“Game” and “play” are notoriously vague terms – so much so that the philosopher Wittgenstein used them as an example of the elusive nature of language! So how will we define what we are interested in at APILI?
The first question is whether the verb most applicable is “play”. Whether an abstract ruleset, a creative work, an object or an unstructured activity, if its purpose is to be played, chances are it belongs at APILI.
Once this question is answered, we simply subtract anything already supported elsewhere in our cultural institutions.
Three obvious examples are musical instruments, dramatic roles, and sports. All are “played” (though you could argue that the primary verb for sport is “compete”), but all are already covered by other institutions better specialised in their particular forms of play. While we would be remiss never to include drama, music or sport in our work (since, aside from anything else, many games include one or more such forms of culture), those belong at their current institutional homes.
Similarly, other institutions will (we hope!) continue to support play as it falls under their remit. In fact, it’s entirely possible that key parts of APILI may exist in the form of partnerships with/between existing bodies.
For instance, as part of its focus on screen culture, from time to time the Australian Centre for the Moving Image runs exhibits featuring, and even focusing on, videogames. ACMI does an excellent job, and we are in no way seeking to discourage them or any other institutions from exploring playful cultural forms as appropriate to their mission. (On the contrary, we aim to support them!)
However, as is proper, those institutions bring their own focus to bear on games and play, where our focus is on the playing per se.
This is an important distinction. While you can benefit immensely from studying theatre through the lens of architecture or dance, or film through the lens of painting or musical composition, such external perspectives will necessarily miss the essence of the medium.
The same applies to playful works… hence the need for APILI! This gives us a naturally broad remit – perhaps the broadest of all, since new cultural forms generally arise through creative play. Obviously, especially in the early stages, this will mean we can’t cover everything – but we should be able to cover the most common forms of play, such as those outlined in our mission statement.
However, in the interests of clarity, we need a definition which is both simple and not limited to present cultural forms – since, again, play is exceptional at generating new ones! For this reason, our remit can be defined and understood by the two simple questions outlined above: Are you playing? and Is it specialised enough to have a home elsewhere?