Montageman: A dude who writes

March 13, 2007

Games: Beauty, Accessibility, & Affect

Filed under: affect, games — montageman @ 3:29 am

On his weekly National Public Radio commentaries, sports writer Frank Defour will often speak about the ballet-like movement of basketball players or the impressive fluidity of motion in tennis players.  He finds art in motion, more specifically bodies in motion.  There is constant opposition in sports – offense versus defense, server versus receiver – and it through the interplay of these antagonists that art is born.  Kobe Bryant driving to the basketball hoop against Yao Ming can be a thing of beauty if not for Kobe’s offense then Yao’s defense.  One needs the other to succeed artistically because if Kobe drives to the basket undefended or Yao goes up for a block against no one, no longer is the game being played, rather the men would be practicing.  Defense is the reaction to offense and offense will react to defense.

Marshall McLuhan on games, “Games are popular art, collective, social reactions to the main drive or action of any culture.  Games, like institutions, are extensions of social man and of the body politic, as technologies are extensions of the animal organism.”  McLuhan continues on by noting that games are reactions to workday stress, a coming together of action and reaction of whole populations in a single dynamic image (208).  For something to be “popular art,” there has to be a certain level of accessibility.  More directly, I am referring to affective accessibility.  While the inherent beauty of a basketball game may not be self evident, there is a definite affective accessibility maintained by the overall structure of the game.  Any professional sport (and videogame for that matter) is structured around rivalry.  A rivalry that, as McLuhan eludes to, mirrors the rivalry of the workplace – the constant hierarchical tugging between the employee and employer, or the underdog against the favorite.

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