Mimesis as Make-believe

On the Foundations of the Representational Arts

Like all truly interesting epic endeavors, game studies has its own origin myth. It’s a story about battling against stories, with narratology and the study of videogames as essentially narrative on one side, and ludology and the study of videogames as essentially games or play on the other. Its battle sites were websites, and traces of its force can still be seen in gamestudies.org, grandtextauto.org, and others. And like any myth, it’s not exactly true, either because, as some ludologists claim, the narrative defenders “never showed up” or because, as others postulate, it was never a disagreement to begin with (see: Bogost http://www.bogost.com/writing/videogames_are_a_mess.shtml). But whether the conflict ever actually happened, there is a case to be made that it ideologically happened, as the myth is constantly returned to and debunked in an almost ritualistic fashion (as, for example, what I’m doing now). What is at stake here is a single question: How do we study videogames? Kendall Walton has no direct answer to this question. Though Mimesis as Make-believe was published in 1990, the closest it comes to any sort of digital medium is a few examples that touch on film. But I still think that its premise—that all forms of representation should be regarded as potential props for games of make-believe—provides a useful contribution to the ongoing myth of game studies. Continue Reading