Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Play Redux: The Form of Computer Games

Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Play Redux: The Form of Computer Games

Article excerpt

Play Redux: The Form of Computer Games David Myers Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2010. Illustrations, notes, references, index.184 pp. $70.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780472050925

In Play Redux: The Form of Computer Games, David Myers presents a unique and inspiring perspective on game theory and game studies. A formalist, Myers tackles issues that have been sparsely addressed in theoretical frameworks-most notably the works of game theorists Johan Huizinga, Roger Caillois, Torben Grodal, Espen Aarseth, and Brian Sutton-Smith. Myers provides a respectful yet critical assessment of these authors' insights and poses a number of questions that require further investigation. He contends a grasp of the essence of digital game play requires an enhanced formal understanding of the player-game relationship.

One of the more important contributions of Play Redux resides in the establishment of a direct link between the semiotic way computer games "generate and transform meanings through the coded manipulation of signs and symbols" (p. 5) and the prelinguistic, psycho-physical functions of human thinking. Myers provides a convincing description of this relationship, and, more importantly, documents his argument in large detail by taking sidesteps toward educational theory, philosophy, game theory, and cognitive psychology. In doing so, he avoids making the mistake he identifies as a main cause of the receding influence of formalist theory in the second half of the twentieth century: it has not succeeded in establishing its ontological foundations.

Myers has been investigating digital game semiotics for more than twentyfive years, and this gives him an advantage over many of his peers. In his earlier work, he has studied the interactive nature of digital game play on a microlevel, regarding both the structure of player cognition (in his 1984 article "The Pattern of Player-Game Relationships") and the transformative characteristics of in-game objects and relationships (in his 1991 article "Time, Symbol Manipulation, and Computer Games"). In his book The Nature of Computer Games: Play as Semiosis (2003), Myers additionally applied these insights to the semiotic analysis of a variety of game genres and titles-hereby supporting the assertion that his theory can be considered as both universal and fundamental. That he can build on his past research has enabled Myers to adopt a top-down point of view and to consider game play in terms of its essential, conceptual characteristics. …

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