chapter  5
17 Pages

The hybrid agency of hybrid play

WithFrans Mäyrä

This chapter analyzes the agency related to hybrid game play. While all human agency engaged in play is arguably rather complex, the play situation in hybrid games includes additional dimensions that complicate agency even further. Philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer has argued that “all playing is being-played”: When we become playing beings, we are being redefined and framed by the rules and structures of the game in question. Thus, the player becomes subjected to the game, and game “plays the player.” In mixed reality and hybrid games such as Pokémon GO (a location-based game) or Skylanders (a physical-digital hybrid game), there are also such systemic elements (game rules, game world) that have an effect on the playing agency. But such games also include novel technologies that combine digital and non-digital dimensions of play in a manner that is different from more traditional games. There are human and multiple non-human components that constitute the game agency related to hybrid, digital-physical games. The experience of hybrid play relates both to what happens to the player in a physical reality, and what takes place in the associated, digital version of game reality—and in the interplay of such layered play dimensions. The agency in such a game-playing situation is consequently also mixed and multi-layered. This chapter discusses with examples the character of such hybrid agency, and also highlights the internal tensions and potential for conflicts in how power is being distributed in hybrid game play.