Critical play : radical game design / Mary Flanagan.

by Flanagan, Mary, 1969- [author]Looking glass.

Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts. ; MIT Press, 2013.Description: vii, 353 pages : illustrations (black and white) ; 23 cm.ISBN: 9780262518659; 0262518651.Subject(s): Art and popular cultureLooking glass | Games -- Design and construction | Games -- Sociological aspectsNote: Contains bibliographical references and index.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

An examination of subversive games--games designed for political, aesthetic, and social critique.

For many players, games are entertainment, diversion, relaxation, fantasy. But what if certain games were something more than this, providing not only outlets for entertainment but a means for creative expression, instruments for conceptual thinking, or tools for social change? In Critical Play , artist and game designer Mary Flanagan examines alternative games--games that challenge the accepted norms embedded within the gaming industry--and argues that games designed by artists and activists are reshaping everyday game culture.

Flanagan provides a lively historical context for critical play through twentieth-century art movements, connecting subversive game design to subversive art: her examples of "playing house" include Dadaist puppet shows and The Sims . She looks at artists' alternative computer-based games and explores games for change, considering the way activist concerns--including worldwide poverty and AIDS--can be incorporated into game design.

Arguing that this kind of conscious practice--which now constitutes the avant-garde of the computer game medium--can inspire new working methods for designers, Flanagan offers a model for designing that will encourage the subversion of popular gaming tropes through new styles of game making, and proposes a theory of alternate game design that focuses on the reworking of contemporary popular game practices.

Contains bibliographical references and index.

Reviews provided by Syndetics


An ambitious survey of a broad range of uses and types of games, this book demonstrates the historical persistence of critical play, a productive approach to the design and use of games that question and offer lucid alternatives to political and cultural norms. Using the phrase "critical play" to frame a centuries-old culture of intervention that involves processes such as reskinning, rewriting, unplaying, and reconfiguring, Flanagan (Dartmouth College) establishes invaluable contextual links between games, avant-garde art movements, social norms, and political and literary history. Her diverse, inspiring survey of domestic, board, language, performative, and locative games adds up to a proposed method for understanding and developing digital games (the most recent but least-developed iterations of game space) as sites of radical cultural intervention. This book's recognition of games as processes through which designers and creators might carefully move against established structures of power and oppression reinforces and builds on the politicization of and lucid engagement with game space introduced by McKenzie Wark's Gamer Theory (CH, Nov'07, 45-1296) and Ian Bogost's Persuasive Games (CH, Sep'98, 46-0096). Although Flanagan resists mention of them, her Web sites--tiltfactor,, and values@play, useful supplements to the theories and examples she offers in this rich, accessible book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. J. A. Saklofske Acadia University

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Mary Flanagan is Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities, Director of the Tiltfactor game research laboratory, and Professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Critical Play: Radical Game Design (MIT Press).

Other editions of this work

No cover image available Critical play : by Flanagan, Mary, ©2009
No cover image available Critical play by Flanagan, Mary, ©2009