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What is the Rhetoric, Politics, and Gaming Series?

Spacewar!-PDP-1-20070512

In 1961, a group of graduate students working in MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory stumbled onto an idea whose full implications they couldn’t even have begun to imagine. Working with a massive Programmed Data Processor (or PDP), a machine designed to calculate the angle of potential intercontinental ballistic missiles, the students discovered that, if rewritten, the computer code could instead create a rudimentary “game” with two operators each commanding a spaceship and trying to destroy the other against the backdrop of an astronomically correct star field. That game, titled Spacewar!, became an incredibly popular demonstration of the computing and processing power at the university’s (and thus the government’s) disposal. But it also developed an incredibly loyal following of coders, hackers, modders, and dedicated players who gave the game a life far beyond outside the laboratory.

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Games Are Not Fun

 

no fun games

What is or isn’t a game? Can games be art, or will they never be? These kinds of questions have been asked seemingly constantly over the last several years. With games like Gone Home, Dear Esther, and Papers, Please gaining a surprising amount of critical attention, as well as considerable commercial success, some players have argued that these games ignore the most important part of any game: fun. But is fun really the only reason to play a game? What kinds of experiences would we lose by narrowly defining games as only experiences that are fun? What do we stand to gain by getting beyond the idea of fun?

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