Understanding Play Practices: Contributions to the State of the Art [Panel Papers]

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Semiotics draws inspiration for its qualitative methodologies from many fields of scientific and cultural discourse. It aims to understand cultural production and interpretation practices by way of core theoretical notions such as narrativity, enunciation, encyclopedia, and textual openness. A continual refinement and renewal of these notions is driven by comparative analyses of problematic empirical objects. One such object is computer games which are among the hottest contemporary objects of study in new media semiotics. A central theoretical notion used today to understand computer games is practice, which is seen as standing in opposition to the more traditional notion of text. Panel participants will discuss gameplay practices from various theoretical standpoints, with the common goal of describing these practices in ways that open for dialogue and interaction with theoretical approaches by other disciplines and fields of study. The panel will open by discussing how, in computer games, the reader-text interface has been radically reconfigured, opening up for more effective forms of player agency. Some contemporary play practices will be discussed on the basis of video footage of actual game sessions, highlighting the role of player bodies in gameplay space. The role of keys in RPGs will be foregrounded to show how effects of player action in games may be constrained by game objects. Finally, we shall focus on gameplay practices that go beyond single computer games - in commercial and political Alternate Reality Games. The focus will be on how A-R games create innovative mimetic relationships with real life, engaging players in transworld transmedia practices.