- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (August 21, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415965799
- ISBN-13: 978-0415965798
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #620,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Video Game Theory Reader 1st Edition
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If anyone has doubts that video games warrant serious reflection and examination as a creative medium, The Video Game Theory Reader will dispel them. If anyone involved in the creation of video games is looking for fresh perspectives on their art, they'll find them right here.
D.B. Weiss, author of Lucky Wander Boy
Computer and video games have been with us for only a few short decades. As with any young medium, important questions remain unanswered: What exactly are video games and how do they function? How do video games relate to other forms of media and culture? What is their effect on the minds and lives of players? And what are the larger implications for society? The Video Game Theory Reader begins to answer these questions, and in doing so, sketches out an exciting, emerging field of vital importance for the future of design, technology, and culture.
Eric Zimmerman, CEO of gameLab, co-author of Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals
The Video Game Theory Reader is a crucial and timely edited volume which focuses exclusively on the theorization of video games, and thereby makes great strides towards ameliorating a persisting gap in the academic literature..
Robert T. Wood, University of Lethbridge--New Media & Society
The Video Game Theory Reader serves as an excellent introduction to video game studies, the current positions in the field, and the current problems with video game studies..
Laurie Taylor, University of Florida, Journal of Film and Video, Winter 2003
About the Author
Mark J. P. Wolf is Assistant Professor of Communications at Concordia University, Wisconsin. A pioneering scholar of video game studies, he is editor of The Medium of the Video Game. Bernard Perron is Assistant Professor of Cinema at the University of Montréal.
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What would constitute a formal analysis of a video game?
What features do all video games share (what can we classify as a video game, anyhow?)
Which approaches are best for the analysis of video games: semiotics, psychoanalysis, cinema studies, cognitive psychology?
This volume takes a few baby steps towards answering those questions. Gonzalo Frasca, for instance, makes the important argument that even the simplest games cannot be considered in mere narratological terms, but must be considered as a simulation. He then uses Roger Caillois's terms paidia and ludus to establish a tentative typology of video games.
Other essays, such as Mia Consalvo's essay on the Sims and Final Fantasy IX, are more shallow and contribute little beyond a superficial plot analysis and trite comments about how radical it is that a guy can have a girl avatar (and vice-versa) in a video game.
I found Patrick Crogan's essay on Combat Flight Simulator 2 and Pearl Harbor (the movie) especially insightful, as it drew some fascinating connections between Manuel De Landa, Paul Virilio, and the simulation representational ethos (as opposed to narrative).
In conclusion, this is a really hit-or-miss collection, which is perhaps to be expected considering how marginal video game studies currently is within the academy. Nevertheless, it contains some valuable contributions to this inchoate field between its covers, which will certainly help to legitimate game studies in the future.
Wolf and Perron's excellent introduction goes a long way to illustrating that the field of video game study and theory does have both a lineage and its own proto-canon of important texts. As well as sketching the history of video game design and analysis, Wolf and Perron highlight four key elements of video games which distinguish them from the amorphous umbrella of new media: graphics, the changeable display almost always on a pixel-comprised screen; interface, the all-important connection between the game and player, which usually includes the graphics, but also speakers, microphones, keypads, joysticks, as well as onscreen elements such as sliders and menus; player activity, 'the heart of the video game experience' (15) and key to video game design; and algorithm, the program and procedures which must be to some extent unique for each different game.
Walter Holland, Henry Jenkins and Kurt Squire's first chapter 'Theory by Design' looks at the feedback loop between design, play and theory in the realm of 'edutainment'-educationally oriented games-and uses four case studies to illustrate how designing games-to-teach involves utilising, critiquing and extending video game theory. Wolf's own article in the collection looks at the role of abstraction in video games. He traces abstraction from a technological necessity, due to the processing and graphics power of the earliest game devices, to an exploratory artistic potential for current games which almost all now tend toward representational techniques and the digital holy-grail of photorealism. Alison McMahan's 'Immersion, Engagement, and Presence' then looks at methods for analysing 3-D video games as opposed to their 2-D predecessors, focusing on degrees of presence and immersion in different games and game types, including a useful case study of Myst III: Exile. Miroslaw Filiciak's 'Hyperidentities: Postmodern Identity Patterns in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games' (MMORPGs) looks at the phenomena of MMORPGs where hundreds or thousands of game users participate in a shared virtual environment and argues that MMORPGs actualise postmodern ideas of self more so than any other medium. Filiciak's chapter, while ambitious, tends to get stuck in explicating various postmodern theories of self rather than the specifics of MMORPG gameplay, making this the weakest chapter of the collection. By contrast, Bob Rehak's 'Playing at Being: Psychoanalysis and the Avatar' intertwines a rich knowledge and appreciation for the historical spectrum of video games with an equally broad knowledge of psychoanalysis and film theory to produce a provocative chapter which explores how the video game avatar operates from a mediated mirror stage through to far more nuanced and subtle notions of identity. Torben Grodal's chapter 'Stories for Eye, Ear, and Muscles: Video Games, Media, and Embodied Experiences' starts from the premise that video games are primarily 'different realisations of real-life activities' (129) and makes the argument that the best critical tools for engaging with video games are thus drawn from cognitive psychology. Maintaining a focus on embodiment, Martti Lahti's 'As We Become Machines: Corporealised Pleasures in Video Games' examines the oft-touted idea that video games and cyberspace fetishise a 'meatless' disembodied view of subjectivity. In contrast, Lahti argues that the technologies of video games complicate corporeal responses in a number of ways, not so much erasing the body as reincorporating it in a cybernetic system which to some extent actually re-emphasises the material body for game players. Mia Consalvo's 'Hot Dates and Fairy-Tale Romances: Studying Sexuality in Video Games' also delineates how video games can complicate aspects of identity, but this chapter focuses specifically on sexuality. Consalvo conducts tight focused readings of Final Fantasy 9 and The Sims, exploring the ways sexuality is portrayed, the potential for non-heterosexual readings and activity, with the latter especially interesting in Consalvo's examination of the massively popular The Sims. Markku Eskelinen and Ragnhild Tronstad 'Video Games and Configurative Performances' add performative perspectives from theatre and drama studies, highlighting the role of pleasure in reading video games. Gonzalo Frasca's chapter 'Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology' follows in which Frasca outlines ludology-the study of video games not anchored to analyses of narrative-and shows how useful Espen Aarseth's ideas of cybernetic texts are in studying video games as simulations rather than representations. The following two chapters by Bernard Perron and Chris Crawford both focus on interactivity and narrative, the former from a more theoretical viewpoint and the latter more technical. The final chapter, Patrick Grogan's 'Gametime: History, Narrative, and Temporality in Combat Flight Simulator 2' examines similarities between gametime, gameplay and recent feature films, such as Pearl Harbour, and concludes that gametime is inherently ergodic; temporality is dictated by the episodic experiences of the game itself.
As this brief overview illustrates, the chapters in The Video Game Theory Reader range across a huge spectrum of academic disciplines, from new media studies to cognitive psychology to literary analysis and gender studies. Most of the articles are extremely well written, making firm arguments for the importance of analysing video games in contemporary society, and providing many theoretical tools with which future work can be performed. Video game analysis and ludology may be a newly emerging field, but The Video Game Theory Reader guarantees that it's a field which will have considerable theoretical groundings and provide important insight into contemporary popular culture.