What the hell was Purble Place?

Some of my earliest memories of video gaming were playing the free games that came with every Windows computer such as Chess, Mahjong, Solitaire and…Purble Place? A mysterious game of the late 2000s, Purble Place came out of nowhere and disappeared just as unexpectedly. I would love to analyse what it was about Purble Place that made it a staple in so many childhoods, and how it ended up a forgotten game.

The analytical framework I would use to analyse Purble Place is content analysis. The purpose of content analysis is, as described by Mariette Bengtsson in their paper How to plan and perform a qualitative study using content analysis, “to organize and elicit meaning from the data collected and to draw realistic conclusions from it.” (Bengtsson, 2016) When applying this analysis to video games, we look at “coding, enumerating, and statistically analyzing various elements and characteristics of games.” (Bullen & Katchabaw, 2006) Relating this to Purble Place, I would be looking at the three separate mini-games within the one entity, and focusing on the different elements of each game.

It is important to look at a game like Purble Place, which is heavily rooted in nostalgia from the late 2000s, and compare it to how the game would hold up these days with those who did not grow up playing it. As mentioned in the week two lecture, “Interpreting a text involves considering the different values that other cultures ascribe to the text…value judgements are not natural or universal, they are cultural and social.” The best way to decide how other cultures would appreciate Purble Place is to compare it to other games.

In order to do this, I would look at the three separate games as mentioned earlier, and compare them to other popular games that lasted longer than Purble Place itself. An in-depth look at how this would work is in the audio below.

Ignore the intro, there’s no video

From this week’s reading, we learn that video games didn’t come out of nowhere, “…think about the cultural background of electronic gaming. For if human history has been cultivated, as Sudnow suggests, “through speech and the motions of fingers…the tiniest not biggest actions.” (Huhtamo, 2005). This quote is discussing the familiar pattern of using a computer and consoles, comparing it to other activities such as playing the piano or using a typewriter. However, we can take it further, and say that the games themselves are unprecedented, as they all imitate some form of life. Chess, Mahjong and Solitaire were all table top games before they were digitised. So where did Purble Place come from, and why was it included with these classic games?

An interesting research project for a potential Digital Artefact is a deep-dive into the world of lost games, particularly those like Purble Place which have similar content as other popular games. This could lead discussions into why some games die out, while others remain strong decades in the future.

References

Bengtsson, M. (2016). How to plan and perform a qualitative study using content analysis.

Bullen, T., Katchabaw, M., & Dyer-Witheford, N. (2006). Automating Content Analysis of Video Games.

Huhtamo, E. (2005). Slots of Fun, Slots of Trouble.

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