CM Seminar: Half Secrets and Mere Collectibles: A Mythology of Platforming

Presenter: Peter McDonald, Assistant Professor of Design, Creative, and Informal Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UW-Madison

Description: 2D platforming games employ some standard gameplay objects—collectibles, power-ups, and secrets—in ways that break their standard function as rewards and pacing mechanisms. Platformers fragment collectibles into hundreds and thousands of minimally useful pieces (Wark, 2007; Jones, 2008); they offer power-ups that change a game's mechanics rather than simply boosting the player's ammunition or health (Boluk and Lemieux, 2017); they tantalize with secrets that are neither easter eggs nor cheat codes but internal to the gameworld. In each case, platforming games use these elements to reveal alternate possibilities for play within the game world, encoding an entirely different game as a virtual counterpart to the one the player inhabits. Collectibles trace ideal paths and taunt the player into new ways of exploring a level; power-ups showcase how the game would feel if the avatar moved or acted in different ways; secrets subvert the left-to-right direction of progress and demonstrate other goals and drives (Howard, 2012). Together, these game elements provide a complex vocabulary with which platforming games can comment on their own genre through intertextual reference, self-reflective criticism, and speculative exploration.

Bio: Peter McDonald is an assistant professor of curriculum & instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison within the design, informal, and creative education focus area. His work explores the processes by which people make meaning and interpret their play activity, and he teaches classes on game design and game studies.

Hosted by: Professor Noah Wardrip-Fruin

Join us in person or on Zoom:

Thursday, March 2, 2023 at 10:30am to 11:30am

Engineering 2, E2 399
Engineering 2 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, California 95064

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations

Invited Audience

Faculty & Staff, Graduate Students


Science & Technology

Baskin School of Engineering, Computational Media Department
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