Galloway’s “Gamic Action, Four Moments,” Nondiegetic Acts

In chapter one of Gaming, Alexander Galloway divides gamic action into four distinct categories : diegetic machine act, nondiegetic machine act, diegetic operator act, and nondiegetic operator act.  In a nondiegetic act, either the machine or the operator (player) is performing an action that is considered not to exist within the game world, like the start menu or customizing screens in games like the Final Fantasy series.  I agree that these actions often feel seperate from the game world and make the player feel as if they’re watching the game world from a distance, like in the Sims games.  However, what happens when a game contains mostly nondiegetic acts and few, if any, diegetic acts?  While playing Upgrade Complete, I was wondering how far could a game push nondiegetic acts while still maintaining a sort of game world.  While in Upgrade Complete there were diegetic acts related to the space fighter portion of the game, is it possible to have a game that completely consists of upgrades and other nondiegetic acts?  Without some sort of diegetic act in the game, can the player feel as if there is a “second reality” or is the illusion of the game broken?  Some examples of games where nondiegetic machine actions are the focus are the games on  Jodi, which focus on nondiegetic machine acts like “game over” and game glitches.  Johan Huizinga described Jodi as “spoilsports” because he believes that the destructiveness of these acts interferes with the order in games that supposedly causes them to be so “enchanting.”  Using Huizinga’s logic, the enjoyment of the game would cease to exist if disorder was caused by an overuse of nondiegetic acts, even if it was designed this way on purpose by the creator(s) of the game.

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2 Responses to Galloway’s “Gamic Action, Four Moments,” Nondiegetic Acts

  1. That’s a very good question about how far can a game push its non-diegetic acts without becoming something other than a game. Aside from the case of Jodi (which we’ll read more about later this semester), I wonder if there are other, more mainstream games (sports, board, or video) in which the non-diegetic acts threaten to overwhelm the diegetic ones. (Side note: Huizinga didn’t actually call Jodi “spoilsports”; Galloway just means to say that according to Huizinga’s definitions, that’s what Jodi would appear to be.)

  2. Martin Krauser says:

    Huizinga has had a hard time describing anyone since 1945, being deceased and all. 🙂

    Galloway himself, described Finaly Fantasy X as being played mostly via configurations and menus, meaning markedly non-diegetic gameplay, as you say. The Civilization series has extremely little diegetic play, and again, Galloway himself in that very same chapter makes a point of how this distinction is not at all that clear (and, by extension, useful). A game does not need to build a world through diegetic player/operator action at all to have one. A better question to ask Galloway would be, is a unit following a move order in a RTS not a diegetic machine act, following a non-diegetic operator act?

    To answer your question whether a game can be played entirely through non-diegetic acts with little to no “game world”, I propose you take a look at various abstract strategy games or “idle games” on Kongregate, such as

    Maybe even Nomic, though not a videogame.

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