Play is usually thought of as a form of freedom, a pure, childlike expression of choice and creativity. Yet games rely on repeatable structures, precise timing and carefully negotiated conventions. Play can be utopian, requiring complicity, spontaneity and creative repurposing, yet games can be violent, limiting and competitive.
Recent years have seen games creep into every domain of our lives – a function of the rise of nudge economics and the app economy. The late capitalism of the digital age increasingly relies on an incentivised game-space in which our relationship to technology feels ever closer to addiction.
In this issue, we grapple with this tension between play and games – how do the rules of the games we create shape the world we live in and the ludic possibilities they offer us?
McKenzie Wark speaks to Guy Mannes-Abbott about her new book Capital is Dead and the appeal of vulgar Marxism
Joshua Citarella takes stock of World of Warcraft’s legacy on its 15th anniversary
Ana Maria Nicolaescu unpacks Roblox, documenting its seemingly limitless universe
Justin E.H. Smith frames play as paradox: something both rule-based and free of rules, at once spontaneous and rehearsed
Plus, interviews with Lucia Pietrousti, Ben Grosser and Katie Mitchell, poetry from CAConrad, and flash fiction from Nell Zink