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Games as Prisons

 

Disciplines > Game Design > Games as Prisons

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Although it may seem a strange metaphor, in many ways games can seem and act as prisons, incarcerating and enslaving their 'inmates'.

Prisoners are kept for a certain period of time, or 'sentence'. Game players can also feel like they are unable to quit when they are on missions, between levels or otherwise unable to stop playing without incurring a loss (typically having to start again next time).

Prisoners have to work for simple 'advantages', often doing menial work. In games from role-play to simulation, players are required to complete simple, often very repetitive tasks to achieve progress.

One of the pernicious aspects of prisons is that they imprison the mind as well as the body as a kind of psychic entrapment takes place. Games, also, can be mentally and emotionally constricting as thoughts and feelings about them can occupy virtually every waking minute.

Example

A role-playing game player commits her time to other players in the game as her party gains treasure and experience. She then feels trapped as her private life suffers due to the demands of the game.

A chess player joins a league and becomes determined to progress. He studies games and strategies obsessively and the game becomes all-consuming in his life.

Discussion

Prisons are places that people fear and try to avoid thinking about, so the bringing together of the pleasure of games with this very real horror seems a strange combination, yet the parallels are quite strong. However, for those who dislike games or the effects they can have, this link may be appreciated more, particularly if it seems as if people they care for are trapped within the gaming world.

The idea of organizations as 'psychic prisons' was originated by Gareth Morgan who used a series of metaphors as lenses through which to examine organizations.

See also

Investment principle

 

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