Brian Upton

Aesthetics of Play

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A game designer considers the experience of play, why games have rules, and the relationship of play and narrative.

The impulse toward play is very ancient and zoologists have identified play behaviours in turtles and in chimpanzees. Games have existed for over 5,000 years. Old board games have been recovered from Egyptian tombs, yet we still lack a critical language for thinking about play. Game designers are better at answering small questions ("Why is this battle boring?") than big ones ("What does this game mean?"). In this book, the game designer Brian Upton analyses the experience of play. How playful activities unfold from moment to moment and how the rules we adopt constrain that unfolding. Drawing on games that range from Monopoly to Dungeons & Dragons to Upton develops a framework for understanding play. He provides a set of critical tools that can help us analyse games and game designs to identify ways in which they succeed or fail.

Softcover.

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