Maia Engeli - MA/PhD Transfer Report - Sept 2004



meaning beyond play
Exploration and exploitation of the seductive
power genuine to digital game spaces



Over the past 20 years my design work and research has developed from investigations in architecture, to computer aided design, design of virtual spaces, design of online environments for creative collaboration1 and inquiries into digital game spaces2. The investigation into digital games and gameplay permitted further examination of the aspect of seduction in virtual spaces. While digital games draw their reason d’être primarily from being ‘systems for meaningful play’ [Salen, Zimmerman 2004, p. 30] other digital environments3 aim at providing information, inducing knowledge, telling stories, or enabling collaboration. Introducing games or game-like structures in information or learning environments has been realized in numerous projects, most often motivated by the idea that adding an engaging fun factor would enhance the learning process or the efficiency of human knowledge acquisition. My critique is that there is a lack of understanding in the creation of meaning in games and therefore my research will focus on first identifying and then exploiting the potential for the construction of ‘meaning beyond play’4 genuine to digital game spaces.





the rest of the report can be requested from me


1 The work has also been published in two books: “Digital Stories – The Poetics of Communication” [Engeli 2000], and “bits and spaces - Architecture and Computing for Physical, Virtual, Hybrid Realms - 33 Projects by Architecture and CAAD, ETH Zurich” [Engeli 2001] and numerous papers (see

2 Workshops taught at different universities in Europe are an important part of these investigations, see

3 The term ‘digital environment’ in this text refers to online, digital information and communication systems that provide access to hybrid, dynamic, multilayered information. The information is usually represented visually i.e. as two dimensional hyperlinked pages, as two-dimensional interactive dynamic representations, as three-dimensional virtual information worlds, or any possible hybrids of these.

4 see section 1.4 Meaning beyond Play, page 8.