The Paratext of Video Games

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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

Voluntary Constraints

How Players Can Impose an Ethical Critique

Commentary - Voluntary Constraints

Developers and publishers may seek to define what constitutes gaming capital through engagement with the player community, but it is the players that typically have the final word on what gaming capital is and how best to accrue it. As such, the production of more paratexts through player-authored walkthroughs, popular YouTube channels or mod communities has a sympathetic relationship with the exchange of gaming capital. Consalvo concludes the book by re-articulating the shaky definition of “cheating” in games and how that relates to “cheating” outside of games, where players that would never cheat outside of digital worlds think nothing of tapping out IDDQD for god mode in Doom. She uses this fracture to suggest that “we need a better understanding of how ethics might be expressed in gameplay situations, and how we can study the ethical frameworks that games offer to players.” (187). I’d like to extend some of Consalvo’s work on paratexts and gaming capital into the realm of voluntary or non-coded constraints that players impose upon themselves. Continue Reading