Tag Archives: rogues in space

Beyond Complete Freedom of Movement

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The title of this post refers to Henry Jenkins‘s “‘Complete Freedom of Movement': Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces,” which itself references the 1998 game Die by the Sword. The article, as well as the book in which it appears, is a valuable precursor to some of the recent discussions the ludodecahedron have engaged in regarding games as a virtual outdoors.

It’s been over two years since Roger Ebert enraged the hive, and despite the insistent hopping about from all corners that No One Damn Well Cares about the “are games art?” question, we still seem to keep trucking it out. The latest came from Guardian guy-with-a-blog Jonathan Jones, whose forays into the “but is it art?” arena are long documented, and about as neatly thought out as shoving stuff into a blender to see what happens.

He’s just a guy, though, and not a terribly interesting one at that. It’s the damned question itself that seems to take on a life of its own and clog up my reading agenda for TWIVGB every few weeks. As games blogging strawmen go, it’s probably right behind “can games tell stories?” and just before “are casual games games?” in terms of frequency on my RSS feed, and none of them are terribly fruitful lines of inquiry (if only because the obvious answers to the three are yes, yes and yes).

Given this, the last thing I should be doing is throwing my own two cents (more a haypenny) in here. But no matter how often this “are games art?” thing gets brought up, and no matter how many bloggers leap to defend the vidya, I always feel like the best argument is one they aren’t making. Where “but X is interactive, and it’s considered art” everyone is quick to mention participatory theatre, dance, and all the rest, and yet they neglect to mention the most glaring example of all:

Installation art.

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‘Rogues in Space': A Post-Mortem

Art by Alexander Preuss.

Reposted from PopMatters Moving Pixels.

These past two weeks, as part of one of my game studies classes, I’ve been engaged in taking a largely uninitiated party of undergraduates through the paces of a tabletop roleplay campaign. We had just come off a screening of Darkon and a series of readings on the Atari 2600 (including Adventure and the origins thereof) so we were all of a mindset to begin exploring actual game creation and interacting with real systems. Our professor, taking a philosophical approach to the subject I wish more academics of new media would, divided the class into three groups: gamist, emphasizing combat systems; simulationist, emphasizing ambient world effects and modeling; and narrativist, emphasizing storytelling. I DMed for the last of these.

“But wait, Kris,” I hear you saying. “Aren’t you a ludologist?” I’m glad you asked, dear reader. I actually think of myself as a post-Aarsethian ergodic narrativist/aestheticist, but that is neither here nor there. The Great War of ludology versus narratology is an important conversation but a decidedly dead one. Nor does it matter whether anyone won (arguably, the only winners were the ones who didn’t play). What does matter is that my professor suggested that narrativist tabletop roleplay was beset by cliche and was the structurally weakest of play types. That sounded like a thrown gauntlet to me.

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