7 thoughts on “Platform Studies, Computational Essentialism, and Magic: The Gathering”

  1. Amen, brother – testify! :) If you’re at DiGRA/FDG this year do check out my presentation “No-one Plays Alone” – and even if not, check out the paper. I’ve been saying for years now that the original multipurpose games platform was a deck of cards (although, actually, a case could be made for dice before this…). You and I are working in a very similar space with respect to this topic, and I’m always glad to know that I’m not alone when my research takes me down a tangent! :)

    All the best,


    1. I will be at DiGRA/FDG this year and will try my best to catch your presentation. I believe there’s a potential in opening up the platform studies framework for analog games. And if you’re interested in more MTG-related stuff, I will be presenting a content analysis of gender representation in four sets of MTG there together with my colleague Tereza Krobová. See you in Dundee.

  2. I’m intrigued by the relationship of board games to platform studies and am happy to see some discussion here about their compatibility.

    I suspect that Bogost and Montfort’s 2009 “Platform Studies: Frequently Questioned Answers” may be fairly relevant to this discussion though. For example, they acknowledge Gillespie’s broader framing of platform and explain why their more narrow focus on computation and computers is both reasonable and useful. They also explicitly clarify the role of culture in platform studies in the section “Misconception #5: Platform Studies is About Technical Details, not culture” with statements like “Platform studies is about the connection between technical specifics and culture.”

    As the goal of platform studies is to look at a specific kind of phenomena, not to explain games in totality (see the section “Misconception #3: Platform Studies is All About Video Games”), I’m not sure it’s fair to argue that its computational priorities constitute a “blind spot”. However, there are some clear complications to considering analog games as a platform, so the considerations here are nice to see.

    1. Hi Ian:

      I feel that authors occasionally make claims that their research doesn’t adequately address. It might be a misconception that platform studies is not about culture, but in my opinion much of the work being done on it hasn’t provided a robust culturalist perspective that I (personally) would like to read.

      To your second point, I would love to read more material on platform studies that doesn’t engage with specifically computational systems. It sounds like Bogost and Montfort would, too. I just haven’t seen too much of it. When more work like Svelch’s and Altice’s has been printed, I will be more confident in the political and empirical validity of misconception #3.

      1. Aaron, you are right that Bogost and Montfort’s stated _aims_ say nothing about the _actual_ outcomes of the endeavor. I was wrong to state the later follows from the former.

        To me, the question is not whether platform studies has a computational emphasis; the question is how far can someone actually get from that starting point? As you say, and I concede, the claims about cultural relevance may not shake out. But it seems to me that the scope of the outcomes is different from the validity of the subject matter. Maybe it’s ok that platform studies has the most to say about a specific kind of craft activity. Maybe my expectations are too low?

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