New Paper on the Pay Once & Play Problem of Video Game History

Bacpayonceandplayk from the 2016 DiGRA/FDG conference in Dundee, here is the paper I gave on using design patterns to understand video game history: Sailing the Endless River of Games: The case for Historical Design Patterns.

The Pay Once & Play category was introduced in the Apple App Store in early 2015. Though video games were for a long time, at least from 1985 to 2015, mostly sold in boxes for upfront payment, this business model was not actually named as “Pay once & Play” until after the emergence of the free-to-play or freemium business model. Why not? Because it was obvious that all video games were sold in boxes, so why would you mention it when talking about video games, or video game history?

This is the topic of the paper: The problem isn’t just that games change, but that games change in ways we haven’t predicted. The major events in video game history concern things that had previously been taken for granted: MMOs like World of Warcraft moved the role of the player community to the forefront; casual games reconfigured the audience; mobile games reconfigured distribution and business models; independent games set up a new relation between developer and audience. Video game history continually forces us to reconsider what it is we are studying, when we study video games.

In the paper I then propose that we can redefine game design patterns to help us to talk about video game change. I return to matching tile games as an example of how to write history using design patterns.