Documentation, Periodization, Regionalization, and Marginalization

Four Challenges for Video Game Historiography

arsenault cover updated

As I understand it, and as others before me summarized it (Lowood & Guins 2014, XIII-XV), history is the study of the past through documents, and historiography is the study of the craft of history – the methods used by historians to write their histories. Historians often conduct their work in two phases: studying the documents to retrace the facts, and then organizing these facts and events into a narrative to infuse them with meaning. Continue Reading

Shovel Knight Redug

The Retro Game as Hypertext and as Uchronia

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First, I will use Jean-Marc Limoges’ work on reflexivity and mise en abyme – a figure whereby a work’s structure is self-replicated within itself, i.e., a play in a play, or a film in a film – which he constructed from his predecessor Jacques Gerstenkorn (Gerstenkorn, 1987). I will use his summary table and adapt it briefly to video games, placing the examples of reflexivity in Shovel Knight laid out by David Boffa in his essay (2015). In so doing, we must recognize a kind of difference that Gerstenkorn and Limoges traced in film, between the cinematographic and the filmic. Similarly, we would do well to distinguish between the ludic (referring to playing and games in general, abstract principles and terms), and the gamic (the individual games themselves). From their work, I argue that reflexivity can, broadly, occur in four types in video games: Continue Reading

Game Studies

From Colonization to Columbian Exchange

Representation of Alberti's window (perspective drawn using a front picture plane). Engraving (modified) from G. B. Vignola, La due regole della prospettiva practica, 1611.

As a film studies professor holding both an M.A. and Ph.D. in film studies, I spend my days telling people around me that games are not only “not a form of cinema”, but also that cinema is not a viable lens to discuss the visual nature of video games. This is rather strange, considering the department where I work is neatly divided into two relatively independent sections: art history on one side, and film studies on the other. Game studies have been, thanks to my colleague and former mentor Bernard Perron, present at the Department for over ten years now, but resolutely as part of the film studies section. With my colleague Carl Therrien, we now have 3 professors specialized in game studies, around 20 students doing M.A. and Ph.D. work on video games, an undergraduate Minor degree in game studies averaging 50 students a year, an official M.A. option in video game studies, and a game lab dedicated to historical preservation with more than 60 consoles and 2000 games. This suggests that it may only be a matter of time before our dual-headed department turns into a three-headed Gleeok. Continue Reading