THE IMPORTANCE OF ABSTRACTION

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This essay builds on this particular area of development in video games and addresses the importance of abstraction in this medium by drawing on the work of Jesper Juul, Alexander Galloway, and others, and thus on the relevance of video games from a game theory perspective. A short qualitative analysis of two video games, Jeppe Carlsen’s 140 (2013) and Starbreeze Studio’s Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013), is included to demonstrate how abstraction can be used in unique and interesting ways and can increase player agency, engagement, and authorship in ways that have not yet been fully tested. The former visually alludes to early video game aesthetics, but also amplifies updated mechanics that allow for more highly developed movement, transformation, and player outcomes specifically through sound. The latter, though more linear in terms of narrative and gameplay, utilizes a key feature of abstraction to heighten a player’s sense of loss and difficulty by disabling a portion of the player’s game control after a major narrative event unfolds. 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