What exactly does it mean to beat a game? You can’t have a meaningful contest against an inert digital artefact. From the game’s point of view, you did not beat it. On the contrary, you did exactly what the game wanted you to do, every step of the way. You didn’t play the game, you performed the operations it demanded of you, like an obedient employee.
Steven Poole, “Working for the Man: Against the Employment Paradigm in Videogames”
Steven Poole made some very interesting observations about how deeply playing videogames resembles work in his keynote presentation at the F.R.O.G. conference in Vienna, last October. Observations that brough to mind my own “Of cogs and machines” post, where I approach a similar subject from my perspective as designer and use some eerily similar metaphors.
[…] obediently following a game’s narrative or challenge-reward structure is nothing but work. Only when the player does something that isn’t mandated by the system can she be said to be playing.
He goes on to quote Horkheimer and Adorno as visionary prophets of our dystopian industrialized present and makes an interesting analogy with the Slow Food movement that states:
The culture of our times rests on a false interpretation of industrial civilisation; in the name of dynamism and acceleration, man invents machines to find relief from work but at the same time adopts the machine as a model of how to live his life.
Inspired by this challenge, Mr. Poole imagines a “new videogaming manifesto”:
It would speak of games where you really could choose your own adventure, but also where, if you preferred, you could just take time to smell the coffee, with no shadowy boss figure watching your clock and tapping his foot. It would be called Slow Gaming. Gamers of the world unite: you have nothing to lose but your boring virtual jobs.