Ctrl-Alt-Play: Essays on Control in Video Gaming

McFarland
11
Free sample

The word “control” has many implications for video games. On a basic level, without player control, there is no experience. Much of the video game industry focuses on questions of control and ways to improve play to make the gamer feel more connected to the virtual world. The sixteen essays in this collection offer critical examinations of the issue of control in video games, including different ways to theorize and define control within video gaming and how control impacts game design and game play. Close readings of specific games—including Grand Theft Auto IV, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Dragon Age: Origins—consider how each locates elements of control in their structures. As video games increasingly become a major force in the media landscape, this important contribution to the field of game studies provides a valuable framework for understanding their growing impact.
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About the author

Matthew Wysocki is an assistant professor at Flagler College, teaching cinema and media studies. He lives in St. Augustine, Florida.
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3.6
11 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
McFarland
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Published on
Feb 7, 2013
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Pages
228
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ISBN
9781476600413
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Language
English
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Genres
Games & Activities / General
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Video games have been a central feature of the cultural landscape for over twenty years and now rival older media like movies, television, and music in popularity and cultural influence. Yet there have been relatively few attempts to understand the video game as an independent medium. Most such efforts focus on the earliest generation of text-based adventures (Zork, for example) and have little to say about such visually and conceptually sophisticated games as Final Fantasy X, Shenmue, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and The Sims, in which players inhabit elaborately detailed worlds and manipulate digital avatars with a vast—and in some cases, almost unlimited—array of actions and choices.

In Gaming, Alexander Galloway instead considers the video game as a distinct cultural form that demands a new and unique interpretive framework. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, particularly critical theory and media studies, he analyzes video games as something to be played rather than as texts to be read, and traces in five concise chapters how the “algorithmic culture” created by video games intersects with theories of visuality, realism, allegory, and the avant-garde. If photographs are images and films are moving images, then, Galloway asserts, video games are best defined as actions.

Using examples from more than fifty video games, Galloway constructs a classification system of action in video games, incorporating standard elements of gameplay as well as software crashes, network lags, and the use of cheats and game hacks. In subsequent chapters, he explores the overlap between the conventions of film and video games, the political and cultural implications of gaming practices, the visual environment of video games, and the status of games as an emerging cultural form.

Together, these essays offer a new conception of gaming and, more broadly, of electronic culture as a whole, one that celebrates and does not lament the qualities of the digital age.

Alexander R. Galloway is assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University and author of Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization.
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