Video Game Essays DUE by 11:00 pm
Plan for the Evening
- This rest of April…the semester
- Workshop in Fretwell 219???
- Final Exam (4/28–online)
- Multimodal Project (4/28–online)
- Final Presentation (5/9–online)
- Some points on cultural studies
- Conquest and American Culture
- Games of Conquest
In the past, I assigned Sardar & Loon’s Introducing Cultural Studies (2010). It’s from a series that presents complex philosophical and theoretical ideas in a graphic guide. It condenses several key figures’ definitions to provide good working ones. Here’s what they says about the “Characteristics of Cultural Studies” (from p. 9):
- Cultural studies aims to examine its subject matter in terms of cultural practices and their relation to power. Its constant goal is to expose power relationships and examine how these relationships influence and shape cultural practices.
- ….Its objective is to understand culture in all its complex forms and to analyse* the social and political context within which it manifests itself.
- Culture in cultural studies always performs two functions: it is both the object of study and the location of political criticism and action.
The book goes onto explain some key attributes of this theoretical lens (or the multiple theoretical lenses that make up our understanding of cultural studies:
- p. 37: “Society is driven by conflicts based on sex, race, religion, and region as well as class. Culture shapes peoples sense of identity just as much as economics.”
- p. 102: “The term ‘technoculture’ itself emphasizes the deep connection between technology and culture and forces us to realize that the ‘technological’ is seldom divorced from the ‘human.'”
- p. 116: paraphrasing Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak–“The Third World is a creation of the West that locks non-Western cultures–and how the West views and deals with them–into an imperial representation.”
- pp. 158-159: “Codes feed on codes and the world becomes awash with coded individuals. But however natural it all looks, it is socially and culturally constructed. Television news for example, despite its immediacy, is a mammoth feat of social construction.”
*That’s the British spelling of analyze…
Ch. 4 “Games of Conquest”
I really wish I was able to do one last round of copyediting…Anyway, you’ve heard me discuss much of this, but there are some key points to consider.
- p. 73: “This chapter connects games of conquest to the American cultural values of power, conquest, and competition.”
- “Video games are sites of play, but they are also texts, cultural repositories. My argument is the assumption of control over a (virtual) world reflects the assumption of an individual’s control, an assumption American culture perpetuates. American ideology espouses freedom and the rhetoric of democracy, but, upon a closer look, we learn people have relative freedom.”
- p. 75: “Video games allow for variation of sequence, but they still have a setting, usually a storyline, and often plenty of characters exhibiting a variety of personalities.”
- “If we only consider technical aspects of these media, then we privilege the technologies as sole arbiters of meaning.”
- p. 76: “Claiming the technical aspects of characters—both film and video game—regulate the fidelity of subjects follows the logic of technological determinism because technology governs how viewers consume the text and identify.”
- “Those techniques enhance the film, but culture inspires the plot and the hyperrealism of the individual hero.”
- p. 77: “Doing and action—using muscles—are typically perceived to be male qualities while feminine stereotypes often relate to passivity.”
- “…an overlooked aspect of American life is its relative security from nearby hostile forces.”
- Consider this 30,000-foot view of conflict from Civilization IV (2016)
- p. 78: “Real civilization building is messy. The algorithm removes the messiness and subjects game play to quasi-predictable outcomes if one masters the rules of the game, its grammar.”
- p. 79: Illusion of power
- p. 81: “Americans largely do not consider historical gains to be inappropriate or matters to dwell on. This ahistorical value allows them to ignore the past and think only of the present and future.”
- p. 82: “American ideology privileges individuals, but, as with any society, this collection of individuals forms a culture. And there is no ideology without prevailing collective assumptions.”
- p. 83: Individual group hero
- p. 87: Space Invaders (1978)
- Starship Troopers (1997)
- p. 88: “These solutions are exact and follow a formula, an algorithm. Unlike real world social unrest that stems from deep-seated social inequity, social unrest in Civilization is controlled without the need to address systemic problems.”
Conquest in American Culture
We’ve talked about war games and how wars inspire a variety of media, so today’s discussion will be a continuation of that. Maybe we should review the “History of Video Games” discussion from February 3rd. Central to our discussion today will be recognizing the myriad texts that recreate/reproduce images of valor and nationalism. Consider the look and feel of these film segments:
- John Wayne in The Green Barrettes (1968)
- What tone does the music set for audiences?
- What about the voice over?
- Less gung ho in Platoon (1986)
- Next clip is full of racial slurs
- Trailer for The Longest Day (1962)
- Trailer for Saving Private Ryan (1998)
- “Charlie don’t surf” Apocalypse Now (1979)
The above clips are to get you thinking about the (re)presentation of war in American culture. While film and other media aren’t the only reproductions of war, they are quite popular ones.
- Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
We’re going to get sweet but a little bit psycho(analytic) and dive into phallocentrism in video games. Keep up with the reading: Ch. 5 from Video Games and American Culture and Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” both on Canvas.
Sardar, Ziauddin & Borin Van Loon. Introducing Cultural Studies: A Graphic Guide. London: Icon, 2010.