Oblique & Otherwise: An overview of the usefulness of doubt (Part 2)


When you look at a matrix of the definitions of games the two most agreed upon aspects are: ‘proceeds according to rules that limit players’ and ‘goal-oriented/outcome-oriented.’7 We are looking at games – or imposing the abstraction of games upon this investigation of the tactics of doubts – because games have rules, and use play. These aspects of play go deeper, into meaningful play and the open system of exchange within game design definitions. In game design there are two particular meanings to meaningful play. We are going to use these as a framework to consider the structures creatives use to induce doubt and uncertainty.

The descriptive definition of meaningful play: Meaningful play in a game emerges from the relationship between player action and system outcome; it is the process by which a player takes action within the designed system of a game, and the system responds to the action. The meaning of an action in a game resides in the relationship between action and outcome. The evaluative definition of meaningful play: Meaningful play is what occurs when the relationships between actions and outcomes in a game are both discernable and integrated into the larger context of the game.8

Games use tactics to induce doubts, risks, and uncertainty. Uncertainty is an essential aspect of games, and there is little point in playing if you know how it is going to end. We will explore this relationship, and compare it to the role played in the creation of art, later.

The restoring of this old postman’s cottage in Harris has my attention because of my most recent renovations at my house in Memphis. When we entered the door we took off our wellies and I noticed the boot dryer; not that seeing such a thing was a sign of the luxury to come, but there is a difference between knowing such things are in the world, and owning the contraption. Certainly, warm dry feet would have been something the postman who lived in this cozy dwelling in the mid-19th century longed for during his eight-mile journey delivering communications on the island.

How do artists create? Every single time something new is imagined blank pages, unmarked canvases, and empty spaces are faced. Beyond the physical expression of fresh beginnings there is the internal doubt and uncertainty of creation. The cottage I’m in has been decorated room by room, as if being picked off a restaurant menu. The creatives I know work differently than that. Within the design world that happens only when the difference between deadline and project kickoff is measured in minutes. Even then, though, you often have the framework of a brand guideline you created and can follow.

One of the first things they had to rebuild here was the trolley rail to the pier far below on the loch that I imagine the letter and packages were hauled up on in the past. With that personal port restored the new owners got the building supplies up to the cottage the easiest way they could, by boat. That’s also how they got these Spanish tiles, whose design reflects the Moorish influence on the Iberian peninsula that inspired the string instruments and musical harmony we use today. The slate roof was instead hauled over a route similar to the one I traveled on. Then knapped on site and laid in the pattern currently keeping my head dry and allowing me to warm.

Not long ago, three years to be exact, the doctor who owns and restored this cottage received a controversial wage increase – alongside four others – while the rest of the NHS salaries at his teaching hospital fell.9 Here at the cottage, you could see where the extra cash went. Everything here was about a display of taste. Nothing would be out of place in an upmarket decor magazine. But this is exactly what made me feel uncomfortable. There wasn’t any originality in the house. Even the seemingly random nature in the pattern of the tile had such the feel of an all-too-fashionable reclaimed architecture aesthetic since these individual tiles were not part of the original pattern in which they were intended to sit within and puzzle out. With a Google search for ‘Spanish blue tile’ you can buy the same effect as wallpaper on eBay.



8 Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (pg 37)

9 ‘Dr Alastair Turnbull, the medical director of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, last year received a rise of about £15,000, taking his annual earnings to between £225,000 and £230,000. He earned 9.3 times the average hospital salary – up from a ratio of 8.5 in 2011/12. The median salary of hospital staff dropped from £25,611 to £24,566 at the same time as the top bosses’ pay increased.’ The Press

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