Montageman: A dude who writes

January 17, 2007

Corporeality, Affect, and Gaming

Filed under: Academic, affect, corporeality, videogames — montageman @ 4:55 am

Reading through Massumi’s Parables for the Virtual, I’m struck by how videogame studies takes the body for granted.  Throughout the literature I’ve read, nothing (or very little) is made of the relationship of the gamer’s body to the gaming apparatus and, subsequently, the game itself.  To be blunt, there would be no game without the apparatus and the player – without the corporeal component of the game, there is no conscious experience of the game as a game.  Early games like Pong are examples of how the body is incorporated into the gaming experience.  When watching two people playing the table-top version of Pong, the corporeal nature of the game begins to manifest, i.e. players moving with the ball and/or paddle in an effort to aid in blocking the ball.  We imagine that we are holding the paddle that is hitting the ball.  The game itself transcends the screen and works its way into the consciousness of the player.  The game becomes more than two sticks and a bouncing square.

Tomkins states, “It is the innate plasticity of the affect mechanism which permits the investment of any type of affect in any type of activity or object which makes possible the great varieties of human personalities and societies,” (148).  Not only is affect plastic, but there is a systematic outline put forth by Tomkins, which aides in the creation of an affectual response:

  1. Original resonance
  2. Risk is ventured
  3. Suffering in Consequence of Risk Taking
  4. Deepened resonance, increased commitment (159-63).

Videogames take on this structure through their narrative and/or the nature of their puzzles. In order for a game to be played (and remain interesting), these 4 steps are essential.  Take Super Mario Bros. for example.  Your initial mission is clear – save Princess Toadstool from Bowser.  Mario risks his life through 8 levels (worlds) & inevitably loses a life or takes damage from an enemy.  As Mario progresses, the game becomes more difficult thus creating a sense of urgency in the gamer to save the princess and finish the game.

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