Category Archives: Galloway

This guy doens’t make sense…

So, in response to the request that we post regarding Mr. Galloway’s writings I have produced the following.

I was rather confused by his early remarks regarding the interactive nature of video games. He says on page 3:
“One should resist equating gamic action with a theory of ‘interactivity’…”
I found this especially confusing because video games are inherently interactive by nature. The entire point is to interface with, depending on the game, any combination of enemies, allies, and the games environment. While a players hands may not be directly manipulating anything, the character/avatar they control is interacting on their behalf. The entire point of a video game is that it “plays back”, if you will. This seems like the very definition of interactivity to me. Therefore, Galloway’s insistence that we not apply interactivity theory to video games left me…honestly…dumbfounded.

Gamers as machines

The passage that confused me was the part on page two when Galloway refers to gamers as machines.  He loses me when he says that he refers to games as the entire apparatus of video games.  Previously in the paragraph he refers to gamers as independent  agents but later implies that they are an integral part of a whole network.  After careful rereading however I understood that he meant that gamers are an independent part of a larger information network.

Galloway Reading

I followed the reading fairly well but was tripped up on one spot in particular. On page 25 Galloway begins discussing the relationship between play and the nature of language. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to follow this very well. When he said, “So at a basic level, play is simply how things transpire linguistically for Derrida, how, in a general sense, they happen to happen”, I didn’t understand at all. This concept makes zero sense to me. I was also confused as to how it fit into the essay. help?

I’m no Jake Shapiro, but…

…I also found the Galloway reading to be fairly digestible.  I actually preferred it over most of the other readings we’ve done for this class (particularly the Koster book) because Galloway doesn’t BS around.  He backs up his logic with specific references to other games, and I liked how he applied theories for analyzing more familiar mediums, such as film and computer software.  It really put into perspective what video games are — while they are obviously similar to narratives, visual art forms and information systems, they also exist as their own separate medium which should be analyzed independently.  My biggest confusions came from the more technical terms about game machines, and other vocabulary that Galloway used which was sometimes over my head.  The occasional references to games I am unfamiliar with made me skim over certain passages, but they didn’t particularly confuse me, and I found that if I skipped over what I didn’t know, I could usually read on and Galloway would eventually clarify his point in a way that made more sense.  Overall I think I got the gist of what he was trying to say, and actually came out with a better understanding about how to approach video game studies than I did after reading some of the other articles for this class.

Background would help..

I, like my fellow students, found myself quite surprised when I was actually able to digest a portion of the Galloway reading.  Specifically, the beginning of the section ‘The Dromenon’ was familiar because of our prior readings.  Unfortunately, my understanding of the reading ranged from, “well yeah, that makes perfect sense!” to, *stare blankly; reread; Google terminology; reread; reread; stare blankly…*.

Aside from the technical jargon that hindered my understanding, I found that my ignorance of videogaming was probably holding me back.  Although I could often break down and at least logically understand what Galloway was writing, it was likely that my potential understanding from experiencing the games and terms he discussed would have been greater.

The first quadrant is about the machinic phylum and the vitality of pure matter.  Consider Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue.  One plays Shenmue by participating in its process.  Remove everything and there is still action, a gently stirring rhythm of life.  There is a privileging of the quotidian, the simple (8-9).

Although this made sense, I didn’t fully understand it because I am completely ignorant of the game Shenmue.

Diegetic enabling acts?

I should say that the tangent off into linguistics was somewhat “wait, what?” for me as well, but I think people have pretty much covered it, so instead I’m going to touch on a part in the 4th moment section on page 31:

“These should be called enabling acts. … With an enabling act, the machine grants something to the operator…Thus receipt of any of the aforementioned items–power-ups, goals, the HUD (excluding input elements), and health packs–all constitute enabling acts.”

This would all be fine if it were just in the area about the machine; after all, as Galloway says, the operator’s involvement in getting these things can be thought of (perhaps artificially, but at least reasonably) as being distinct from their actually receiving them. Why, however, is this necessarily nondiegetic? In Xenogears, for example, there is a part where one of the main characters is given a sword from another character after having put aside weapons for many years. It is a pretty diegetic moment unto itself (I don’t want to spoil the details of why), but it has distinct nondiegetic implications: this character suddenly does something like 20-30% more damage than he did just beforehand. In general it seems like situations like these can easily come up.

I think I may perhaps be forgetting about something from earlier in the chapter about these sorts of things blurring together and how Galloway separates them, however.

I think I get Galloway?

So I had a hard time picking out a passage for this particular post, because I feel like I understand where Galloway is coming from. There were certain passages about the cockfighting and what not that required some extra glances to sink into my brain, but most of Galloway’s ideas seemed to mesh seamlessly.

However, on page 35-36 the following passage gave me a little trouble “The HUD is uncomfortable in its two-dimensionality, but forever there it will stay, in a relationship of incommensurability with the world of the game, and a metaphor for the very nature of play itself. The play of the nondiegetic machine act is therefore a play within the various semiotic layers of the video game. It is form playing with other form.”

While Galloway does qualify his statement beforehand, one clear exception to the rule is Metroid Prime for the cube. I think the word I get stuck on here is incommensurability, which would imply that the HUD is completely and utterly separated from the world of the game.  Also, the fact that Galloway describes it as “uncomfortable in its two-dimensionality.” I understand the point he is trying to make; that it is base level machine work giving you further input on how to execute your mission in a game. However, I would disagree that it is not part of the game world. Metriod Prime offers a great example of this, especially in just the small effects like the water evaporating off of the visor after its been wet. However, even in other games where the HUD could consist of just a map and a health bar, I think it would almost be impossible to play the game without those elements. So should they really be considered in a relationship of incommensurability if they are absolutely necessary for the world of the game to function?

Pages 1-38 are like Crocs—surprisingly digestable.

After reading through the entire chapter once (and most of it twice) and making several excursions through the dictionary, I am fairly confident in my understanding.  There is too much material to regurgitate a simple summary, but when examining any particular section I believe I follow him correctly–any particular section, that is, except for one.  One sentence, which I shall mark in bold italics.

“And, as discussed, nondiegetic machine acts are about the various intensities of agitation between the various layers of the game itself, whether it be the agitation between two- and three-dimensionality, or between connectivity and disconnectivity, or between gameplay and the lack thereof.  Games are always about getting from here to there.  They require local differentials of space and action, not an abstract navigation through a set of anchored points of reference” (p. 36).

… … …What?  These are terms which show up nowhere else in the chapter, and go undefined and unexplained despite being words with numerous meanings, including “differentials”, “abstract”, “navigation” and “anchored points of reference.”  Perhaps I am wrong, but I feel as if he’s trying to emphasize that in videogames there are actions, which are performed in specific contexts, in contrast to navigating an abstraction.  First, navigating is an action, and thus I am confused.  Second, a “set of anchored points of reference” sounds suspiciously like my understanding of the word “context,” and thus I am further confused.  Halp.


Commo Say What?

So I was expecting the worst from this Galloway character as was the rest of the class. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I’m not saying I got all of it, cause that by no means happened; but did I get most of it? I’d like to think so. I think his specific examples really helped a great deal with understanding, especially with all his new fangled jargon.

I’ll admit the reading did take me about 2 hours to get through. Way longer than I’d like to admit, but I was determined to understand it, partially because I’d been told I wouldn’t. The reading involved a great deal of Google Search “Define …” but I did eventually piece together what Galloway was in fact trying to say. While I understood most of the words, the big picture did escape me in some of his points.

On Page 31, Galloway states, “Following Huizinga, these actions have the ability to destroy the game from without, to disable its logic. But at the same time, they are often the most constitutive category of game acts, for they have the ability to define the outer boundaries of aesthetics in gaming, the degree zero for an entire medium.”

I understand the first sentence completely, probably because I have seen my brother freak out all too many times due to our internet lagging while he is playing Nazi Zombies with his friends on X-Box Live. The second sentence leaves me in a stupor cause even as I try to puzzle through this, I come up with nothing. I guess the way I’ve boiled the next line down in my head is as follows, “At the same time, the glitches/bugs/lags/etc are the essential pieces in the physical make up of the game as far as game acts go, because they define the parameters for the visuals of games, the basis of the entire game system?” But why visuals are involved with glitches when he is discussing a fail on the machine’s part, I couldn’t reason out.

Re: Reading Galloway

I was pretty confused by pages 6-8 and Galloway’s description of “diegetic” and “non-diegetic” elements of games. I see that they refer to the elements of games that exist both inside (diegetic) and outside (non-diegetic) the “pretend world” (or “second reality” as Callois would say), but somewhere along the way i found myself completely lost as he analyzed which gamic elements and nongamic elements fell into which category. An example here from page 8:

“To be sure, nondiegetic elements are often centrally connected to the act of gameplay, so being nondiegetic does not necessarily mean being nongamic. Sometimes nondiegetic elements are firmly embedded in the game world. Sometimes they are entirely removed”

Somehow its just not connecting in my mind how elements can be both “firmly embedded in the game world” and completely outside the “pretend world”. Or maybe I’m just misunderstanding his terms here. I guess the “game world” and the “pretend world” are not one and the same, but rather overlapping circles on another confusing Venn diagram?

Atmosphere and diegesis in games

The G-Man in the opening sequence of Half-Life 2.

I’m not going to lie. When we were first assigned Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture and Professor Mark “Sample Reality” Sample insisted multiple times that it’d be the hardest thing we read in college, I groaned. I assumed I would just sort of skim through the reading and pull a response out of my ass, because that’s what I’m good at. I was going to write, “You know what I don’t understand? THIS ENTIRE BOOK, it’s a load of shite!” I haven’t read any other students’ blogs on the reading, but I’m sure that was the basic thesis of multiple posts.

Against all my better judgement, I found myself actually enjoying Alexander R. Galloway’s first chapter. Real references to real video games, from cult classics like Ico to my favorite game of all time, the masterpiece Metroid Prime (which came out in 2002 on the GameCube, and is not to be confused with its 1986 NES predecessor Metroid, as Professor Mark “Sample Reality” Sample seems to have done in response to one of my previous blog posts).

A couple things caught my eye about the reading. First of all, since I’m a film major, I loved the idea of diegesis and non-diegesis in video games. I never thought of this before, but it’s very important to how players approach a game. One of my favorite games as a kid was Command & Conquer: Red Alert, a real-time strategy game that relied, as RTSes mostly do, on completely non-diegetic gameplay. While having no affect on the quality of the gameplay itself, it definitely made it harder to become as emotionally involved in the story and the characters as, say, Half-Life 2, which is 100% diagetic in its interaction with players. Both are great games, but I get much more emotionally invested in the Half-Life series.

Metroid Prime is an interesting case, because its seemingly non-diegetic elements are, in fact, diegetic.

A snowy vista in Metroid Prime. Note the diegetic HUD.

There is a very prominent HUD in the game, but it’s inside the visor of Samus’ helmet. The icons to denote switching weapons and whatnot are actually within the world of the game. When Samus gets wet, water droplets drip down the screen. When there is a blast near her face, you can see the reflection of her visage in the visor. But she never speaks. She is alone on an alien world, and the player is immersed in it through (mostly) diegetic gameplay.

I was also drawn to Galloway’s concept of “ambient acts” in video games: that in many games, when the player just sits back and doesn’t do anything, the game continues on its own, playing itself in a way. The world of the game exists even when the player doesn’t interact with it. There’s a certain zen to this idea. On a basic level, it’s a microcosm for real life–when the hero does nothing, Earth is extant. People go on their daily routines, the sun sets, day turns to night, and night turns to day. In a way, regardless of all the power-ups we’ve got, we don’t matter at all.

I know I didn’t really talk about anything I didn’t understand in the reading, but I thought this would suffice.

Reading Galloway…and trying to understand him.

I have difficulty trying to grasp the definitions of diegetic and nondiegetic. On page 7 and 8, Galloway attempts to define the two terms stating that nondiegetic are “game elements that are inside the total gamic apparatus yet outside the portion of the appartus that constitutes a pretend world of character and story.”

I take these sentences to mean that nondiegesis is like add some scenery put into a game that has no real affect on how the game is played or how the player feels when he plays the game. But, he goes on to say that “the heads-up display (HUD) in Deus Ex is nondiegetic, while the various rooms and environments in the game are diegetic” (page 8).

This confuses me. I think that I sort of get the definition of diegesis and nondiegesis but then as I read on, I’m just more and more confused. I keep having to go back to those pages (pages 7-10) to make sure I’ve got my definitions right (and I probably don’t!).

I don’t know. I feel as though I would understand his writing a lot more if he hadn’t gone on and on about some of the things he said and put in a lot of fluff that really meant nothing to me.

RE: Reading Galloway

My biggest confusion was actually not a passage written by Galloway, but a passage Galloway quotes by Jacques Derrida on page 26:

“If totalization no longer has any meaning, it is not because the infiniteness of a field cannot be covered by a finite glance or a finite discourse, but because the nature of the field – that is, language and a finite language – excludes totalization: this field is in effect that of a game [jeu], that is to say, of a field of infinite substitutions in the closing of finite group. This field only allows these infinite substitutions because it is finite, that is to say, because instead of being an incommensurable field, as in the classical hypothesis, instead of being too large, there is something missing from it: a center which arrests and grounds the play of substitutions.”

Infinite, finite, that is to say – every time I try to puzzle out the meaning of these sentences, my mind starts turning in circles. I feel like the information he is trying to convey is important, but the convoluted sentence structure is hiding its meaning from me. Without understanding a passage which Galloway quotes to support his argument, I have no hope of fully understanding Galloway’s argument.

Reading Galloway

Galloway, Page 16-17

I couldn’t really identify a key phrase in this section, besides maybe configuration, and I thought that was too vague, so I have included the direct quote:

“Acts of configuration are the rendering of life; the transformation into an information economy in the United States since the birth of videogames as a mass medium in the 1970’s has precipitated mass upheavals in the lives of individuals submitted to a process of retraining and redeployment into a new economy mediated by machines and other informatic artifacts… the same quantitative modulations and numerical valuations required by the new information worker and thus observed in a dazzling array of new cultural phenomena, from the cut-up sampling culture of hip-hop to the calculus curves of computer aided architectural design.”

I’m a little confused about what Galloway is trying to say in this section. It seems that he is saying that the new technology, of videogames specifically, basically forced people into learning new configurations- configurations that were confusing and entirely new to them (forcing them into upheaval? really?). Later on in the passage, Galloway says, “To live today is to know how to use menus.” I think I understand his basic concept but am missing the significance of his argument.

As far as the second sentence I’ve included, I can’t even dissect it into something I can remotely understand. How can numerical valuations be observed as cultural phenomena? That seems completely unrelated and irrelevant. I have no idea what Galloway is trying to say here!

Verbing Weirds Language

It seems to me Galloway has some interesting ideas, but he has an almost dyslexic difficulty trying to express them simply.  As the wise Bill Watterson once said, “verbing weirds language”.

With most of the first chapter, I could read slowly and sort of squint my way through what he was trying to get at through context, but my biggest problem was the cosmic “Why?”.  Diegetic?  Nondiegetic?  Operator?  Machine?  I think I understand the concepts, I think I see the spectrum, but I don’t see where he’s going with it or even a potential practical use for it.  In class we’ve already discussed some, in my opinion, fairly useful ways to categorize and analyze games, but this guy’s gone to a whole new level of abstract inaccessibility.

This hasn’t put me off the book, far from it, in fact.  Now I’m curious to see what he can accomplish with all this verbose babble.