Sites of Play: Locating Gameplace in Red Dead Redemption 2


In Video Game Spaces (2009), Michael Nitsche proposes three indicators of ‘placeness’ in video games: identity, self-motivated and self-organised action, and traces of memory (191-201). We read this notion of placeness as closely aligned to, or overlapping with, the understandings of place and site articulated in theatre and performance research as site-specific performance. Here, we articulate the ideas (and analyse the experiences) of placeness and sitedness in Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) through an analytical conversation between performance studies and games design research with a human-computer interaction bias. Through a close-reading of gameplay experiences (Bizzocchi and Tanenbaum, 2011), we individually experienced over 30 hours of RDR2 gameplay while taking notes, recording, and capturing screenshots. During our individual analyses, we met periodically to compare notes, discuss notable game moments and share analytical insights. At this intersection of game research and performance research, we ask to what extent the theoretical articulations of aesthetic/affective experience in physical, corporeal and material spaces can develop – and further nuance – our understanding of how place is experienced (and thus designed) in contemporary videogames. In doing so, we propose the term gameplace as a means of articulating what this article will define as the affective relationship between place, experience and play.