[-empyre-] playing vs productivity (and what does it has to do with videogames?)

Gabriel Menotti gabriel.menotti at gmail.com
Tue Nov 30 22:46:46 EST 2010

> [Simon Biggs]
> All interesting. No mention though of Huizinga's work, or that of numerous
> related theorists, on the role of play in the formation, practice and value
> of cultural activities.

Thanks, Simon! Huizinga is a very good reference, which had completely
escaped me – probably because I was not really taking into account how
the dynamics of play drive general cultural activities and structures.
Moving away from the ludologistic perspective, I wondered instead how
these other activities are in fact enmeshed within what we call

Although generally suspicious of cultural analytics, I admit it does a
good job demonstrating that the interaction with some modern
videogames is mostly constituted by watching CGs and making otherwise
dull system management and navigation. [1]

On the other hand, it is true that the all-pervasiveness of play is
one door through which videogames are being re-functionalized and
incorporated into larger productive systems – in that sense, one might
recall “games” such as EpicWin [2] and the somewhat controversial
Google Image Labeler [3]. I’m sure Daniel Cook can give much better

However, doesn’t that defeats the idea that “play” should be a
gratuitous and aimless activity, an end-in-itself? Given the
complexities at hand and the way playing can be easily appropriated as
labour, where should we trace the line that defines this concept?

Do videogames have essentially anything to do with “playing” anymore?

And with “videos”?

And with “games”?


[1] http://lab.softwarestudies.com/2008/06/videogameplayviz-analyzing-temporal.html
[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmKwF_Si734
[3] http://images.google.com/imagelabeler

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