This article attempts to understand the economic and informatic ramifications of the convergence between increasingly connective games and massive online platforms by considering recent trends in both that center around designing for emergence. Scholarship on emergence as a property of games overwhelmingly treats emergent design as a liberating force that privileges player agency in a virtual space. Yet, as games fuse with surrounding platform ecosystems like Steam, Facebook, and Google, those emergent behaviors are subject to vast systems of inscription that analyze user behavior in order to reshape the free space of emergence and extract greater social and financial capital. At the same time, platforms grow more and more gamified in order to impel users toward interactions that will yield the most valorizable forms of engagement while maintaining the illusion of user agency. Examining the popular design trend of games-as-a-service alongside the public scandal surrounding Facebook's extractive practices shows that the trajectory of these overlapping systems actually colonize the free space of emergence, making it the territory from which technologies of control are derived.
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"The Unfree Space of Play: Emergence and Control in the Videogame and the Platform,"
Markets, Globalization & Development Review:
3, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/mgdr/vol3/iss3/2
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