Notes   /   19 September 2018

Taking Inventory of your Game

By today, you've chosen the game you're going to be focusing on for these two weeks, and you've started playing it. Let's start by an exercise in formal analysis: a "game inventory".

Step 1: Make a List

With your game cohort, start a google doc (or something else if you prefer) where you collectively create a list of everything that's necessary for the game to exist as it does.

Or another way to think of it: first imagine a world where your game doesn't exist, then imagine the real world where it does exist. What are the differences between those two worlds? What ingredients would need in order to make your game from scratch?

For example, here's a quick, preliminary inventory of Spacewar!:

  • Space field
  • The pointy space ship
  • The wider spaceship
  • The star in the middle
  • gravity
  • missiles
  • the rule that a spaceship will blow up and re-spawn in its original position
  • stars in the background (in some versions)
  • PDP-1 Computer
  • CRT screen from an oscilloscope
  • Source Code
  • A room large enough to hold the computer
  • electricity
  • NASA
  • The MIT Model train club
  • the genre of science fiction

Make your list as long and as specific as possible, and write for a solid 10 minutes. I'll tell you when to start and stop writing.

Step 2: Organize your List

Then -- on a new Google doc or just a new page -- sort each item on these lists into one of three categories: text, paratext, or context, working from the definitions of these terms that I'll give you in class.

Share these final, sorted Google Docs in Discord so we can compare game-by-game how we differed in sorting some common elements.

Step 3: Compare Lists

With your group, look at (but don't edit) another group's list in detail. Why did they sort the list the way they did? Do you agree or disagree with their categories? Does the way they sorted the list reveal any unconscious inclinations or biases? Does their sorting method imply specific concepts or aesthetic features that a textual analysis could focus on?

Discuss these questions in person and/or in Discord. (That is, if we have time, talk about these in person and add notes to Discrod. If we run out of time, just discuss it in Discord asynchronously before Friday.)