Games are not references (of the conventional sort)
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While game rules are undeniably referential, games often do not -- and perhaps cannot -- reference anything other than themselves. Conventionally, self-referential symbols are called icons, wherein icons embody some essential property of that to which they refer. Games reference themselves in this iconic way, but they also do something further. Games serve as iconic references to referencing itself; that is, games are both self-referential and, simultaneously, referencing-referential. This is a unique semiotic property of games (and play more generally) that is embodied in game rules and the lusory attitude these rules evoke. Game play as a unique aesthetic experience only references what game play is -- and game play is (again, paradoxically) only what game play is not.

Games are not

The difficult and definitive guide to what video games are

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