10-2 | Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames

Book Review

Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames

Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux
Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 2017. Acknowledgments, notes, bibliography, and index. 383 pp. $30.00 Paperback ISBN: 9780816687169

by Riccardo Fassone

First Paragraph:

“Metagames are the only kind of games that we play” (p. 3). Metagaming opens with a rather bold statement. Or, possibly, with the most common of common senses about games. We never really engage with the abstract, platonic, perfectly formed rule set of a game, but rather we play around it, engage with it in messy ways, shape it to our and other players’ advantage. Playing means, in fact, performing meta-operations on and around the materiality, authored mechanics, and rules of the peculiar object that is a game. Not absolute obedience to the precepts of the game, nor boundless, liberating freedom, the metaplay of the metagamer is an act of approximation and negotiation, at times subdued (“spectating,” “making,” “trading”), at times violent (“cheating,” “breaking”). Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux, both professors at the University of California, Davis, build a compelling theoretical structure that rests on this complex duality, ultimately claiming that the metagame is the site where the authority of the game and the creativity of the player coexist in a constant state of tension.