Well-Played 1.0 is a collection of 22 essays, each a close reading of ONE video game. Even as game studies grows, single-title criticism, which has a long tradition in literary studies, is pretty uncommon. Generally people write on “games” or “gaming”, individual games being not significant enough to warrant sustained attention. This is starting to change; World of Warcraft seems like it is taking on its own ecology of criticism, for example. But, single-title criticism is important because it confers a degree of legitimacy to both the media and the scholarship.
Here’s what editor Drew Davidson wrote to describe the purpose of this book:
What makes a game good? or bad? or better?
Video games can be “well played” in two senses. On the one hand, well played is to games as well read is to books. On the other hand, well played as in well done.
This book is full of in-depth close readings of video games that parse out the various meanings to be found in the experience of playing a game. 22 contributors (developers, scholars, reviewers and bloggers) look at video games through both senses of “well played.”
The goal is to help develop and define a literacy of games as well as a sense of their value as an experience. Video games are a complex medium that merits careful interpretation and insightful analysis.
This description is really telling, both of the state of game studies and the need for this kind of work. We still need a basic “literacy” in games, a foundation from which to be able to determine which games are worth studying with sustained attention, the can reward revisitings. So, this book represents a positive step for game studies.
The best part about this book? It’s not only available in print from Lulu.com, but has been offered for FREE under a creative commons licence as a PDF or on the Web. Links to each of the articles can be found below.
Well Played Table of Contents
- Ico – Charles Herold
- Super Mario Bros. – Patrick Curry
- Advance Wars – Noah Falstein
- Ultima Underworld – Corvus Elrod
- Bully – Kirk Battle (L.B. Jeffries)
- Half-Life 2 – Mark Sivak
- Europa Universalis – Greg Costikyan
- Zork & Kingdom of Loathing – Brett E. Shelton
- Phoenix Wright – Mia Consalvo
- Shadow of the Colossus – Nick Fortugno
- Civilization 4 – Kurt Squire
- Parappa the Rapper – Katherine Isbister
- Portal & Passage – Nick Montfort
- Silent Hill 2 – Doris C. Rusch
- Bioshock – Clint Hocking
- Metal Gear Solid 4 – James Paul Gee
- Tempest – Mary D. Flanagan
- Guitar Hero – Jason Vandenberghe
- Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Seth Sivak
- The Secret of Monkey Island – Clara Fernández-Vara
- Mines of Minos – Jesse Schell
- World of Goo – Drew Davidson
- Author Biographies