Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen


Volume: 2 ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666
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Space, vast lands and dungeons… It is no coincidence that Space War and Adventure are among the best known of the first computer games. Both clearly appeal to the player’s curiosity, and desire to explore unknown territory. When exploration ceases, the game comes to a stop … For some time it has been clear to me that the importance of exploration has remained largely unexplored by game research. Sometimes it is used as a subset of a larger theory or analysis. However, I believe there are strong reasons for giving it more attention. The case I want to make in this paper is that exploration is an essential part of computer games. I will concentrate my argumentation on exploration as a basic drive for playing computer games. To achieve this I will look at exploration in computer games from two different perspectives: A player perspective and a system perspective. The argument is that each perspective is a different set of optics for the perception of the exploration of the game. The system perspective denotes the rules necessary to play a game, and the player’s exploration of them. The player perspective explains the phenomenological game experience, where meaning is central to the exploration. Succinctly, my argument will be as follows: All computer games start with the player building a state of tension (a conflict), which gradually subsides through the ongoing exploration of the game universe. A computer game is characterized by an ability to support different optics of explorative activities. The primary goal of this article is the description of those two sets of optics.