"I'm going to propose a rudimentary taxonomy of types of creative videogame play, with a few random thoughts about each category. (...) I think they might help to guide our thinking about building creative play into our games."
On Gamasutra.com, Ernest Adams writes about Creative Play, a common characteristic of the nongame genre and, judging by some games that use it, a very appealing feature to non-gamers.
Proposing the categorization of different kinds of creative play, Adams admits that "the borders of these categories are very fuzzy". In fact, I have some questions on how they are defined.
Adams lists six categories of creative play: Freeform Creative Play, Constrained Creativity (Construction Play), Self-Expressive Play, Community Play, Storytelling Facilities and Game Modifications. However, regarding the three first ones, is hard to tell where one ends and the next begins. Let's take a look at them:
1) Freeform Creative Play: "(...) lets the player use the game as a sandbox, largely without limitations. The player can do pretty much whatever she likes in the context the game offers".
In this case, it might be interesting to see the context of the game as the limitiation itself. Adams uses Pinball Contructions Set as example, and says: "you had to build a pinball table within the general shape required".
That sounds like a reasonable limitation to the play. Considering that the player has to use the game - a limited system - to engage into the play activity, a totally freeform creative play is rather utopic.
2) Constrained Creativity (Construction Play): "(...) creation is not purely freeform, but restricted by rules in some way (...) Even LEGO bricks impose some constraints. You only have a limited number of them (unless you work for LEGO) and they only fit together in certain ways. "
Lego would certainly be a better example of Freeform Creative Play. In fact, Adams himself says "If the game doesn't offer anything but freeform creative play, it's not really a game at all, but a toy or a tool". That is much more the case of Lego.
While I can see the difference between them, Freeform Creative Play and Constrained Creativity don't seem to be different categories, but different degrees of the same one.
3) Self-Expressive Play: "This is a sort of subcategory of the preceding two categories of creative play, in which the creativity is specifically directed at representing one's self in some way."
For some reason, the examples provided only cover the construction and customization of the player's avatars and its accessories (something closer to self-portraits). However, self-expression goes beyond that, and it should be possilbe to the player to express himself through Pinball tables and Lego bricks. Self-expression, actually, might be indivisible from Creative Play. Adams seems to be aware of that when, at the beggining of the article, says: "So, for my purposes, creative play means play that enables you to point at something in the game and say, “Look – I made that.” "
Overall, the article is very helpful identifying and reflecting on several elements of creative play, and it's good to see analysis like this on the subject.