Here's two excellent examples of games-theorising, from a broadsheet-arts perspective. The LRB's John Lanchester - whose recent essays on the financial crash have been essential reading - turns his attention to computer games in the latest issue. The headline is a bit F.R. Leavis ("Is it art?"), but the piece is an open-minded appreciation of the very nature of game aesthetics, where the comparisons with other artforms are mutually illuminating rather than faintly patronising. The second comes from a footnote in Lanchester's piece - linking to Steven Poole's recent public lecture, "Working for the Man: Against the Employment Paradigm in Videogames".
Great stuff. I grappled with some of this in my academic symposium at York University a few years ago, riffing off an essay by Alexander Galloway about the "labour metaphysic" raised by games like World of Warcraft. It's overly theoretical, but I'm essentially agreeing with Lanchester and Poole that there is more to game-play than contestive and victorious play:
...we might imagine a new videogaming manifesto inspired by the Slow Food movement. 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.
Is there an irreducibly open, primordial aspect to play, the sheer difference celebrated by Derrida, driven by mammalian adaptive potentiation? Yes. And if so, then that provides the ‘adjacent possible’ within any social system (as the complexity theorists put it) to imagine different forms of [dis]play than those which currently canalise the energies of the informational multitude.