - Critical Play

The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262062688, USA, 2009, English
After a few years of serious and prolific videogame studies, fed by the industry boom, the research is starting to focus on reconnecting with the history of games through strong links that would help to understand and expand videogame paradigms. In this articulate book Flanagan starts with a major study on dollhouses and board games, showing how they have reflected their societies in very different eras, through their design and gameplay. The essential social role of playing is then analyzed from the perspective of a few avant garde movements that were able to significantly experiment with the new concept of (art) games. The Surrealist first and then the plethora of critical games created by the galaxy of Fluxus artists, involving quite different genres (from board to word games, for example) lead to the Situationists theory of gameplay. This theory seems to be one of the ancestors and sources of inspiration for the vast amount of mobile and locative games played in the streets, part of both the ludic psychogeography and the commercial “alternate reality game” scene. Flanagan’s analysis intuitively considers games as a sort of “social technology”, conceived to enable communication and interaction among persons – developing, refining and testing how we relate to each other. The last couple of chapters centre on videogames, with a series of examples meant to be representative but not comprehensive about critical videogame artworks, offering, then, another cornerstone of videogame studies.