This chapter explains the significance of informal and unwritten rules in order to show the connections among formal rules of play, formalized learning, informal and unwritten rules, and collateral learning. It argues that computer gaming’s rules of play include the formal rules by which games are played and the informal and unwritten rules within the magic circle of play where the games are played. Too often games are reduced to their formal rules of play and the collateral learning fostered by the realm of play is neglected. By examining unwritten rules, this chapter also connects to and informs other areas that rely primarily on formal rules, including educational gaming.
Play and simulation for use in learning and education predate video games, with video games simply a newer entry into this area. Video games for education began as extensions from earlier work on games and simulations for learning, focusing on games to teach particular skills, information, and critical thinking about complex topics, as with K. Squire’s research (2002) using the strategy game Civilization to teach history as a process and J. P. Gee’s research on games and learning more generally (2003).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Edugames: A subgenre to both games and edutainment (or entertainment that has been repurposed for educational purposes). Edugames are games designed for education; however, the more pedantic goals have historically made for poor game design with notable exceptions like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Oregon Trail.
Unwritten Rules: Like informal rules, but unwritten rules are normally more enforced. Where informal rules are more like house rules and are more fluid, unwritten rules are—while unwritten—generally assumed to be in place and violations of unwritten rules are less acceptable to other players. Unwritten rules arise out of the real world situation in which games are played (Sniderman, 2006).?
Informal Rules: Akin to house rules. Informal rules are fluid—often relating to a particular situation—but they may crystallize into unwritten rules. Disputes based in the quality of a rule—whether it is informal, or a house or opinion-based rule; or an unwritten rule that all players should implicitly follow—can be frequent with new players and new player groups. Because video games are a newer media form, games frequently garner new players and conflicts can ensue. This is especially true for massively multi-player games where players from various generations play together.
Etiquette: Influences and is influenced by formal, informal, and unwritten rules. Etiquette is an important concept in informal and unwritten rules because infractions of those rules can be treated as infractions of etiquette rules.
Serious Games: A classification referring to games that are specifically designed for a particular purpose. These games are often for education, training, and advertising, and are more often used in particular industries like health care and the military.
Single-Player Game: Games are games designed for only one player or games played in the single-player mode. While this means the game would only have one explicit player, the space of play may include multiple players. For instance, a game like Oregon Trail may have only one player handling the controls, but multiple players could be collaboratively discussing and deciding what to do next and those multiple players may switch places to allow each a “turn” at handling the game controls.
Multi-Player Game: Games designed for multiple players or games with modes for multiple players to play simultaneously with each other and the game system. Multi-player games can be collaborative competitive, or a mixture of both—as with MMORPGs where players work with the members of their team or guild and sometimes cooperatively fight against other players or player groups.
Formal Rules: The explicit rules for game play. These are most of the stated rules in game books or within the games, or are built into the games, as with rules against attacking certain creatures where the creatures cannot be injured, thus making it impossible for players to break that formal rule. Formal rules also include the formal rules of behavior. These are most often found in end user license agreements (EULAs) that prohibit particular behaviors like reverse engineering, specific behavior in multi-player games, and copyright infringement. Formal rules also include the methods for winning a particular game. Some games allow players to win by reaching a particular benchmark, other games require winning by reaching a benchmark in a particular manner, like avoiding detection in stealth games.