Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Theory of Physical Applied Games

If we think of games as trans-medial [1], then it is easier to understand how games exist in many forms. For example, one aspect of Lindely’s taxonomy [2] demonstrates how games range from the virtual to the physical, which means chess (a board game), football (played on a field with players), and pacman (played on in a arcade or on a computer) are all games. Yet from a cultural point of view there is a great deal of bias concerning the benefits and harm of virtual and physical gaming. Common bias towards virtual games are that they are a waste of time, linked to violence, and childish [3] [4] [5]. Physical games on the other hand are generally associated with the benefits for one’s health, self esteem, team work, ect. [6], even though there have been enough studies that critique physical games in much the same way as video games [7] especially when concerned with the topic of violence [8] [9].

“Games teach us ‘something’, the matter of the question is what that ‘something’ is?” As my friend and former colleague was fond of saying. Our question, “What are we learning from our physical games?” Many physical games (sports) were originally applied games, meant for archaic martial training (e.g. wrestling, polo, football, field and track, etc.). Ultimately, what I would like us to think about is the design of applied physical games (with or without the aid of new technology) that is aimed at really solving the problems we believe that physical games can solve (i.e. obesity, social problems, etc.) but actually do not. An applied game is a game designed with an ulterior motive, usually aimed at changing the behavior, perspectives or knowledge of the player. My theory is that a well designed applied physical game, not unlike the arguments for using video games [4], could also be a force for changing our world.

[1] Juul, Jesper. Half-Real : Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. New York: MIT, 2005. Print.

[2] Lindley, Craig A. "Gamasutra - Features - Game Taxonomies: A High Level Framework for Game Analysis and Design." Gamasutra - The Art & Business of Making Games. 2003. Web. 23 Mar. 2009. .

[3] Jenkins, Henry. "Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked." PBS. Public Broadcasting System. Web. 11 Jan. 2012. .

[4] McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.

[5] Koster, Raph. Theory of Fun for Game Design. Paraglyph, 2004. Print.

[6] Mahoe, Stacy. "7 Good Reasons to Get Your Child Involved in Sports." Coaching Drills, Information and Products For Youth Sports. Web. 11 Jan. 2012. .

[7] Goldstein, Jeffrey H. SPORTS, GAMES, and PLAY Social and Psychological Viewpoints. 2nd ed. Hillsdale, NJ: LAWRENCE ERLBAUM ASSOCIATES, 1989. Print.

[8] Young, Kevin. "15 Sport and Collective Violence." Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 19.1 (1991). Print.

[9] Abrams, Mitch. Anger Management in Sport: Understanding and Controlling Violence in Athletes. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2010. Print.