An Introduction to Game Studies | Book Review

Game Studies Book


The ‘new’ kid on the academic block, Game Studies, is something that is shouldering on the important task of figuring out the question of why we are gaming and putting it in a cultural context. When the world around us is getting more and more ‘Gamified’, the more important it gets to understand where we were. “An introduction to Game Studies” is, as the name suggests, a starting point for anyone interested in the subject. Talk nerdy to me, Mäyrä!


Learning by playing may even be called the oldest learning method there is. After all, even animals learn by imitation, and play behaviour that is simulating hiding or fighting is familiar to anyone observing kittens or puppies learning skills necessary for later life” – Frans Mäyrä

Has games and playtime increased? Do more people participate in playful activity now then they did before? I’m not too sure about that. Games have historically, been one of our most treasured activities once “real work” has been done with.

Work itself, according to some scholars I’ve read over the years, was a more playful and social activity. In fact, we are the weird ones that have formulated work around things we (seemingly) can’t budge: Time tables, deadlines, punch clocks and machines. We are slowly moving back to that spot with Gamification techniques slipped in here and there in our everyday life, and increasingly so. We are slowly finding our roots again.

One example is the punch card at the coffee store, where you get a reward for buying X amounts of hot beverages. A lot of educational learning in this Youtube-era has some form of roleplaying elements to them, “Do this and level up!”, where the level up is pre-revealed to entice you to do it for yourself, in contrast with the more formal education that asks you to do and find out the why later on.

This is why Game Studies matter, the analysis of this phenomenon is one of the main pillars of the discipline and Frans Mäyrä takes us through a ride through the history of this happening in “An Introduction to Game Studies”.

The way we organize and record the history of games affect the way we percieve the nature and significance of games, ranging from primarily technological or economical to artistic or social-historical understanding of games” – Frans Mäyrä

The book breathes a passion for nerd-culture and even though the author put the modern and digital games in the front window, the parallels to more ‘primitive’ games are done throughout the work. My personal preference is that this could be done more, but I think it would be hard to do without being too heavy to be an introduction.

As the book is meant to act as an educational tool (I think at least), every chapter is finished off with a summary, an assignment and a list of books if you want to dig further into specifics – All done excellently. I even did some of the assignments as I finished chapters just for fun and they gave me a lot to think about on the topic. I like it when authors do this and I wish more did it.

The generalistic outline of the book is great, especially with the 3 chapter-finishers in mind, because most people will find something that interests them and you get bread crumbs to authors and books to keep you going down whatever rabbit hole you wish.

There are stories of the madness created by dice in the ancient Indian Rig Veda. There were laws against gambling already in Roman times, and not only dice or card games were regulated or banned, but also the currently socially endorced game of golf was banned at one time by the Scottish parliament” – Frans Mäyrä


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