There is no question that games have operated as a cultural enigma for media and cultural studies. And there have been many attempts to categorise what is actually going on with electronic games. On a straightforward level with the amount of carnage that is associated with shooter games, the number of "accidents" that occur in simulation games from car-racing to jet-fighter pilot activity, and the usual 3 lives of the standard video, arcade, and computer game it seems eminently reasonable to see that the first forays into its study were from those seeking answers and relationships to violent society-ills. Psychologists and criminologists have provided by far the largest pool of literature over the last 20 years about electronic games and have worked on correlations between the simulated gameworld and real-life. Similarly, because the background of so many critical analysts of games is from studies of film and television, it makes sense that there have been many only moderately successful attempts at overlaying theories of the subject and narrative for working out the machinations of gameplay.
One of our contributors has tried to write about the frustration of this experience of linking games to past cultural theories, and failed. Instead, he has created a game that isolates on the squarepeg-roundhole quality of games/gameplay and their linkages with theory. Jesper Juul in his "Game Liberation" challenges us to identify the uniqueness of the object of study and thereby pushes us to create a new variation that underpins the pleasure/pain repetition of the game experience. The player is a game theorist, tired and true, who like Juul wants to isolate on the special quality of the game for critical analysis and therefore must eliminate the conjectures that might emanate from these past cultural theories and envelope the game. Of course, this reading of the game can't be done while you are playing. You (at least the three "lives' that constitute "you" in the game) have to keep shooting to blast away these imperial theories that try to colonise gameplay; through that process of playing the game you gain an insight into the experiential quality of games. If you ever attain the fourth level you have the ultimate pleasure of eliminating what Juul has called the pathology theories and achieve what everyone wants: their name in lights in the game's "Hall of Fame".
You are invited in this final "article" of the game issue to strip everything back and play the game.