This is not a game: play in cultural environments

Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman

Abstract. Games have a particular set of relationships to the contexts in which they are played. Although games have clearly delineated boundaries in time and space that set them apart from the “real world”, some games are designed to blur that boundary. This essay, comprised of several selections from the authors’ book Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, investigates the complex ways in which games interact with their cultural environment. Focusing on these questions from a game design viewpoint, the essay begins by identifying key concepts related to these questions and ends with detailed design analyses of three games that play with the cultural environments in which the games take place.