Finding Meaning in Abstract Games: A Deep Reading of Sage Solitaire

Treanor Mike
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

This paper presents a methodology for discovering and explaining how games with very few thematic assets (or abstract games) are meaningful to players through rules and dynamics. Through the process of implementing play strategies as computer code, and then running simulations of the game being played, insights about how a player might think about and experience playing the game are revealed. These insights are compiled into interpretations of the themes and meanings that can be found in the abstract game. The paper then applies the methodology to perform a deep reading of the single player digital card game Sage Solitaire.


An Account of Proceduralist Meaning

Treanor Mike Mateas Michael
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

Within both game studies and development communities, it is often argued that a game’s processes (rules and goals) are of primary significance when considering a game’s meaning. In opposition to this position, some claim that this approach denies player subjectivity by ignoring the dynamic, culturally-embedded ways in which players create, rather than receive, meaning through play. This paper clarifies the proceduralist position by exploring a notion of the procedural that necessarily includes the individual player as part of a circuit in which a computational machine is able to operate meaningfully. From this point, procedural rhetoric is reframed in the language of semiotics to demonstrate that the proceduralist position respects player autonomy and expects meaning to result from the harmonious alignment between the authorial sign system and the many cultural sign systems within which the player is embedded.


BurgerTime: A Proceduralist Investigation

Treanor Mike Mateas Michael
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

This paper explores the foundations and implications of interpreting videogames as representational procedural artifacts. Where previous work established a method of proceduralist readings, one which emphasizes the representational power of a game’s rules, to interpret videogames intentionally imbued with meaning, this study attempts to apply the method to a game that seemingly resists interpretation: the classic arcade game BurgerTime. Interpreting BurgerTime provided a challenge to the proceduralist perspective that required investigating its outer limits and assumptions. In the end, a comprehensive reading is achieved by considering the gameplay of expert players: those who understand the rules of a game the most.


Newsgames – Procedural Rhetoric Meets Political Cartoons

Treanor Mike
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

Video games have been created about political and social issues since the early days of the medium. In recent years, many developers are rapidly creating and releasing games in response to current events. These games are being referred to as newsgames. With an increasing number of people citing the internet as their primary news source, it would appear that newsgames could become an important part of how people understand current events and could rise to be an important and expressive video game genre. However, the word “newsgame” is currently only quite loosely defined, resulting in the term being applied to many forms of serious, or nonfiction games. Also, despite the quantity of games that relate to current events, very few newsgames can be said live up to the defining claims that newsgames are the video game equivalent of political cartoons [25] – a well developed and established medium for political expression. This paper fleshes out the political cartoon comparison in order to learn from the long history of political cartoons and give direction to the current state of fledgling and unsophisticated newsgames. It also suggests clear and flexible definitive criteria for newsgames as well as a redeclaration of their expressive power.