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View Diary: Would You Play a Video Game about Black Slavery and the Underground Railroad? (54 comments)

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  •  Mediated experience difference (7+ / 0-)

    Authors have a power inside of a narrative, of course, but readers construct, and the social coding of [author] and [reader] will alter the product that we call a reading. In other words, the instruction set is small in a book because it is a "cold medium." It employs super-signification (meanings above and beyond simple lexicality) to get to the "meaning," and these are always moving.

    There are gobs of approaches to the hermeneutics of reading, from Harold Bloom's "strong readings," where readers read "against" the author's instruction as an act of psychological freedom, to H.R. Jauss's notion of a changing "horizon of expectations," where readers have sets of conditions they carry as "normal," and texts always comfort and question these assumption sets. Because of historical change, the readings may be moderately stable while the value goes up and down.

    However, a video game is a "hot medium." The senses are engaged more and more, and therefore even a game that purports to be open-ended is still exercising a great deal of control. The control will betray the constructor's assumptions about value (and this is, ultimately, how we perceive the power -- someone telling us that this is good, that bad, that we should want to be him and not her).

    Games, as games, have two "plays." One play is to achieve the structured goals. The next is to subvert the direction of the game. Thus, people who ran over the hookers in Grand Theft Auto discovered it out of a desire to "beat the game" more than beat up women, and every game has players trying to set off a bomb by the hero figure or see if they can get to a hidden level. Consequently, games set up a direction of play that is overt power and then become a structural counter play.

    As for making a game of the Underground Railroad, it may fail simply because it cannot admit of any moral equivocation. The value structures can't allow for "playing either side" or battling the game itself, and the values are also such ongoing concerns that the game would have to lose its play to maintain its use.

    People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

    by The Geogre on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 01:02:40 PM PST

    •  fascinating, do you have any reading suggestions? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Geogre
      •  It's hard to say (0+ / 0-)

        Your interest shows that you'd probably be as unhappy with the current state of game scholarship as I am. Either it goes with popular cultural studies (1) or back to game theory (2) or is trying to make the games into metaphors. This last one is the least informed and the most common. It's what we see when people speak of online games, in particular, as micro-societies, etc. They keep saying that the game is a nation or community, but they never have any data or analysis. It's as if they're trying to validate the game -- which is fine, but we want analysis, not defense.

        If you want some of the cornerstone readings in popular culture studies, I can offer those up by Kos Mail or a reply tomorrow, when I get at my books in my office. Generally, though, it is a historicist approach, in that popular and commercial culture is charged with being a shadow social text. Thus, the proliferation of immasculated boyfriends in 1990's movies (Time Traveler's Wife, the one about the mailbox that crosses time -- all of these give "perfect" men because they can't be demanding; they're there for eternal admiration and romance, but they aren't nagging and bored or boring) say something about the nature of "man" at that time, just as images of "Japs" in comic books of WW2 did then. For this, one would need to add in the fact that games have the dual aesthetic of winning by the rules and against the rules.

        The people who revert to game theory are the best and worst, to me, because they can be really reductive. They assume that humans act rationally and do not seem to handle aesthetic responses very well or the weight of cultural attachments.

        Anyway, I dig the ancient Writing Degree Zero by Roland Barthes. It's short, enjoyable, and makes a case that a number of theorists have made about the openness of reading. Umberto Eco's even older The Open Work is good for refiguring how meaning is done. He argues that there is a "lexical" reading (each word in order, like a rope) and an "encyclopedic" (all words, and an ability to bounce across different potentialities in the words, a field of words rather than a string).

        I'll offer up names, if you want.

        People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

        by The Geogre on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 05:54:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  i teach in cultural studies so we should chat (0+ / 0-)

          i am more interested in the video game theory representation stuff you mentioned. but there are so many different approaches i am open to whatever readings you suggest.

          appreciated. good old barthes. is mythologies still read?

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