Bogost talks about a microecology of the entire medium of video games, which got me thinking that we’ve reached a point in gaming where individual games have their own microecologies, and this has been the case for a while even before How to Do Things was published in 2011.
Let’s take Bioware’s big franchises, Mass Effect and Dragon Age, as examples, just because they sprang to mind first. Bogost mentions Mass Effect in the chapter on games as titillation, specifically its romantic component, which factors into the series’ mission statement about player choice. Mass Effect 2 in particular presents you with the option to talk to party members and develop bonds with them, eventually prompting a “loyalty mission” that will determine if they survive the end-game “suicide mission.” You aren’t required to perform all of the loyalty missions, do all of the preparation sidequests, or even collect all of the party members to play the final mission and fight the final boss, but you should if you want your character to survive into Mass Effect 3. The Mass Effect games offer so much choice that it’s extremely unlikely any two players will have exactly the same experience, even if it’s a difference as simple as choice of weapon or whether or not one player opted to buy all the fish and/or spaceship models.
The point is, people play games differently. In a game with romantic subplots guided by the player like Dragon Age, certain players will tend to be most interested in the romances, while others may find themselves more compelled with the most effective character builds (I know people who focus on the romance and other people who are interested in both the romance and optimizing mechanics).
In Pokemon, you have subcultures of shiny hunting, EV and IV training, and catching ’em all. Capturing a shiny Pokemon isn’t a necessary component of any Pokemon game, nor are you required to capture every single Pokemon. You can beat the game without touching the complicated metagaming involved in optimizing the EVs and IVs underlying your Pokemon’s stats, which can require intensive capturing and breeding. Similarly to both this and Bioware’s offerings, in Fire Emblem Awakening, you can pair units romantically because you want them to be a couple or because the stats they give to their children would be beneficial to the child’s class.
I’d be surprised if Bogost hasn’t written anything on how players can utilize auxiliary content in games, and I’d be very interested to know if and how he applies his media ecology to specific games.