Citation: Payne, Matthew Thomas and Peter Alilunas. “Wicked Games, Part III: Caution — Content May Be Hot…and Hidden.” Flow: A Critical Forum on Television and Media Culture 22.6 (April 2016). Solicited for inclusion.
Payne, Matthew T. & Fleisch, Michael. “Policing the Sandbox in Grand Theft Auto Online,” Media Fields 8 (2014).
From the issue’s introduction: “The first essay in this issue, Matthew Thomas Payne and Michael Fleisch’s “Policing the Sandbox in Grand Theft Auto Online” explores the theme of the playground directly. Considering RockStar’s machinations in Grand Theft Auto Online against players’ attempts to manipulate the economic structure of the game’s open world, Payne and Fleisch highlight the fraught politics of policing a space that on its surface purports to offer players a world in which rules are made to be broken. In this sense, play takes on a para-ludic character as cunning players find ways to manipulate the game’s virtual marketplace while the developer moves to protect a vested interest in the game’s real economic potential, carefully curated micro-transactions.”
Payne, Matthew Thomas & Michael Fleisch. “Stories from the Seats of Power: Chopper versus Chopper as Dueling Travelogues.” Well Played: A Journal on Video Games, Value, and Meaning 2.1 (2012).
The “Chopper versus Chopper” multiplayer game mode included in Grand Theft Auto IV’s expansion pack, “The Lost and the Damned” (2009), pits one gamer on a motorcycle against another piloting an assault helicopter in alternating rounds where the pilot must eliminate the biker before the latter scores points by crossing a series of checkpoints. The design of this one-on-one game mode is notable for elegantly distilling a massive and complex synthetic environment into a singularly focused affair between two combatants that fosters competing ways of seeing and understanding their shared space, as well as inciting emergent narratives of narrow escapes and fantastic collisions that draw gamers back round after round.