It is strange that Espen Aarseth seems to disregard these trappings of the game in favor of analyzing the abstract models of games, stating that it means nothing to change the skin of a game. He uses the example of chess, where the removal of the “royal theme” is “irrelevant to our understanding of chess.” But I would submit that this only goes so far. Chess is a simulation of war, illustrating the idea that if the ruler falls, the nation will crumble. This idea is not necessary to knowing how to play chess, but it is necessary to understanding the deeper meaning of chess. Contrast this with go, which is a game about taking territory. The pieces in go are faceless, mere circular stones, illustrating that no one is more powerful than another, that it is the whole which matters. To play go with the sort of pieces one uses in chess, which each have their own personality, would undermine the experience, the narrative created by the core gameplay. Thus, while gameplay may be separate from what Koster might call the “staging” of the game, I would agree with Koster in saying that the two can not be completely separated in the eyes of the public. However, while the difference may not be seen by the uninitiated player, it is important as scholars to analyze the effects these different trappings have on the game experience.
In contrast, Markuu Eskelinen analyzes video games with a matrix similar to what we have seen from Caillois, a more fluid and dynamic rubric the study of this field. Rather than separate games based on their abstract models of play, Eskelinen goes deeper and analyzes the core aspects of a game, their spacial, causal, and temporal aspects. By analyzing games at this level, it is possible to discuss games for which abstract models of play have not yet been developed. Thus, whole genres of games which have yet to be developed can be discussed, and perhaps even created. At the same time, it would be possible to determine which types of games should never even be designed, as their combination of the aforementioned factors would be so incongruous as to create a displeasing experience. This is not to say that all great works of art have to be enjoyable, but there is certainly nothing to be gained from a poorly worded essay, or a unintentionally sloppy painting.
I suppose the big difference I see between these two points of view is, what is the core of video games? I personally agree with Eskelinen. The trappings of a game which Aarseth discards as getting in the way of the game experience, enriches the experience of many games. Still, it is only one aspect to be considered, a sub-element of the player’s interaction of the game, and thus should be given appropriate weight.
Though I find it interesting in light of their differing approaches that both Eskelinen and Aarseth come to the conclusion that narrative is separate from games, an unnecessary hindrance at best and a detriment to video games as a whole at worst.