“How to Do Things with Videogames” Ch 1-5

Ian Bogost’s “How to Do Things with Videogames” investigates the varieties and applications of videogames using the concept of “media microecology”, in which specific aspects of a medium (in this case, videogames), are focused on and closely analyzed in order to better understand the medium’s role in society as a whole.

Bogost discusses the role of videogames in inspiring empathy, and mentions that some critics maintain that gamers are not interested in playing a “feeble character,” however, he remarks that it is interesting that people are interested in watching a movie about a feeble character.  This relates to the similarities and differences of video games and movies; videogames offer a stronger connection between the user and the experience than movies because the user actually has some degree of control in a videogame, they are more engaged.  Thus, a player would feel more frustration with a character’s weakness in a videogame because the character’s failure is more directly connected to a failure on the part of the player, whereas in movies, there is no such connection.  This furthers the general discussion of the difference between movies and videogames as highlighted in “The Gaming Situation”, which asserts that viewing computer games as descendants of theatre, drama and literature is fundamentally incorrect, and remarks on the differences between videogames and more narrative situations.

Another interesting point that Bogost brings up is with regards to pranking and one of its earliest forms in gaming, Easter eggs.  We have discussed how Atari was very open to game developers and Bogost highlights how the idea of an Easter egg arose from how Atari would often fail to give due credit to the game creators.  Essentially, the creators are trying to inject humanity into what, at first glance, appears to be a cold and calculating piece of technology.  In some ways, this ties back to the idea of a platform study because Easter eggs often force the user to consider what happened before the game; how it was developed and where it came from.  Easter eggs can be nondiegetic actions made by the creators (such as a hidden room with credits or secret messages); they often disrupt the narrative of the game and force the player to mentally leave the game world temporarily.  Perhaps it is this jolt out of “the zone” that gives Easter eggs their power to provoke thought in the user, and thus what make them such a good prank on the game’s publishers.

This entry was posted in First Readers. Bookmark the permalink.