Audiences & Experiences Week #1

For Week 1, I was tasked with core reading which included the works of:

  • Extract from “Homo Ludens” by J Huizinga (Pages 1–27)
  • Eric Zimmerman’s article “Jerked Around by the Magic Circle — Clearing the Air Ten Years Later
  • Chapter 1 from “Video Game Spaces: Image, Play and Structure in 3D World” by Michael Nitsche

To correspond with the readings, I was additionally tasked with exploring the definition of “game spaces” within different titles such as Marie’s Room.

Homo Ludens

Within Homo Ludens, Huizinga explores the concept and meaning behind the term “play” such as in the context of what it means to play, the spaces in which play occurs and the rules associated with it.

The main points proposed are:

  • Play is an act occurring outside of normality and associated with not being serious
  • Play is performed for no material interest; one cannot profit from play
  • Play requires a sense of order which can be accompanied by rules such as actions must be performed in a sequential order or carried out in a pre-determined space (e.g. board game)
  • Play should be fun! It derives from instinct as witnessed within children and dogs etc. It was invented long before humans came about as animals have the impulse to play.
  • Play should be a voluntary task that differs from one’s normal working patterns; it is not a chore, nor should it contribute anything of substance

An unanswered question later proposed by Huizinga asks, “Can religious ceremonies and theatre performances be counted as play?”. He argues that as they follow the rules of the magic circle by taking place in a specific space which sets its own pre-determined rules they can be considered this way. However, a lot of expertise and seriousness goes into both which contradicts one of the earlier points.

This directly links to the concept of the “Magic Circle” in which play takes place within an enclosed setting which specifics a set of rules that one must follow in order to particpate. An example is a game of hopscotch in which the game takes place within the squares and the rules do not apply outside of these boundaries.

Jerked Around by the Magic Circle — Clearing the Air Ten Years Later

Within the article by Eric Zimmerman, he questions the importance of the Magic Circle concept and whether it should be accepted as law, especially within video games. This was due to the rise in people seeming to attack the idea and wanted someone to blame for its design. Despite being one of the creators of the idea, he appears to dismiss it completely and it could be said that he is ashamed of it as he had no idea how it would evolve over time.

Video Game Spaces: Image, Play and Structure in 3D World

Within Chapter one, Michael Nitsche defines the five main spaces as:

  • Rule-Based Space — consists of the mathematical set rules such as physics, sounds, AI and game architecture etc.
  • Mediated Space — can be defined as the presented image and use of the imagery
  • Fictional Space — the space imagined by the player based on their perception of the available imagery
  • Play Space — space in which play takes place which includes how the player controls the actions and the hardware
  • Social Space — interaction with others, predominantly within multiplayer games, which in turn, affects the game space

These co-exist with one another and a game cannot be complete without all of them.

For example, within Little Nightmare 2, the spaces can be observed as:

  • Rule-Based Space — the player is limited to how high they can jump and how fast they can move due to their small size; this introduces a puzzle element as many involve moving objects into place to access new areas and thus progress.
  • Mediated Space — The aesthetic tone is dark which is representative of the mood and genre, horror but depicts a storybook appearance as it is meant to mimic a child’s nightmares.
  • Fictional Space — due to the suspense and environmental features shown, the player is on edge a lot of the time and can place themselves into Mono’s shoes, especially how scary things seem when you are so small
  • Play Space — takes place in a 3D environment but is designed to be navigated as a traditional platformer.
  • Social Space — your character, Mono, must work together with Six (protagonist from prequel) to get past obstacles, especially enemies, Although, limited interaction as the player cannot assume control of Six, only Mono.

The Magic Circle is present within Little Nightmares 2 as within each environment, the mechanics for each antagonist change and therefore the players reactions must change alongside. For example, the Hunter has the ability to shoot and therefore Mono and Six must hide behind crates whereas within the school setting, the teacher has the ability to extend her neck which makes escaping her field of view harder and the player always be on the move.

Marie’s Room

Marie’s Room is a narrative exploration game developed by like Charlie, that focuses on a series of events that happened to the main protagonist, Kelsey, and her best friend, Marie.

The player starts off in the upstairs landing in Marie’s house, here you can find the first story clues which lead the player on a journey of discovery. The rest of the game takes place solely within Marie’s Room and gameplay consists of the player interacting with objects placed around the room which add contributing information and help to piece together the story of what happened to Marie twenty years ago. Each story item fills in a page within the journal which can be found on the bed. There is no specific order the player must find these in, however, the message under the doormat (which provides the player with Marie’s laptop password) and opening the suitcase, cannot be done without the precedent action having taken place.

There is a strong change in visuals towards the end of the tale, in particular the end sequence in which the flashback is depicted through the characters appearing as dotted brightly lit outlines moving throughout the room.

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