Critical Gameplay

Practice Playing Differently

Overview: Critical Game Play

Started in 2009, this project aims to showcase critical game design through game mechanics. The project pioneers the design of critical game projects highlighting social and ludic bias. Critical gameplay provides the opportunity to explore game ethics through the way games are designed to be played. Since game designers outline the rules of play, game designs outline designer’s definitions of what is ethical and important.

Taking the notion that, design is reflection of designer values, the games aim to provide a fresh perspective on playful experiences. The work aims to expose intrinsic values in play and creating gameplay models from alternative ethics and values.

Further reading on this work is available as follows: How do games effect the way we problem solve, socialize, or even view the world? When we shoot do we learn to destroy obstacles instead of work around them?  Does the binary world of enemies and adversaries teach us to ignore the gray in the everyday?  Do games encourage us to ignore consequence and wait for second chances at the same problems?  Are we forgetting how to play with each other, because playing against each other is more fun? 

Critical Gameplay is a collection of "strategically designed" video games. Each game asks what common game mechanics teach us. The games in the collection are designed to help reevaluate our perspective on gameplay experiences. As Critical Cartography changes the way we perceive the world, Critical Gameplay seeks to offer alternate perspectives on the way we play.

Critical Gameplay does not attempt to answer these questions. Instead it seeks to open the dialogue with demonstrative experiments in gameplay.  It attempts to fill the space of what if, with something tangible - a game.  What if that avatar did have a history before you destroyed it? What if you couldn’t read the game world by stereotyping characters? Critical Gameplay is simply about raising questions that encourage critical reflection on gameplay experiences. A Critical Gameplay game is valued in intellectual profit.

Each game was designed and implemented between 2009 and 2019, in one week or less. Some games have been re-implemented for modern operating systems under the same constrants as the original.


Critical Gameplay Games

Each of the following games was developed under rapid prototyping constraints, by a single developer, designer and artist, Lindsay Grace. Each game was originally developed in 5 days or less, but may be subject to minor revisions for individual exhibitions or conversion to new platforms. The games return to the romantic notion of a lone-developer making a game late into the night. They are designed as art explorations in critical game design.


A game about slowing down ...

Big Huggin'

An affection game, encouraging players to solve problems one hug at a time...

Healer game

Practice undoing historical atrocity instead of reenacting it...

Simultaneity game
Simultaneity / All 4 One

Practice finding mutual benefit... play now

Stolen kisses game
Stolen Kisses

Practice going against the generally non-inclusive culture of affection games... play web version now

You a very meaningful game
You, A Very Meaningful Game

Practice finding the elusive meaning in meaningful play ... play now

Levity game

Practice letting go and collecting experience over items ...


Practice letting go and collecting experience over items ...

EveryDay Heroes
EveryDay Heroes: Home

Practice accepting difference you can't classify ...

Charity Game

Practice cooperating instead of competing ...

Bang! Game

View the fictive history of the soldiers you kill...

Bang! Game
This game is poo

A lampoon of the mobile app marketplaces...

Exhibitions and Showcases

The following is a list of select exhibits and showcases at which Critical Gameplay games were shown. For a complete list of the artist's exhibitions please visit



Publications and Catalogs

The following is a list of selected publications about Critical Gameplay as well as exhibition catalogs. Please visit for a complete list of the artist's publications and wider art practice.

Book Chapter

Grace, L. 2010. Critical Gameplay: Design Techniques and Case StudiesDesigning Games for Ethics, Volume II, IGI Global (2010)- [pdf]

Conference Proceedings

Grace, L. 2016. Subverting the Conventions of Affection Games in the Digital Wild. International Symposium of Electronic Art, Hong Kong

Grace, L. 2015. Objects of Affection: Kissing Games on Mobile Devices. Foundations of Digital Games (FDG) 2015, Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games, Pacific Grove, California, USA

Grace, L. 2012. Designing Games to Critique Convention, In Proceedings of the 20th ACM Multimedia, October 2012 Grace, L. 2010. Software Studies in Computer Gameplay (Media Showcase and Demo Panel), 28th Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI - ACM), Atlanta, USA


Exhibit Catalogs

Grace, L, Tran, L. and Ewing, C. 2019, Miami @ Play 2018, exhibition catalogue, December 1-7, 2018, 50 pages, ISBN 9781365245749

Totten, C. and Grace, L 2016, Indie Arcade: Coast to Coast, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, USA ISBN 978-1364585259