Gaming: Essays On Algorithmic Culture (Electronic Mediations)

Gaming: Essays On Algorithmic Culture (Electronic Mediations)

Alexander R. Galloway

Language: English

Pages: 160

ISBN: 0816648514

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Video games have been a central feature of the cultural landscape for over twenty years and now rival older media like movies, television, and music in popularity and cultural influence. Yet there have been relatively few attempts to understand the video game as an independent medium. Most such efforts focus on the earliest generation of text-based adventures (Zork, for example) and have little to say about such visually and conceptually sophisticated games as Final Fantasy X, Shenmue, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and The Sims, in which players inhabit elaborately detailed worlds and manipulate digital avatars with a vast—and in some cases, almost unlimited—array of actions and choices.

In Gaming, Alexander Galloway instead considers the video game as a distinct cultural form that demands a new and unique interpretive framework. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, particularly critical theory and media studies, he analyzes video games as something to be played rather than as texts to be read, and traces in five concise chapters how the “algorithmic culture” created by video games intersects with theories of visuality, realism, allegory, and the avant-garde. If photographs are images and films are moving images, then, Galloway asserts, video games are best defined as actions.

Using examples from more than fifty video games, Galloway constructs a classification system of action in video games, incorporating standard elements of gameplay as well as software crashes, network lags, and the use of cheats and game hacks. In subsequent chapters, he explores the overlap between the conventions of film and video games, the political and cultural implications of gaming practices, the visual environment of video games, and the status of games as an emerging cultural form.

Together, these essays offer a new conception of gaming and, more broadly, of electronic culture as a whole, one that celebrates and does not lament the qualities of the digital age.

Alexander R. Galloway is assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University and author of Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization.

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obfuscated with a curved, black masking. The masking acts as visual proof that the audience is seeing exactly what the character is seeing through his or her own eyes. These shots are generally very short takes. They serve simply to offer some piece of visual evidence to the viewer. But their relationship to the subjective shot is flimsy at best, for the cinema’s binocular shot doesn’t accurately capture what it looks like to peer through binoculars—in human vision, the two lens images tend to

years later, the failed experiment of Lady in the Lake has finally found some success, only it required the transmigration from one medium to another entirely. A corollary of my previous claim about actionable space is that gaming makes montage more and more superfluous. The montage technique, perfected by the cinema, has diminished greatly in the aesthetic shift into the medium of gaming. The cinematic interludes that Origins of the First-Person Shooter 65 appear as cut scenes in many games do

representation. But in gaming the concept of representation does not account for the full spectrum of issues at play. Representation refers to the creation of meaning about the world through images. So far, debates about representation have focused on whether images (or language, or what have you) are a faithful, mimetic mirror of reality thereby offering some unmediated truth about the world, or conversely whether images are a separate, constructed medium thereby standing apart from the world in

unfold in algorithmic form during gameplay. In this sense, video games deliver to the player the power relationships of informatic media firsthand, choreographed into a multivalent cluster of play activities. In fact, in their very core, video games do nothing but present contemporary political realities in relatively unmediated form. They solve the problem of political control, not by sublimating it as does the cinema, but by making it coterminous with the entire game, and in this way video games

action, Huizinga suggests, while play is an effect reproduced in the action. The dromenon, the ritual act, is thus helpful for understanding the third moment of gamic action: the diegetic operator act. This is the moment of direct operator action inside the imaginary world of gameplay, and it is the part of my schema that overlaps most with Huizinga and Caillois. Diegetic operator acts are diegetic because they take place within the world of gameplay; they are operator acts because they are

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