This article sets out to explore the playful poetics of recent indie games in terms of what could be described as metareferential interfaces. Drawing on a range of theories from literary studies, media studies, and game studies, we propose to conceptualize metareferential interfaces as interfaces that foreground and draw attention to their own mediality. They thus allow for videogame-specific forms of metareference and metalepsis to be employed as part of often quite experimental and aesthetically ambitious approaches to videogame design. Using the recent indie games Pony Island (2016) and OneShot (2016) as our core case studies, we offer an in-depth analysis of this metaization of videogames’ playful poetics, focusing primarily on three salient aspects: First, the multiplication of interfaces can lead to mise-en-abyme-like structures that highlight and reflect on the mediality of videogames while also establishing ontological boundaries between different levels of videogame storyworlds. Second, the disruption of interface functionality is a metareferential strategy that can be used to establish specific gameplay challenges and reflect on the design conventions of videogame interfaces. Third, the transgression of ontological boundaries affects not only the borders between subworlds within a videogame's storyworld but also the more fundamental distinction between what is “in the game” and what is “outside it.”

You do not currently have access to this content.