What about video games?

So, obviously, I have not posted in a while. Now that I’ve finished my master’s degree, I’ve resolved to post more often. I imagine this will be an easy resolution to keep, because even though I’ll be teaching and whatnot, I won’t have the same opportunities to discuss what I’m reading with people. I anticipate this blog taking the place of some of that. I’m just narcissistic enough not to mind the lack of response. 🙂

As I’ve been thinking about what I want to read and write about next, I’ve realized that instead of spending all of my new free time immersed in texts I never had time to read during the semester, I’ve played a ton of video games. So I’ve started thinking about how video games function as texts on different levels and whether it’s worth talking about what kinds of stories they tell. I’m not going to argue their relative artistic merit, but I will state that many different skills are required for their production and they are intended to convey a certain aesthetic particular to their genre or subgenre. For my present purposes, they count as art. Given my generally expansive approach to defining my world and the things in it, I think I can go along with postmodern ideas that talk about anything being a text. Therefore, video games are a text.
I think the “reading” of a video game is more complex– or at least very different– from reading a traditional text. Reading a video game involves understanding the plot or object of the game as well as participating in the performative act of actually playing the game, but I don’t think it ends there. I think to “read” video game, a person needs to consciously reflect on the context of the game. So a reader needs to understand what cultural and personal forces are influencing the creation and the individual instance of participation with the game. A reader needs to reflect on the success of this game, however success is defined. To get at what a particular game “means,” the whole of the game’s experience or influence should be considered, just as the understanding of a traditional text requires an understanding of extratextual elements. The reading of a video game can be as revealing as any other traditional text, and can be read for the same reasons– can’t it?
These are just some initial thoughts I’ve had. Surely critics have considered all of this before, since hypertext is becoming more and more of a focus of textual studies. If any of you know of any articles in particular, I’d appreciate it if you’d point them out to me. I probably won’t include any thoughts on, say, “Oblivion” or “World of Warcraft” (pictured above) any time soon, but I thought it would be worth considering why I might.

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