Watson [Abstract]

A medley of meanings: Insights from an instance of gameplay in League of Legends [Full text]

Max Watson [1]

Abstract: This article engages with the notion of insightful gameplay. It recounts debates about what, if anything, makes play meaningful. Through these, it contends that while some games are explicitly designed to foster insightful gameplay, most are not and many might even be considered utterly meaningless. It notes how discussions about what makes playing games meaningful raise concomitant questions about what playing means. It then strives to reconcile these two interrelated questions by offering the notion of a medley of meanings. A medley of meanings is the notion that each player brings their own subjective disposition to playing to a particular instance of gameplay; no participant to gameplay should be considered as in a state that is “not playing”. Because these subjective dispositions to playing can be quite divergent, players can and often do clash in instances of gameplay. This article then contends that these clashes can in turn render the most seemingly meaningless games potential hotbeds of insightful gameplay. The second half of this article discusses the ethnographic example of an instance of gameplay in the digital game League of Legends in order to explicate the notion of a medley of meanings.

Keywords: Games, play, meaning, insightful gameplay

[1] University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, moaw2@cam.ac.uk