First thing, I just needed an excuse to post this.
Second thing… I have to admit to feeling a bit strange ever since I developed an analytical relationship with the avatar of Sidney Crosby while playing NHL 2K9 for the Wii for last years Ludocine-TAG symposium. Of course at that time I was trying to live up to the hype I had invested in the character while also dealing with my weak gameplay skills… My digital hockey ended up being a poor excuse for spectatorship as I was never able to see the pattern and flow of the game beyond the simulated bodies of the players. Now of course its all different… but its also an excuse to feel pretty elated – this is still a game studies moment as much as anything.
I have two reflections on “our” game worth mulling over in game studies… the first is a some curiosity about whether any digital game will even come close to the cultural role and relevance of hockey and this final gold medal game and that Crosby goal. One problem is that most digital games are design attempts to reproduce the experience of the “world-saving” goal time and time again… in every game with every character we play this is the design ideal. Proponents of magic circle theories of play argue that a key social-psychological and even cultural benefit of games is to be able to experience the agony and the ecstasy without the consequences… this is one old explanation for the origin of the Olympics — a way for Greek city states to gain the benefits of a kind of nationalism (collective consciousness) without paying the costs of going to war.
Ted Castronova, who I would define as a magic circle normativist, has recently lamented the breakdown of the anti-RMT (real money trade) lobby in the online game industry citing the collapse of the last remnants of the magic circle in online gameplay. Folks were saying something similar when they let NHL players into the Olympics… But never mind that, I am impressed with how much outside the circle hangs on the experience of playing or watching the final game int he final moments. This “our game” stuff is some amazing bit of narrative scripting… is it part of the fiction of the gameplay? or is it metagame? or what?
The honour of the nation doesn’t really hang in the balance but its sure fun to believe it does. Therein lies the essential porousness of the magic circle. I guess hockey is an ARG — its hard to know whats real and whats the game… anything could conceivably hinge on the outcome and part of the play of spectators is generating these fictions in their homes, at the sports bars, in newspapers and on the streets.
Okay… a different reflection. In Canada at least, hockey is not a spectator sport. It is a mistake to analyze hockey watching in terms of the analytics of looking. This is what playing NHL 2K9 made clear to me… looking at hockey on the screen is also playing in the sense that most watchers have been or are also players.
One of Crosby’s quotes is that his goal is every kids dream… quite right that. Its not that every kid dreams of watching Crosby score the goal its that every hockey playing kid dreams of scoring that goal. We are not watching the ice, we are also on the ice… this is a form of replay.
I imagine I am not saying anything new for hockey scholars about this but I think the point is relevant to both game design and to the understanding of the production of real nationalist fictions.
I had more to say about this but like I said I just wanted an excuse to post on this — Canada pwns!