2005 DiGRA '05 - Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play
In this essay, I examine differences between individual and social play and, in particular, the differences between individual and social play within digital media forms designed to promote both: massively multi-player online computer games (MMOGs). The analysis considers in most depth differences between group and solo play within the NCSoft’s and Cryptic Studios’ MMOG, City of Heroes. Based on over 1000 hours of play within City of Heroes, observation of online forums and other texts devoted to social activities within City of Heroes, and conversations with City of Heroes players inside and outside of the game context, the essay describes an antithetical relationship between group and solo computer game play. Conclusions present a semiotic model of play in which game designs promoting social play are ineffective in significantly altering individual play forms and functions.
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory
This essay is a re-examination and critique of existing game definitions in parallel with the analysis of Juul. Juul’s original study revealed six basic game components; the analysis here pares these to four more definitive components, isolated in game form: rules, goals, opposition, and representation. These four components are used to construct a ―minimalist‖ game. The paper describes the implications of these minimalist game components to contrasting foundationalist and essentialist theories of games. Specific game examples are used to demonstrate how a minimalist game model might be used to distinguish among games, simulation, and play.
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play
In this essay, I argue that human play is fundamentally selfish. Characteristics of individual and selfish play are observed and described within pve and pvp contexts of the MMORPG City of Heroes/Villains (Cryptic Studios). Analysis of player behaviors demonstrates the degree to which groups within MMORPGs attempt to restrict and transform individual and selfish play. In general, social play within MMORPGs tends to reduce the diversity of individual play; this undermines the ability of oppositional play to explore and value game components and processes. Conclusions recommend conceptualizing online social play as a form of social control.
2003 DiGRA '03 - Proceedings of the 2003 DiGRA International Conference: Level Up
This essay adopts a formal model of play as semiosis  to explore the often dysfunctional role of backstories within computer game design and play. Within this model, backstories indicate an extended play of contextualization. This definition raises questions concerning the appropriateness of backstories as currently implemented within many computer game designs. For instance, backstories are clearly not critical to all computer game play. And, even when limiting analysis solely to role-playing games, the use of backstories as design tools (as opposed to marketing devices or play supplements) remains problematic. Conclusions concern "pre-narrative" aspects of play--particularly when narrative is defined (e. g., within narrative psychology) as a folk theory of causes.