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

Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux

A playful and provocative call to stop playing videogames and begin making metagames

400 Pages, 6 x 9 in




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

Series: Electronic Mediations

Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux

ISBN: 9780816687169

Publication date: April 4th, 2017

400 Pages


8 x 5

"Digital media scholars Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux ask what do games do? They rediscover meaning for the term metagame."—Rhizomes

"Interesting analysis of specific examples of the ways in which play has evolved under different circumstances."—CHOICE connect

"Boluk and LeMieux shine a hundred spotlights on play’s diversity in, on, around, between, through, and without video games. Their wildly eclectic book careens from competitive e-sports and video game spectatorship to hacking, modding, speedrunning, experimenting, and critiquing video games—all valid ways of engaging with the medium that tend to fall outside analyses which see these activities as merely the metagame."—Critical Inquiry

The greatest trick the videogame industry ever pulled was convincing the world that videogames were games rather than a medium for making metagames. Elegantly defined as “games about games,” metagames implicate a diverse range of practices that stray outside the boundaries and bend the rules: from technical glitches and forbidden strategies to Renaissance painting, algorithmic trading, professional sports, and the War on Terror. In Metagaming, Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux demonstrate how games always extend beyond the screen, and how modders, mappers, streamers, spectators, analysts, and artists are changing the way we play.

Metagaming uncovers these alternative histories of play by exploring the strange experiences and unexpected effects that emerge in, on, around, and through videogames. Players puzzle through the problems of perspectival rendering in Portal, perform clandestine acts of electronic espionage in EVE Online, compete and commentate in Korean StarCraft, and speedrun The Legend of Zelda in record times (with or without the use of vision). Companies like Valve attempt to capture the metagame through international e-sports and online marketplaces while the corporate history of Super Mario Bros. is undermined by the endless levels of Infinite Mario, the frustrating pranks of Asshole Mario, and even Super Mario Clouds, a ROM hack exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

One of the only books to include original software alongside each chapter, Metagaming transforms videogames from packaged products into instruments, equipment, tools, and toys for intervening in the sensory and political economies of everyday life. And although videogames conflate the creativity, criticality, and craft of play with the act of consumption, we don’t simply play videogames—we make metagames.

Stephanie Boluk is assistant professor in the English department and Cinema and Digital Media Program at University of California, Davis.

Patrick LeMieux is an artist, game designer, and assistant professor in the Cinema and Digital Media Program at University of California, Davis.

Introduction. Metagaming: Videogames and the Practice of Play
1. About, Within, Around, Without: A Survey of Six Metagames
Metagame 2: Triforce
2. Stretched Skulls: Anamorphic Games and the Memento Mortem Mortis
Metagame 3: Memento Mortem Mortis
3. Blind Spots: The Phantom Pain, The Helen Keller Simulator, and Blindrunning
Metagame 4: It Is Pitch Black
4. Hundred Thousand Billion Fingers: A Serial History of Super Mario Bros.
Metagame 5: 99 Exercises in Style
5. The Turn of the Tide: E-Sports, Moneyball, and the Undercurrency in Dota 2
Metagame 6: Tide Hunter
6. Breaking the Metagame: Feminist Spoilsports and Magic Circle Jerks