The Aesthetic of Play by Brian Upton

Inspirational. Completely changed my mind on the tension between narrative and play in video games. Upton provides a perspective that shows narrative is play, just a different kind of it. In fact, play undergirds all the arts, from board games to paintings to novels.

Three of the many things I learned from this book:

  • 5,000 year-old boardgames have been discovered inside Egyptian tombs
  • Slot machines are programmed to pop up with near misses of jackpots often, so players think the big score is just around the corner
  • Chinese narratives often follow a different structure than the Western. Where a Western narrative has some inciting incident leading to rising action and then a climax, Chinese narratives will instead establish a topic and then explore it in great detail before a plot twist throws everything into confusion, which is only resolved at the conclusion.