The Paratext of Video Games

A compelling but often overlooked part of video games is what we call the ‘paratext.’ The term was coined in literary studies to discuss the pieces of information which appear outside of the text (the main body of writing), but which nonetheless participate in and influence our reception of the text. For instance, the paratext of a novel would be the novel’s title, the author’s name, the synopsis on the back cover, chapter titles, publication details, or the cover art. It appears marginal to the experience of the text, but actually provides a significant network of ideas around which our approach to the text is shaped. Continue Reading

Kill to Progress

Hotline Miami, American Psycho, & Violent Processes

It is this feeling of participation in the unspeakably horrific that rises up at the end of every chapter of Hotline Miami, a video game that was released last October (developed by Dennaton Games and published by Devolver Digital.) Hotline Miami is frequently noted for its aesthetic parallels to the 2011 film Drive but I contend that it also has a more profound mechanical and philosophical debt to American Psycho. I bring up this particular parallel because it calls attention to two things that tend to be neglected in video game studies: that reading is itself a participatory act and that there are meta-procedural cultural contexts in which video games cannot help but exist… Continue Reading