I recently read Ian Bogost's book How to do Things with Videogames and was quite impressed. There are many good essays in this book worth discussing, and hopefully once this hellish semester/winter from hell is over, I'll actually have some time to blog about them. At any rate, one in particular that I think will interest folks here is called "Habituation," which tries to complicate Bushnell's argument that a great game is easy to learn, but hard to master.
According to Bogost, this maxim is misunderstood. Most people assume that this maxim applies to the game mechanics or rules being easy to master, but what it really refers to is conceptual familiarity. The reason Pong succeeded where the earlier Computer Space did not is that most people are already familiar with ping pong, so they brought a lot to the table, so to speak. By contrast, Computer Space was based on the game Spacewar!, which only a tiny fraction of people had played, and no one was familiar with the zero-G dogfight.
You may remember a review I posted a few weeks about Unit Operations, an academic book on videogames by Ian Bogost. That book, while certainly useful and insightful, is probably of interest primarily to game studies scholars. His newer book, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, seems destined for a larger audience. It's a very good book with great insights and plenty of examples, especially for fans of retro and homebrew for the Atari 2600 and other early platforms. See below for my detailed review.
I just finished reading Ian Bogost's book Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism, a book that is probably already considered a foundational work for game studies. The book is clearly written for professional academics steeped in literary theory and with some smattering of reading in computer science, philosophy, and other fields. I can't tell if his tongue is in his cheek or not when he writes in the preface, "Jargon and obfuscation is a way of laying groundwork for novel production" and that his theory, like any other, "can't be obvious" (ii). However, there are plenty of kernels of interest to anyone with a serious interest in understanding games and, perhaps more importantly, the role they play and can play in our society and culture. In this review, I'll try to break down the book's key ideas.