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Critical Play: The Necessity for Separation of Perspective

Frindle's picture

When I visited Philly this weekend, I didn’t have much of a plan. I knew that I wanted to visit Elfreth’s Alley, but beyond that I decided to be spontaneous, let serendipity guide me. I went to Philly with Marcia, and we spent a little bit of time walking down the alley, admiring the bright colors on the shutters and doors, the flower boxes, the cobblestone street.

Soon, though, we were tired of admiring. We had the same itch that many do: we didn’t want to just look at something, we wanted to do something. So we started walking, heading towards the more well known area of Old City. On the way there Marcia asked me if I still wanted to go to the Constitution Center. Even though I had previously decided not to go, I thought that we may as well, as it sounded pretty fun when I looked at it online.

We arrived at the Center and bought tickets for the show and exhibition. After the show, we agreed that it was basically a recap of our A.P. Government classes with epic musical and visual effects…not that we minded. In fact, we both found the show to be really fun, which may have explained why we did things like snort in disbelief when the Articles of Confederation were mentioned. After the show, there was an exhibition of how the Constitution has been interpreted differently through the centuries. We didn’t pay much attention to the written things, as we already knew most of it. Instead, we focused on the interactive exhibits: seeing how we would vote for one candidate or another based on their position on issues, putting on Supreme Court robes, and taking the oath of office to become President of the United States.

I did this for fun. I was having a good time. I didn’t have a goal in mind, a plan, a set of rules. I was playing.

In my earlier essay, I discussed how play is only play if it does not have a goal, if it is aimless. Yet Flanagan writes that “critical play is characterized by a careful examination of social, cultural, political, or even personal themes that function as alternates to popular play spaces” (Flanagan, 6). Critical play has a goal: that of changing society. Can it still be called “play?”

Yes. When one plays critically, one doesn’t think of it that way. If I wanted to change society, I certainly wouldn’t start with a game. Those playing critically must not think of it as a goal of changing society, but instead as simply a fun game. However, we that look back on it can say that they were playing critically, much in the same way that we can look back at the early middle ages and call it the Dark Ages. When people lived in the Dark Ages, it was normal life for them. They didn’t know much of the period before them, and they most definitely didn’t know about the time afterwards. Once we look back at that time period, however, we can see clear differences between the Dark Ages and the times surrounding it.

It is the same with critical play. Looking back, we can see that there was an effect on society, that something had changed. Those that were playing the game didn’t play it to change society, but they did anyway. That is why critical play can be both “critical” and  “play.” It allows for a separation of perspective, a different view when playing than after.

While I believe that critical play is possible, I still don’t know if the goal has to be met for it to be counted as critical. If the game doesn’t change society but very well could have, is it still considered critical. If a game does change society but no one meant it to, is that critical play? Will play be seen as critical play all the time, or will that change based on the perspectives of the individual and how long it has been since the game was played?

Works Cited:

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2009. Print.


Cathy Zhou's picture

In the first

In the first paragraph,Frindle started by her ideas of how she wants to explore the city.She described her trip by using random pieces she saw in the trips, such as flower boxes, doors,and the street. She plays by stating things she saw without detailed description,and forced the readers to imagine what it's like. She also used a lot of first person view, and made the readers to think as her.When I read the article, I feel I've been experiencing the process of making choices of where to go and being in the city.

Samantha Plate's picture

In introducing her trip into

In introducing her trip into the city Frindle is introducing her mindset when she went into the city. One of the games she plays is the repetition of "I". It puts the reader in her perspective and lets us see her opinion clearly. Another game Frindle plays is that her paragraph flows very well. There are only a few sentences but they are each fairly long, made up of multiple phrases, helping the ideas flow together. Frindle also uses imagery and details to help us imagine the alley. I am able to picture myself walking down the alley from her point of view by the way she decribes it. This is how the reader is able to play. By listening to what Frindle says we can let go and imagine the city the way she did, we can put ourselves in her shoes.