Playing Against the Game

Playing Against the Game

Bernd Remmele (University of Education Freiburg, Institute for Vocational and Business Education, Freiburg, Germany)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/IJGBL.2017070107

Abstract

The paper first outlines a differentiation of play/game-motivations that include ‘negative' attitudes against the play/game itself like cheating or spoilsporting. This problem is of particular importance in concern of learning games because they are not ‘played' for themselves – at least in the first place – but due to an instructional scheme. So they are likely to provoke resistance among the ‘players' or learners. However, because they are introduced as a games, a certain extent a playful sphere is created. This opens the space for a previously neglected negative behaviour: ‘playing against the game'. The player – not so much the learner – creates a new game by ‘testing' the game, by acting at specific points in contrast to the instructional scheme and/or the original idea or narrative of the game. Secondly, the paper will present empirical evidence concerning this phenomenon of ‘playing against the game'. The evidence comes from the evaluation of three different learning games. Student answers to usual motivational questions like: “The game was fun” – “I wanted to be better than the others” – “It was a good feeling to make strategic decisions”, will be compared to questions of resistance like: “I wanted to know what happens when my avatar was not doing well” – “I wanted to see what happens if I choose a bad strategy.” – “I wanted to know when the company goes bankrupt.” The data shows that – partly depending on complexity, playfulness and anonymity of the game – a relevant number of players/learners use this negative behaviour. Nevertheless, this behaviour can still be a way of interacting with the subject matter of the game.
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Negativity In Playing And Game-Based Learning

While in the literature the benefits of games for learning are implicitly related to socially acceptable or desirable behaviour (such as community-building and sharing), the implications of negative social motivations and behaviours (such as cheating, sabotaging or spoilsporting), both for learning and game play, receive less attention. However, these negative behaviours are commonplace, some being legitimate within the game structure (e.g. lying in Poker), while others take place outside of the ‘magic circle’ of the game. However, there is a growing body of research relating to violent motivations and the impacts of aggressive gaming (e.g. Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Gentile & Gentile, 2007).

Accordingly analyses of the motivational basis of playing usually consider ‘positive’ forms; e.g. Malone and Lepper (1987) identified four internal motivations: challenge, curiosity, control and fantasy – and three interpersonal motivations: cooperation, competition and recognition. And classically, Caillois (1958) distinguishes agon, alea, mimicry and ilinx. Most of these forms are conceived as pro-social. Even competition and agon are at least not understood as anti-social. But when looking at more negative human traits we find them in the ludic sphere as well. Such negativity can be directed against other players as well as against the game itself.

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