Inquiry #3: Countergames

We can think of countergames as anti-games, or games that are everything that games aren’t supposed to be.

In his essay on “Countergaming,” Alexander Galloway outlines six differences between conventional videogames and countergames:

  1. Transparency versus foregrounding
  2. Gameplay versus aestheticism
  3. Representational modeling versus visual artifacts
  4. Natural physics versus invented physics
  5. Interactivity versus noncorrespondence
  6. Gamic action versus radical action

Galloway describes his formulations, which are inspired by the oppositions between traditional Hollywood cinema and the experimental filmmakers of the sixties, more fully in his essay. We are going to be using Galloway’s “grammar” of differences for this inquiry assignment to analyze one of the anti-games developed by Jason Nelson, an American new media artist.

  1. First, play/explore each of these four online games by Jason Nelson: (1) I Made This. You Play This. We Are Enemies, (2) Game, Game, Game, and Again Game, (3) This Is How You Will Die, and (4) Evidence of Everything Exploding. Note that you’ll need Flash and Shockwave installed in your web browser, and you’ll also need to enable “pop-up” windows. Be sure to use speakers or headphones, because the audio is central to these games.
  2. Pick one of the games and analyze how it evokes some or all of the six characteristics of countergames. If the game at any point privileges one of the characteristics of conventional games, be sure to talk about that too.
  3. Are there ways beyond Galloway’s six categories in which Nelson’s work is a countergame? That is, has Galloway accounted for every conceivable difference between a conventional game and a countergame like one of Nelson’s?
  4. Finally, to what end has Nelson employed countergaming methods in the game you’re studying? What sort of cultural or political statement is Nelson making in the anti-game? Use specific examples to illustrate your theory.

Your analysis should be written up as a concise, flowing essay, about 3-4 pages long. Please don’t waste space with a lengthy introduction. Focus and specificity will be more important than abstraction and generalization in this inquiry assignment.

The inquiry is due by noon via email on Tuesday, April 13.