Posted on 2017/11/11 by

Unveiling Lived Experiences through Metagames in the Universe of Tiny Toon Adventures

“Before a videogame can ever be played […] there must be a metagame.”

Patrick LeMieux and Stephanie Lobuk

In my experience with playing games, I realize I was always a player. I allowed myself to be deluded, I thought I was an active actor deciding what step to do next. All lies! Without realizing it, I assented to become a player, a follower, who only understands the rules and mechanics of a game through somebody else’s perspective and constraints. Herein, Catherine Malabou’s claim comes in handy “humans make their own brain, but they do not know that they make it.” Malabou appeals not only to active observation, but also to awareness.  I would like to share with you today how metagames “reveal alternate histories of play” (Garfield) through three attributes as proposed by Patrick Lemiux and Stephanie Boluk in Metagaming and the Practices of Play: (1) contextual, (2) site-specific, and (3) historical attributes of and both human and (nonhuman) play. To exemplify the path I am drawing, I will make use of “Tiny Toon Adventures 2 Montana’s Movie Madness” (for GB) and Super Mario Bros (for NES.).

The first attribute that reveals lived experiences, also known as histories of play is “contextual.” Henry Jenkins defines transmedia storytelling as “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.”

Now, have a look at the following assemblage, do you relate to any of the characters you notice in this picture? If so, perhaps you hold a memory of one or many situations in which one or several of these characters appeared in your life. (Please, hold on to your chosen memory throughout the presentation) On my side, Tiny Toon Adventures is a T.V. series I closely relate to from my childhood. I used to watch it on T.V. in the evenings. In fact, when I got my GB Tiny Toon was the first video game I played.

Here’s a sneak peak  of the storyline:

The series revolves around the school life of young characters who attend Acme Looneyversity, so that they can become the next generation of Looney Toons characters. Two human characters, Elmyra Duff and Montana Max, are the main villains.

What’s so remarkable about this game is that, to me, it was a mini-universe of the T.V. show I used to watch on T.V. Furthermore, while playing it I felt as if I were, for an instant, the central character, the one who defeats the bully Montana Max. I was a part of that mini-universe.

Which brings me to the second and third attributes, which are site-specific and historical. While dissecting the meaning and ideas surrounded by the prefix meta and the meaning of metagames, Lemieux and Boluk explain that “the metagame anchors the game in time and space.”

(Now, remember the time and place in which your memory sets in in your mind) Given that the memory allocated in the human mind can be played repeatedly, the moment the memory sets in a specific timeframe, it leads to leads to, what I call decoding. The memory in question which anchors the game can also serve as a key or an access point to unveil and play before our inner mind other memories that relate to that timeframe. Because lived experiences are individual in nature, everyone can potentially and exponentially create their “own metagame” (Lemieux). I would suggest herein that right now we are making visible a part of a larger metagame, for we are selecting the memory fragments that we wish to take back into the present. In other words, the environment becomes visible.

(Introduce metagame sample)

“The metagame ruptures the logic of the game, escaping the formal autonomy of both ideal rules and utopian play via those practical and material factors not immediately enclosed within the game as we know it.”

(Play John Riggs’s video sample on “How to Edit Levels in SMB for NES)

(Play 99 Exercises in Play Video)

To repeat the highlights, I spoke about how metagames can “reveal alternate histories of play.” I made the following points, (1) metagames are contextual because they are part of a larger metagame; (2) metagames anchor games in time and space because they bring into play other memories that were shaped around the same time framework; (3) metagames empower players to become game designers and creators of their own experience on their own terms. In conclusion, metagames are, in part, “about the history of play” in the player’s mind.

Works Cited

Boluk, Stephanie and Patrick Lemieux. “Introduction: Metagaming, Video Games and the Practice of Play.” Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames. Manifold Edition. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Boluk, Stephanie and Patrick Lemieux. “99 Exercises in Play Video.” Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames. Manifold Edition. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101” Confessions of an ACA-Fan – The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins

Riggs, John. “How to Edit Levels in SMB for NES” John Riggs: RIGG’d Games


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