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Games Are Not Media

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Joined: 01 Jul 2007
Posts: 248

PostPosted: Wed 16 Feb - 19:34 (2011)    Post subject: Games Are Not Media Reply with quote

Franck Lantz wrote:
>> Video games are new because their rules are (usually) disclosed gradually through play and experimentation.

Some video games are like that, but most? It doesn’t appear to be particularly true of Rock Band, Wii Sports, Counter Strike, Bejeweled, The Sims, Mario Kart (I’m just trying to think of popular video games.)

To the degree it is a major aspect of games it’s primarily a result of a single-player structure where you have the player vs. computer-controlled opponents whose abilities and strategies are hidden information, or the player solving a puzzle in the form of a level they are trying to traverse. In neither case is it really the rules that are being revealed over time. Consider the experience of playing a new action platformer – you hit the buttons to figure out what’s jump, what’s shoot, you run around a bit to see how the avatar handles. From that point on you aren’t really discovering new rules as much as exploring the extrapolations of those rules in a variety of situations and in conjunction with different materials, which is what you do with any game.

In any event, I’m not sure it’s an inherent property of video games as much as a stylistic choice. It’s very popular among artgames, for example, in many of which once the player “gets” the mechanics the game is basically over. I’m not really crazy about it as a style, since I think most of the really cool stuff in games happens once you understand the basic rules and you are exploring the possibility space.

>> games are content, in the sense that they make a credible claim to representing a state of affairs through the use of rules…

This idea of games making claims is very interesting. I don’t fully understand it although I’m not prepared to step into that particular ring without some better weapons ready-to-hand. Suffice to say that what you describe sounds a lot like the message model of meaning to me.


Even if you think critically about all those things the word media can’t help but have a bunch of associations it brings with it. I like to think that *I* think critically about those things, and I know that I have all those associations with the term, because that’s where I got them. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a fine-grained and subtle and complex understanding of how media works when we stop and think about it, it’s just that when I think intuitively, in broad strokes, about the spectrum of things in the world that are more or less like “media” I want to wrench games away from one end of that spectrum towards the other end. I’m not suggesting we throw any words away. I just want to promote the twinge. I know it’s kind of a messy rhetorical gesture, with all that stroking and wrenching and twinging, and for that I apologize!

The method I try to pursue and want to encourage starts with a committment to deep play, which is maybe roughly analogous to the idea of close reading in literary analysis. This means attending closely to the reality of your cognitive and emotional experience as you explore a game, as you learn it, try to figure it out, try to understand it, to improve at it, and so on.

You can’t play every game deeply, and that’s fine, most games I play I play lightly, we all do. But I am most interested in meanings that emerge out of a game when it has woven itself into your life and you have become fluent in it.

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PostPosted: Wed 16 Feb - 19:34 (2011)    Post subject: Publicité

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