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Bernard De Koven
- Publié sur Amazon.com
When Miguel Sicart sent me a draft of his new book, Play Matters, I was deeply gratified by his explorations of play and playfulness and their implications for video game design. Deeply gratified. So deeply that when he asked me if I’d consider writing an endorsement for his book (which you can read on the back cover), I jumped at the chance.
Here’s what I wrote:
“Play Matters opens a door into our increasingly playful world. It frames the world of play and playfulness just enough to create a coherent image of these fundamental forces, without spoiling the fun. It opens a way into this world, inviting the reader to engage, creatively and intelligently, in the design of a more playful future.”
Now that I have the published book finally in hand, I am pleased to tell you that, though I fully stand by my endorsement, the book proves to be even more insightful, and, in its playful way, revolutionary, than I indicated, despite my obvious enthusiasm for the project.
Sicart thinks clearly and deeply about play.
“To play,” writes Sicart, “is to be in the world. Playing is a form of understanding what surrounds us and who we are, and a way of engaging with others.”
“I am not going to oppose play to reality, to work, to ritual or sports,” he says, “because it exists in all of them. It is a way of being in the world, (my italics) like languages, thought, faith, reason.”
“……we need,” he continues, to…reclaim play as a way of expression, a way of engaging with the world – not as an activity of consumption, but as an activity of production. Like literature, art, song and dance; like politics and love and math, play is a way of engaging and expressing our being in the world.”
And: “Playfulness glues together an ecology of playthings, situations, behaviors, and people, extending play onward an attitude for being in the world. Through playfulness, we see the world, and we also see how the world could be structured as play.”
and when it comes to games, I give you, as a taste, Sicart’s description of the game of Metakettle:
In the protests of late 2009 and 2010 that took place across the United Kingdom, a police tactic for containing dissenters became popular: kettling. Kettling consists of surrounding a group of protestors with enough riot police to contain them in an area, either to facilitate their arrest or to break down large demonstrations into more manageable groups. Kettling is not necessarily a violent teactic, bit it immediately showcases the force of riot police. Kettling is also the inspiration for one of the most interesting political games ever made: Metakettle.
The rules of Metakettle are simple:
1. Shout “Metakettle” to start the game.
2. Start your own team by shouting an animal name or joining an already established team by linking arms with them.
3. Get other people on yor team by completely encircling them with members of your team.
4. The person who formed the last surviving animal team wins.
5. Repeat until the police let you go.
…Metakettle is designed to appropriate a particular situation and playfully turn it around. It is carnivalesque play at its best – an appropriation of a situation turned into the absurd trough play that shows a political interpretation of the situation in which it is played.
And this is just one small example of the depth of his thinking and the power of his message – all in the name of play.
It’s written largely for videogame designers, and in that, it succeeds brilliantly. It is one of those books that clearly belongs in the core curriculum of every game design program (and, fortunately, there are many such). But it is equally, as I hope the small taste of his writing that I shared with you demonstrates, an extremely valuable book for those of us who think about things like political action, games of any and every kind: games for change, serious games, games for education, for communication, and, of course, beyond games to the very art of living.