Loading Events

Christopher A. Paul presents ‘Optimizing Play’

Christopher A. Paul presents ‘Optimizing Play’



Third Place Books
5041 Wilson Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118 United States
+ Google Map
An unexpected take on how games work, what the stakes are for them, and how game designers can avoid the traps of optimization.

Third Place Books is pleased to welcome Christopher A. Paul to our Seward Park store! Paul will be discussing his new book, Optimizing Play: Why Theorycrafting Breaks Games and How to Fix It. This event is free and open to the public.

For important updates, registration is highly recommended in advance. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

For accessibility inquiries, please contact events@thirdplacebooks.com

Having trouble registering? See Eventbrite’s troubleshooting FAQ here.

About Optimizing Play. . .

The process of optimization in games seems like a good thing—who wouldn’t want to find the most efficient way to play and win? As Christopher Paul argues in Optimizing Play, however, optimization can sometimes risk a tragedy of the commons, where actions that are good for individuals jeopardize the overall state of the game for everyone else. As he explains, players inadvertently limit play as they theorycraft, seeking optimal choices. The process of developing a meta, or the most effective tactic available, structures decision making, causing play to stagnate. A “stale” meta then creates a perception that a game is solved and may lead players to turn away from the game.

Drawing on insights from game studies, rhetoric, the history of science, ecology, and game theory literature, Paul explores the problem of optimization in a range of video games, including Overwatch, FIFA/EA Sports FC, NBA 2K, Clash Royale, World of Warcraft, and League of Legends. He also pulls extensively from data analytics in sports, where the problem has progressed further and is even more intractable than it is in video games, given the money sports teams invest to find an edge. Finally, Paul offers concrete and specific suggestions for how games can be developed to avoid the trap set by optimization run amok.

Christopher A. Paul is a Professor of Communication and Media at Seattle University and is lucky enough to write, teach, and travel around the world talking about video games. His newest book is Optimizing Play: Why Theorycrafting Breaks Games and How to Fix It. He focuses on applying the tools of rhetoric to aspects of digital media, most frequently video games. He has published four previous books: Free-to-Play: Mobile Video Games, Bias, and Norms (MIT Press, 2020), Real Games: What’s Legitimate and What’s Not in Contemporary Video Games (with Mia Consalvo, MIT Press, 2019), The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture Is the Worst (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), and Wordplay and the Discourse of Video Games: Analyzing Words, Design, and Play (Routledge, 2012).

About Third Place Books

Founded in 1998 in Lake Forest Park, Washington, Third Place Books is dedicated to the creation of a community around books and the ideas inside them. With locations in Lake Forest Park and Seattle’s Ravenna and Seward Park neighborhoods, Third Place Books is proud to serve the entire Seattle metro area. Learn more about their event series at thirdplacebooks.com/events.