Infinite Play in Games of Love, Sex and Romance

richard-lemarchand-headshot-200-px-squareSPEAKER: Richard Lemarchand

In the long history of games, competition has been a prevailing theme, with players strategizing to become winners rather than losers in rules-based environments. In his 1987 book, Finite and Infinite Games, James P. Carse suggests that all human activity can be seen as one of two types of games. Finite games have a definite beginning and end and are played with the aim of winning (and thus ending) the game, whether it’s a basketball game, a chess match, or the metaphorical games of going to college to get a degree or pursuing a case in a court of law. Infinite games, however, are open-ended in time and are played only with the goal of continuing the game, and perhaps also drawing other people into the game. Carse describes people who live their lives as “infinite players”, valuing communication, learning, and equitable, collaborative play above all else.

“Open games”—games without “fail states” like Sim City and Electroplankton—have risen in popularity recently with the success of games like Gone Home and Proteus. The characteristics of this kind of game—explorative, expressive and communicative—seem to be connected with the ideas of James Carse, and create great opportunities to discuss love, sex and romance, as we have seen in games like How do you Do It? Sacrilege and Consentacle. In this talk, game designer and USC Games Associate Professor Richard Lemarchand will take a look at the way James Carse discusses different attitudes to sex and love in Finite and Infinite Games, and will connect them to progressive games and intersectionality.

Richard Lemarchand is an Associate Professor in the USC Games program, and the Interactive Media & Games Division of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. In addition, he is a game designer, a writer, a public speaker and a consultant. Between 2004 and 2012, Richard was a lead game designer at Naughty Dog in Santa Monica, California. He led or co-led the design of all three PlayStation 3 games in the Uncharted series, including Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the winner of ten AIAS Interactive Achievement Awards, five Game Developers Choice Awards, four BAFTAs and over 200 Game of the Year awards. A passionate advocate of indie and experimental games, Richard has been involved with the IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games for several years, and organizes the annual GDC Microtalks.