Making it Unfamiliar in the “Right” Way: An Empirical Study of Poetic Gameplay


DiGRA '17 - Proceedings of the 2017 DiGRA International Conference
Melbourne, Australia: Digital Games Research Association, July, 2017
Number: 1
Volume: 14
ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666

There has been much discussion of whether games can be considered art. Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, some games stand out as clearly different in a way that can be considered “poetic”. Much work has been done to discuss how these games achieve their effects, and how they differ from mainstream games. There have not, however, been any empirical studies of how players respond to the techniques used in these games, and whether these techniques result in poetic gameplay. This paper describes an empirical study of poetic gameplay in three games: The Graveyard, Thirty Flights of Loving, and The Stanley Parable. Using retrospective protocol analysis and semi-structured interviews with 21 participants, we observed that although these games did encourage participants to reflect upon issues beyond the immediate game experience, this tended to happen when the gameplay was made unfamiliar in ways that directly supported the emerging meaning of the game.