Mikael Jakobsson

Mikael Jakobsson plays, creates, teaches, and researches games at the MIT Game Lab and with the artist collective Popsicleta, where his work focuses on the border between game design and game culture. He contributed to Debugging Game History (MIT Press).

  • Playing Oppression

    The Legacy of Conquest and Empire in Colonialist Board Games

    Mary Flanagan and Mikael Jakobsson

    A striking analysis of popular board games' roots in imperialist reasoning—and why the future of play depends on reckoning with it.

    Board games conjure up images of innocuously enriching entertainment: family game nights, childhood pastimes, cooperative board games centered around resource management and strategic play. Yet in Playing Oppression, Mary Flanagan and Mikael Jakobsson apply the incisive frameworks of postcolonial theory to a broad historical survey of board games to show how these seemingly benign entertainments reinforce the logic of imperialism.

    Through this lens, the commercialized version of Snakes and Ladders takes shape as the British Empire's distortion of Gyan Chaupar (an Indian game of spiritual knowledge) and early twentieth-century “trading games” that fêted French colonialism are exposed for how they conveniently sanitized its brutality while also relying on crudely racist imagery. These games' most explicitly abhorrent features may no longer be visible, but their legacy still lingers in the contemporary Eurogame tendency to exalt (and incentivize) cycles of exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination.

    An essential addition to any player's bookshelf, Playing Oppression deftly analyzes this insidious violence and proposes a path forward with board games that challenge colonialist thinking and embrace a much broader cultural imagination.

    • Hardcover $35.00

Contributor

  • Debugging Game History

    Debugging Game History

    A Critical Lexicon

    Henry Lowood and Raiford Guins

    Essays discuss the terminology, etymology, and history of key terms, offering a foundation for critical historical studies of games.

    Even as the field of game studies has flourished, critical historical studies of games have lagged behind other areas of research. Histories have generally been fact-by-fact chronicles; fundamental terms of game design and development, technology, and play have rarely been examined in the context of their historical, etymological, and conceptual underpinnings. This volume attempts to “debug” the flawed historiography of video games. It offers original essays on key concepts in game studies, arranged as in a lexicon—from “Amusement Arcade” to “Embodiment” and “Game Art” to “Simulation” and “World Building.”

    Written by scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines, including game development, curatorship, media archaeology, cultural studies, and technology studies, the essays offer a series of distinctive critical “takes” on historical topics. The majority of essays look at game history from the outside in; some take deep dives into the histories of play and simulation to provide context for the development of electronic and digital games; others take on such technological components of games as code and audio. Not all essays are history or historical etymology—there is an analysis of game design, and a discussion of intellectual property—but they nonetheless raise questions for historians to consider. Taken together, the essays offer a foundation for the emerging study of game history.

    ContributorsMarcelo Aranda, Brooke Belisle, Caetlin Benson-Allott, Stephanie Boluk, Jennifer deWinter, J. P. Dyson, Kate Edwards, Mary Flanagan, Jacob Gaboury, William Gibbons, Raiford Guins, Erkki Huhtamo, Don Ihde, Jon Ippolito, Katherine Isbister, Mikael Jakobsson, Steven E. Jones, Jesper Juul, Eric Kaltman, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Carly A. Kocurek, Peter Krapp, Patrick LeMieux, Henry Lowood, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Ken S. McAllister, Nick Monfort, David Myers, James Newman, Jenna Ng, Michael Nitsche, Laine Nooney, Hector Postigo, Jas Purewal, Reneé H. Reynolds, Judd Ethan Ruggill, Marie-Laure Ryan, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Anastasia Salter, Mark Sample, Bobby Schweizer, John Sharp, Miguel Sicart, Rebecca Elisabeth Skinner, Melanie Swalwell, David Thomas, Samuel Tobin, Emma Witkowski, Mark J.P. Wolf

    • Hardcover $50.00