Meaningful play: Applying Zoosemiotics to game development

Gregory Bateson

Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) explored communication and metacommunication
by describing the understandings of child development in shared playtime. These
shared understandings or “play frames” are an essential aspect when dealing with
communication because it is never a solitary act, rather, it is the transfer of information
or messages from one entity to another. Metacommunication is an act of
communication between two subjects that communicate something about the
communication itself, or about the relationship between the two subjects, or both. The
communicative act always requires a sender, a message, and a receiver. Bateson’s
investigations into the process of dialogue and his semiotic approach can give insights into what is being perceived by the subject. Bateson defines play as, “a phenomenon in which the actions of ‘play’ are related to, or denote, other actions of ‘not play’”(Bateson 1999: 181). For Bateson, the boundaries of play are defined by
metacommunicative acts.