Hi everyone! Dust and I are excited to introduce a new column that we are going to be starting up called Playing With Aesthetics! A little while back, Dust wrote a piece touching on the MDA framework which both of us find really interesting; it’s a great way to look at games. We have not seen much out there that tries to use this lens to categorically database games, so we are taking up the task!
We are going to be using Extra Credits’ nine categories to delve deeper into games that we have played. This includes: Sensation (game as sense-pleasure), Fantasy (game as make believe), Narrative (game as drama), Challenge (game as obstacle course), Fellowship (game as social framework), Discovery (game as uncharted territory), Expression (game as self-discovery), Competition (game as expression of dominance), and Abnegation (game as pass-time). You can check out the video or original paper for more details on each of these.
The scale will be 0-2, 0 meaning it was not a relevant aesthetic, 2 indicating that it was a Core Aesthetic. My brother and I agree on a lot things, but not everything! If we can’t decide on a score between us we will average our classifications, so you may see some .5s or 1.5s.
But we don’t want it just to be our opinion. Each week we will put up our classification with polls for you all to give your own input. At the end of the day, this framework (like many frameworks) is going to be subjective. There may be some “objective” goal that the designers were aiming for, but what perhaps matters most is how people interact with the game.
For example, a speedrunner may be more inclined to see a game from the lens of Challenge and Competition, understanding the game as an obstacle course; he or she tries to learn the best way to bypass element A or sneak through passage B, and ultimately may care less about that fantasy or discovery of the game. Another example could be how some people play certain FPSs (Halo, Gears of War) for that cooperative campaign experience, while others thrive on the competition.
It will be interesting for us to see how different our classifications are from the masses, so make sure to chime in on the games you have played!
Welcome to Playing With Aesthetics!