Videogames, Aesthetics, and Culture In Review
As an aspiring Film and New Media Studies major, I did not expect to become so enthralled with the concept of new media or media studies. I begrudgingly accepted that I would have to take classes like Intro to Media Studies and Videogames in order to ascertain the title of “Film Major.” I showed up for Intro to Media Studies on the first day of block five, ready to get my (soon-to be) major requirements out of the way. But by the end of the first week of class, I knew I had misjudged the department in more ways than one.
First of all, I expected Intro to Media Studies to be an easy, breeze-by class. I quickly realized Scott is not a breeze-by class kind of professor. He assigns hefty readings, two quizzes, responses to readings and discussions, and a five to six page paper or project. Every week. But here’s the thing about Scott’s class: you don’t necessarily realize how much work you are doing because the class is just so damn cool. Scott knows how to mix up a class and keep us students interested. One day during Videogames we went to the Mantiou Springs Penny Arcade, where we examined the difference between social and personal gaming, and played some sweet vintage games. On other days Scott would show films and we would discuss their relation to videogames (which were probably my favorite days of class).
Before Intro to Media Studies I would never have dreamed of taking Videogames. I was the pestering neighbor that constantly asked the people across the hall to turn the volume of Super Smash Bros or Halo down, usually with little to no success. Even coming into the class I looked down on videogames as a cultural medium in comparison to, lets say, film. But the class discussions, viewings, readings, and conversions with my class members, have once again altered my perspective on new media and my greater understanding of “reality.”
Videogames are an art form just like film, painting, or writing. Much of what we discussed in the first two weeks of class is the concept of videogames as a narrative form. Some theorists say no, same say yes. I would say both. Videogames definitely lack specific aspects of traditional narrative, like a structured temporal sequence. But so do some films! Anyone who has seen Weekend, a film directed by Jean-luc Godard, PLEASE try to explain any sort of the temporal sequence to me because I could not find it. And don’t individual, physical experiences create a narrative that changes from person to person? We each start the game, play the game, then end the game. We create a “temporal flow” based on our interactivity with the game. And in doing so, we create our own personal narratives within another world.
On greater scheme, don’t all of our actions play into “the game of life?” As corny as this sounds, ever since Scott assigned McLenzie Wark’s Gamer Theory last week, it has become difficult to find aspects of life that do not play into some larger “game.” We follow boundaries that are at times as irrational as the lines on a football field. We collect tokens, overcome obstacles, and defeat enemies, just like the storyline of most videogames. You might consider the world of videogames to be “un-real,” narrative, destructive, all of the above. But before you criticize the latest version of Assassins Creed or Cod Mod, take a step back and think about the world we live in. Yes, the virtual nature of videogames distinguishes the world of gaming from the world of the physical. But in “reality,” are the two worlds truly that different?
To keep everyone preoccupied over Spring Break…
Johan Huizinga “Homo Ludens”
Mckenzie Wark Gamer Theory
Markku Eskelinen “Towards Computer Games Studies”
Jane McGonigal Reality is Broken
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The McDonalds Game