Archive for January, 2013

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Aesthetics and Mechanics

January 31, 2013

The more I follow this little spur of the digital humanities railroad called game studies, the more I find myself sympathizing–and even collaborating–with art historians. Chris Solarski helps me understand why.

Video games rely on the very same design principles — perspective, form, value, etc. — which classical artists employed to create the illusion that the television (or canvas) is a window into an imagined world. These design techniques also serve a second purpose equally applicable to game design, which is their aesthetic value, and application in visual narratives.

I’ve a bone to pick with Solarski’s notion that games’ interactivity is unique, but I’m increasingly aware that games do configure their interactivity uniquely–even my beloved parallel to homeric epic relies on an analogy of configuration that applies centrally to the bard and much less to his audience, who could never sing the tales the bard sings. The barrier of entry to game-performances is much, much lower, and Solarski’s piece may help us describe the available performances more thickly.

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Roger on Rulesets and the Humanities

January 30, 2013

Frankly, my new language is “games precede humanities.” I’ll be trying to take that on the road this summer. From my latest post at Play the Past.

The codification of the essentially humanistic analysis available to every player of BioShock into writing articles for scholarly journals in order to win promotion is a ruleset of its own, but I want to persuade you that if we mistake that ruleset for the essence of humanistic endeavor, the humanities really are doomed.

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Gaming culture’s complicity in a lamentable confusion

January 15, 2013

There’s a trend here that’s making me very unhappy, of gaming culture actively perpetuating the lunatics’ conflation of “shooters” with “video games.” Consciously or un-, gaming culture writers are trying to rope Flower, Journey, and Papo & Yo into a conversation in which they don’t belong.

Still, bit by bit, video games are being demonized. And even though no true connection has been made, the more they are deferred in such a manner, the more it will be difficult to convince parties otherwise that games are not the cause of society’s ills.

I think the conversation about violent games, and the one about violent media in general, is one we’re overdue for. I’ll bring my copy of the Iliad. I’ve argued before, and I continue to think the prosocial effects, for adults, of such media far outweigh any adverse effects. But as I say I think that’s a conversation worth having. The one we’re having now, where one person is thinking of Call of Duty and another is thinking of Barbie Horse Adventure isn’t, as far as I can tell.