Montageman: A dude who writes

January 11, 2007

Master’s Proposal – a start

Filed under: Academic, affect, videogames — montageman @ 4:08 am

When reviewing the current literature on videogame criticism and ludology, it is evident that many of the authors in the field are more concerned with separating videogames from any other media (film, comics, literature) and moving the field into its own distinct field. More specifically, Espen Aarseth wants to distinguish between games and narrative – “The cybertext reader is a player, a gambler; the cybertext is a game-world or world-game; it is possible to explore, get lost, and discover secret paths in these texts, not metaphorically, but through the topological structures of the textual machinery. This is not a difference between games and literature but rather between games and narratives,” (Cybertext, 5). Cybertext is, historically speaking, the first book length analysis of games as texts and the moment where ludology, the theory that games are different than traditional narratives, takes hold. Throughout the book, Aarseth does not attempt to question why it is that gamers are drawn to and enjoy gaming in the first place.

Ten years later, not much has changed. Juul’s Half-Real, while effective in its definition of types of games, is not concerned with affect. Juul is concerned with cognitive functions, or how the gamer interacts with the game world and what the impetuses are for these interactions. However, his argument seems reductive at best breaking down the world of videogames into fictional worlds with rules & how games cue players into imagining worlds (121). There is no mention of why gamers continually come back for more. If Juul’s distinction between emergent and progression games is true, why would a gamer want to play a game of progression?

Videogames are, in fact, toys. Roland Barthes talks about toys prefiguring the adult world and working to prepare the child for the adult world, or if not working to prepare then making the world easier to accept (Mythologies, 53). Toys and by proxy games are furthering an ideology then. An ideology that can either be accepted or rejected. Silvan Tomkins in talking about the psychology of knowledge states,”It [the psychology of knowledge] would concern itself with the role of violence and suffering in either discouraging or encouraging commitment to and deepening of ideology,” (Affect, Cognition, and Personality, 73). How then can a game like Conflict: Desert Storm 2 – Back to Baghdad or Left Behind: Eternal Forces be viewed differently? These games are attempting to do something beyond let their players solve puzzles. Games like this require a response – an emotional response. Gamers will either accept the ideology or reject it before ever trying to solve a puzzle or get lost in the fiction. If there is little hope of pleasure at the outset, the gamer has little reason to proceed further.

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