Christopher A. Paul

Christopher A. Paul is Professor in the Communication and Media Department at Seattle University. He is the coauthor of Real Games: What's Legitimate and What's Not in Contemporary Videogames (MIT Press).

  • Free-to-Play


    Mobile Video Games, Bias, and Norms

    Christopher A. Paul

    An examination of free-to-play and mobile games that traces what is valued and what is marginalized in discussions of games

    Free-to-play and mobile video games are an important and growing part of the video game industry, and yet they are often disparaged by journalists, designers, and players and pronounced inferior to games with more traditional payment models. In this book, Christopher Paul shows that underlying the criticism is a bias against these games that stems more from who is making and playing them than how they are monetized. Free-to-play and mobile games appeal to different kinds of players, many of whom are women and many of whom prefer different genres of games than multi-level action-oriented killing fests. It's not a coincidence that some of the few free-to-play games that have been praised by games journalists are League of Legends and World of Tanks.

    Paul explains that free-to-play games have a long history, and that the current model of premium sales is an aberration. He analyzes three monetization strategies: requirements to spend, where players must make a purchase to gain access; paying for advantage; and optional spending (used by Fortnite, among other popular free-to-play games). He considers how players rationalize or resist spending; discusses sports games and gacha-style games that entice players to make “just one more” purchase; and describes the framing of certain free-to-play games as proper games while others are cast as abusive abominations. Paul's analysis offers a provocative picture of what is valued and what is marginalized in discussions of games.

    • Paperback $30.00
  • Real Games

    Real Games

    What's Legitimate and What's Not in Contemporary Videogames

    Mia Consalvo and Christopher A. Paul

    How we talk about games as real or not-real, and how that shapes what games are made and who is invited to play them.

    In videogame criticism, the worst insult might be “That's not a real game!” For example, “That's not a real game, it's on Facebook!” and “That's not a real game, it's a walking simulator!” But how do people judge what is a real game and what is not—what features establish a game's gameness? In this engaging book, Mia Consalvo and Christopher Paul examine the debates about the realness or not-realness of videogames and find that these discussions shape what games get made and who is invited to play them.

    Consalvo and Paul look at three main areas often viewed as determining a game's legitimacy: the game's pedigree (its developer), the content of the game itself, and the game's payment structure. They find, among other things, that even developers with a track record are viewed with suspicion if their games are on suspect platforms. They investigate game elements that are potentially troublesome for a game's gameness, including genres, visual aesthetics, platform, and perceived difficulty. And they explore payment models, particularly free-to-play—held by some to be a marker of illegitimacy. Finally, they examine the debate around such so-called walking simulators as Dear Esther and Gone Home. And finally, they consider what purpose is served by labeling certain games “real."

    • Hardcover $30.00