Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Values at Play in Digital Games

Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Values at Play in Digital Games

Article excerpt

Values at Play in Digital Games

Mary Flanagan and Helen Nissenbaum

Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014. Notes, references, game references, index, images. 207 pp. S25.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780262027663

At 207 pages, Mary Flanagan and Helen Nissenbaum's Values at Play in Digital Games is a light volume that packs a hefty punch. In this book, divided into three sections with a total of nine chapters, the authors present a framework for thinking about the ways in which games can communicate values, how to analyze the values a particular game might express, and how to guide a game development process such that its output is effective at presenting the values intended by its developers.

The first section of the book serves as an extended introduction to the notion that games can, and do, reflect, communicate, and include values. It argues for why a designer would want to include values in a games design, provides sample analyses of some of the values embedded in different games, and also presents an overview of fifteen different game elements that can (and probably should) be examined from a values perspective. The second section discusses how game developers can purposefully incorporate values in their games and how to verify that they have succeeded at this goal. In the final section the authors argue for why this all matters: talking and thinking about values in games leads to better, more innovative games.

Readers familiar with the authors' prior work will find that this book serves as a capstone for the publications and research that have been conducted over the last ten years as part of the Values at Play project. Earlier findings and ideas have been iterated upon, streamlined, clarified, and condensed and are now brought together in a concise and accessible way. As an added bonus there are five guest contributions intermixed with some of the chapters that provide further commentary, insight, and greater depth to many of the topics discussed. These welcome additions provide refreshing perspectives, often drawn from the practical experiences of their authors, which strengthen and add value to the core argument of the book. …

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