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Rule Making and Rule Breaking: Game Development and the Governance of Emergent Behaviour

Keywords: computer games , video games , gaming , digital media

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Discussions of ‘control’ in games often center on players and their myriad attempts to push back upon the systems that seek to constrain them. The fact that players resist the constraints imposed upon them is not surprising, nor is it surprising that counterplay and control are such rich topics for game studies academics. In this article, I argue that players are invited by games to bend the rules. It is in the very nature of play to find the movement between the rules, and for many players the ‘fun’ in play is the inherent challenge of attempting to master, defeat, or remake games’ formal structures. These rationalities of play preclude blind obedience to the rules and have distinct implications for how games are governed. While there have been numerous studies of players who bend or break the rules (Consalvo, 2007; Foo and Koivisto, 2004; Dibbell, 1998; Kolko and Reid, 1998; Williams, 2006; Mnookin, 1997) and players who alter and re-make the rules in their role of co-producers (Sotamaa, 2009; Kücklich, 2005; Humphreys, 2005; Taylor, 2006b), there is little research on game development companies and their attempts to harness these rationalities of play and uphold the rules beyond the reflexive writings of game designers themselves (Curtis, 1992; Morningstar and Farmer, 1991; Koster, 2002).


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