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Gaming Matters: Art, Science, Magic, and the Computer Game Medium

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In his 2004 book Game Work, Ken S. McAllister proposed a rigorous critical methodology for the discussion of the “video game complex”—the games themselves, their players, the industry that produces them, and those who review and market them. Games, McAllister demonstrated, are viewed and discussed very differently by different factions: as an economic force, as narrative t In his 2004 book Game Work, Ken S. McAllister proposed a rigorous critical methodology for the discussion of the “video game complex”—the games themselves, their players, the industry that produces them, and those who review and market them. Games, McAllister demonstrated, are viewed and discussed very differently by different factions: as an economic force, as narrative texts, as a facet of popular culture, as a psychological playground, as an ethical and moral force, even as a tool for military training.   In Gaming Matters, McAllister and coauthor Judd Ruggill turn from the broader discussion of video game rhetoric to study the video game itself as a medium and the specific features that give rise to games as similar and yet diverse as Pong, Tomb Raider, and Halo. In short, what defines the computer game itself as a medium distinct from all others? Each chapter takes up a different fundamental characteristic of the medium. Games are: • Idiosyncratic, and thus difficult to apprehend using the traditional tools of media study • Irreconcilable, or complex to such a degree that developers, players, and scholars have contradictory ways of describing them • Boring, and therefore obligated to constantly make demands on players’ attention • Anachronistic, or built on age-old tropes and forms of play while ironically bound to the most advanced technologies • Duplicitous, or dependent on truth-telling rhetoric even when they are about fictions, fantasies, or lies • Work, or are often better understood as labor rather than play • Alchemical, despite seeming all-too mechanical or predictable Video games are now inarguably a major site of worldwide cultural production.   Gaming Matters will neither flatter game enthusiasts nor embolden game detractors in their assessments. But it will provide a vocabulary through which games can be discussed in academic settings and will create an important foundation for future academic discourse.


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In his 2004 book Game Work, Ken S. McAllister proposed a rigorous critical methodology for the discussion of the “video game complex”—the games themselves, their players, the industry that produces them, and those who review and market them. Games, McAllister demonstrated, are viewed and discussed very differently by different factions: as an economic force, as narrative t In his 2004 book Game Work, Ken S. McAllister proposed a rigorous critical methodology for the discussion of the “video game complex”—the games themselves, their players, the industry that produces them, and those who review and market them. Games, McAllister demonstrated, are viewed and discussed very differently by different factions: as an economic force, as narrative texts, as a facet of popular culture, as a psychological playground, as an ethical and moral force, even as a tool for military training.   In Gaming Matters, McAllister and coauthor Judd Ruggill turn from the broader discussion of video game rhetoric to study the video game itself as a medium and the specific features that give rise to games as similar and yet diverse as Pong, Tomb Raider, and Halo. In short, what defines the computer game itself as a medium distinct from all others? Each chapter takes up a different fundamental characteristic of the medium. Games are: • Idiosyncratic, and thus difficult to apprehend using the traditional tools of media study • Irreconcilable, or complex to such a degree that developers, players, and scholars have contradictory ways of describing them • Boring, and therefore obligated to constantly make demands on players’ attention • Anachronistic, or built on age-old tropes and forms of play while ironically bound to the most advanced technologies • Duplicitous, or dependent on truth-telling rhetoric even when they are about fictions, fantasies, or lies • Work, or are often better understood as labor rather than play • Alchemical, despite seeming all-too mechanical or predictable Video games are now inarguably a major site of worldwide cultural production.   Gaming Matters will neither flatter game enthusiasts nor embolden game detractors in their assessments. But it will provide a vocabulary through which games can be discussed in academic settings and will create an important foundation for future academic discourse.

30 review for Gaming Matters: Art, Science, Magic, and the Computer Game Medium

  1. 4 out of 5

    Simeon Berry

    After a little frustrating throat-clearing ("We're telling you what argument we're going to make, but some arguments we refuse to make, because... well, we're too smart for that."), the authors illuminate some excellent aspects of gaming and play. However, the book felt really short, and the structure was deeply unsatisfying, as the last two chapters were about the economics of the game industry (a depressing and necessary note to strike, but not exactly a deeply-examined or new perspective) and After a little frustrating throat-clearing ("We're telling you what argument we're going to make, but some arguments we refuse to make, because... well, we're too smart for that."), the authors illuminate some excellent aspects of gaming and play. However, the book felt really short, and the structure was deeply unsatisfying, as the last two chapters were about the economics of the game industry (a depressing and necessary note to strike, but not exactly a deeply-examined or new perspective) and alchemy as a metaphor for video games and their making, which seemed like a bizarre turn in the argument, and arbitrarily added to a text in which it did not really belong. As to be expected, I got a little weary of the tendency to resort to sky-high diction and multi-adjective phrases in order to signal that it was, indeed, an academic text. However, the authors avoided a common (and more profoundly unfortunate) failing of critical writing about pop culture: the habit of condescendingly approaching texts or items as artifacts that can be read into or interpreted without any respect for or acknowledgement of their first principles, parameters, or content. Beneath the bluster of clinical diction, a lot of academic writing cowers in fear of exposing its fascination and love for its subject matter, but Ruggill and McAllister clearly have greater ambitions, and for that, I am very grateful.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    I read this for a class and it was very difficult to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    Interesting Rain Taxi rec, but I'm not sure I actually want to read this, despite my interest in the subject. http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2011wi... Interesting Rain Taxi rec, but I'm not sure I actually want to read this, despite my interest in the subject. http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2011wi...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mary Mccants

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cristina Portas

    Dense and not very conclusive. I had trouble wanting to finish it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  10. 5 out of 5

    Univofalpress

  11. 5 out of 5

    Layla

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mjhancock

  13. 5 out of 5

    William Hart

  14. 5 out of 5

    Randy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shana

  17. 4 out of 5

    R. Travis

  18. 4 out of 5

    ThatCarlyGirl

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mtt

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erica Hasselbach

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sashwat Boruah

  24. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Mackey

  25. 4 out of 5

    Arash Ashrafzadeh

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dana

  27. 5 out of 5

    Peter Makai

  28. 4 out of 5

    Meagan

  29. 4 out of 5

    T

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Newman

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