Plan for the Day
- No Canvas Posts this week
- What is American Culture? Essay Workshop (online)
- Post to Google Docs (and share with your classmate and me)–By Friday, 2/11, 5:00pm
- Your Comments for your classmate and due Monday, 2/14, 5:00pm
- Happy Valentine’s Day (btw…it only gets worse)
- Ch. 5 “Video Game Aesthetics”
- Ch. 6 “Video Games in Culture” (italics and bolding are purposeful)
Video Game Aesthetics
While we could approach aesthetics from many different viewpoints, we’ll probably focus on how culture mediates video game aesthetics, which are “all aspects of video games which are experienced by the player” (p. 121). Maybe we should look at key parts of Ch. 5 “Video Game Aesthetics.”
- p. 124: video games are transmedial–“an important feature of rules is that they are not tied to one particular type of material.”
- The above comes from Jasper Juul, who points out that “games can move between different media–sometimes with ease, sometimes with great difficulty” (2003, p. 48).
- What are the function of rules in any game?
- p. 125: ludus: rules relate to the conditions by which a player wins
paidia: rules refer to gmae procedures
- p. 125: Again, from Juul, “[o]utcome valorization rules…define which outcomes are considered positive and which are negative.”
- Cultural studies approach question: What determines which outcomes are positive and which are negative?
Geography and Representation
- p. 129: “if a game designer starts out with a preference for a certain graphical style, this preference is likely to influence the kind of game she will make.”
- Explore this. What influences a game’s development?
- p. 133: “Perspective…directly shapes how we perceive the game world and how close we can get to its characters and objects.”
- p. 138: Active off-screen space vs passive off-screen space
- What do video games allow players to do…and not have to do?
- Graphical Style: Photorealism, Caricaturism (as an a caricature), and Abstractionism
- The Sound of (video game) Music
- p. 147: “Video game designers typically want the music to adapt to the present circumstances of the game.”
- p. 147: “[W]e are incapable of telling a computer how to go about composing good music.”–the AI prompt
- p. 148: “[T]he feeling of realism….requires randomization.” And “generating a sense of realism….is a more complicated question of creating an aural world that mirrors the complexity of the visual one.”
- The sound track…excuse me…the score of one’s life? Let’s complicate the notion of realism in video games.
- p. 151: Do video games break the social aspect of games?
- pp. 151-152: Artificial Intelligence
- p. 152: How do MMORPG invite cooperation and conflict? What might be another similar social technology?
Why are video game aesthetics tied to the physical world? Consider the game play of these two games:
Video Game Cultures
This chapter is uses more of an ethnographic approach to analyze the (sub)cultures surrounding games; the authors seem to focus on what gamers do with games. Throughout the chapter, you might have been able to pick up on the undertone that defends video games and video game studies. Maybe.
I find these two quotations that bookend the chapter revealing about the authors’ goal:
- p. 157: “Games are part of a complex cultural system as well as generators of a specific player culture.”
- p. 193: “Games…are transformed by players, who are producers of culture, and how this happens is likely to occupy game scholars for many years.”
Before we get too far into the discussion, let’s consider a higher-level discussion of culture. This video explains “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” a chapter in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947). I particularly like this quotation:
- “…all find themselves enclosed from early on within a system of churches, clubs, professional associations, and other relationships which amount to the most sensitive instrument of social control” (p. 120)
What parallels can we recognize between the a closed cultural system and a gamespace?
Cultural Position of Video Games
- p. 158: “No cultural form exists in isolation.”
- No argument here. How does culture mediate video games? Who has the most agency: the player or industry or economy?
- p. 158: A word or two on taste…
- “Media that are seen as primarily market-driven fare poorly in the quest for acceptance as a culturally valuable activity.”
- Bourdieu argued that “[t]hose with power will praise their own tastes in music and books and cultural media in general, and will tend to label other cultural forms as uncivilized or otherwise problematic.”
- What are highbrow forms of entertainment?
- Couldn’t we also argue that people tend to denigrate entertainment they don’t understand or like regardless of their power?
- p. 160: The authors don’t approve of looking at “games exclusively as representational objects,” ignoring “their procedural characteristics.”
- They note lots of “representational bias” in video game studies.
- Somehow April Ryan of The Longest Journey is above representational analysis.
- Nothing conclusive on this fan art page, huh?
- Also, the authors seem to mock a gendered analysis with this observation:
“…content analysis of the character of April Ryan in The Longest Journey….would immediately be placed on our guard by and comment critically on her tight clothes, full breasts, large, innocent eyes, and sensuous mouth; it would be easy to conclude that she was a sex object and a passive figure” (p. 160)
- Although the go on to claim she’s not passive, they miss the larger critique that these feminine reproductions abound in culture, especially video games and fan art.
- p. 161: Procedural rhetoric: “The art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions rather than spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures” (Ian Bogost).
- Procedural rhetoric follows the logic of technological determinism, subconsciously (or quite willfully) allowing players, critics, and theorists to focus on mechanics, coding, and rules without confronting the 800lbs gorilla of culturally constructed misogyny. Games reflect culture.
- It is an ahistorical approach that wants to look at the text in a vacuum.
- p. 163: “[P]layers are not dupes who consume violent content; instead they are empowered to choose both the games they play and their playing strategies.”
- Mediated in large part by the game creators…
- p. 163: Video games considered escapism…
- p. 167: Attacks on video games (from parents, politicians, police, etc.) “reflect basic conservative fears about new media, and even show the same historical progression of anxiety that other media before them have suffered.”
Players (How do Players Become Playas?)
- p. 168: Moving from what is a game to how is the game played.
- p. 171: “Reality is just another window, like the window of a computer screen.”
- p. 171: Cognitive science and emotions in games.
- p. 173: “Developers have become more and more aware of the fact that social games not only encourage people to play nicely together, but also open the door for a lot of ‘undesirable behavior.'”
- p. 175: “[M]en control both the production and consumption ends of the industry, with the products themselves mainly targeted at a male audience.”
- Any other industry that parallels the video game industry?
- p. 179: Gamergate…the authors shortchanged this subject but did mention there is “a strong undercurrent” of misogyny in video games.
- Depictions of Women in Video Games
Keep up with the reading! Read Ch. 7 in Understanding Video Games. Your final What Is American Culture? Essay will be due Friday, 2/18 at 5:00pm (you’re welcome for that extra day). You will have a Canvas Post due at 11:00 pm on 2/18.
Horkheimer, Max and Adorno, Theodor W. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”. Dialectic of Enlightenment, edited by Gunzelin Schmid Noeri, Redwood City: Stanford University Press, 2002, pp. 94-136. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780804788090-007