CP470 VGT SU14 Week1M1

For many of you this is the first time that you are putting the terms video game and theory together.

What are your initial impressions? How do you think we should study video games? What are their uses besides entertainment? What do you normally think about when you play video games? Do you think it will be difficult to play and think critically at the same time?

Post comments on the readings here. REMEMBER, this is a discussion so feel free to respond to comments made by your fellow students.

36 thoughts on “CP470 VGT SU14 Week1M1

  1. Thomas Peppers

    I’d like to discuss briefly three ideas from the readings: 1.) The intersection of Game Theory and Game Studies, 2.) “ludology”, or the movement of uniting all multi-disciplinary work in narratological studies, and 3.) the idea of “design of experience” and its relationship to 20th century and contemporary work in phenomenology.

    Though I have a background in Game Theory (the study of behavior (co-operation, alliances, betrayal, signaling et cetera) in regard to decision making, reasoning, and individual payoffs), I do not have a background in Game Studies. The introductory chapter confirmed everything I had hoped for in signing up for Video Game Theory, or more broadly, “digital game studies.” Though the brief history of Game Studies provided is also a brief and partial history of Game Theory, the author clearly demarcates where Game Studies branches off, writing, “the artistic and creative dimensions of games are taken rather seriously” (2).

    2.) The text book’s exploration of “games as culture” begins with Game Theory in terms of understanding games first as a system of rules, decisions, et cetera, but as the author points out, Game Studies goes beyond this science of play to account for the literary and dramatic element of the contexts and players, and further, allows for the possibility of extra-game material to be included in the text such as video game strategy guides and weekly publications. As a literary theory graduate student, the idea of approaching The Super Mario Bros. franchise is compelling. In fact, I recently read an article interpreting Nabokov’s use of hypertext in Pale Fire as an intentional “glitch” that creates possibilities similar to “warp zones” in the first Super Mario Bros. for Ninetendo.

    The movement lead by Gonzab Frasca (1999) known as “ludology” described in the book was compelling for me as I have thought frequently that the human sciences in the academy must reorganize themselves to foster intra-departmental community and efficiency (such as avoiding superfluous systems of terminology or redundant scholarship). For instance, English Departments ought to be reorganized in such a way as to support departments such as Cinema and Photography by providing access to theoretical courses that account for all textual, interpretive, and narratological disciplines. Though the disciplines of Game Studies, Comic Studies, Literary Theory, English Literature, and Cinema Studies ought not be elided into one another, these disciplines are not operating concertedly for maximum efficiency. Though the name “ludology” bothers me greatly, the man makes a good point. A more important concern is orchestrating such a large scale restricting of the American academy without causing splintering and fragmentation.

    3.) As a former graduate student in philosophy and current english major, phenomenology and its obsessive mapping of the first-person experiencee fascinates me as I believe phenomenology provides insight into understanding first person narratives and even third-person narratives. For Games Studies research concerned with first person shooters and other game playing modes including 3D helmets and visors, an intensive study of first-person experiential structures of consciousness must be undertaken in order to truly arrive at a “design of experience” indicative of human technological potential.

    Having read through the section in his brief history about the function and role of simulation in gaming, I realize that a lot of work that I have been researching over the past year indirectly relates to a lot of what we are about to study. The last year I’ve been mostly reading French philosophers such as Foucault, Deleuze, Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Merleau-Ponty. Most recently I’ve been reading Baudrillard’s “Simulation and Simulucrum” and have encountered a lot of academics and technicians working on bringing a “Matrix” level of sophistication to the digital representation of reality.

  2. Aaron Miller

    My initial impressions of video game theory after the first reading is that it is an area of study that has not yet been well defined as it’s own field due to the fact that video games are fairly new in the grand scheme of things. However, although I think with time video game studies will become it’s own entity in the future, I do think that an interdisciplinary approach is an excellent way of gaining information on the topic of video games. Video games are a multifaceted entity that I think that there are aspects that can best be studied by people of a variety of fields. To have people in different disciplines studying video game production, video games and their effects on culture, representations in video games, and the video game community is the best way to get a wide perspective on games and their broad effects. As of right now I think that this approach to studying video games is effective, as a new and emerging area of study the interdisciplinary approach helps to understand the impact video games have on a variety of levels.

    I think that video games can be used to gauge the issues that are prevalent in the culture that creates the game. Just like movies or television, video games highly reflect the views and attitudes of the people in charge of creating the games. So, I feel that other than entertainment, I think that video games are a good method of seeing all that is wrong within a society. Whether it is the glorification of violence or the objectification and victimization of women, video games show a lot about the attitudes that game designers perceive the consumers of their games to have. Even the prevalence of fitness games that started popping up shows that we are a culture that is aware that we have a weight problem. I just think that video games are an excellent way for societies to look and reflect on the issues that are all around them, because a lot of video games are full of questionable representations.

    Lastly, I do not think it will be hard to play games and think critically. At all. The main game that I play at the moment is League of Legends, and from the very start of playing that game I have been aware of the downright terrible depictions of women in the game and the sexism that runs deep in the community of players who play the game. As someone who has a well rounded education, I feel that it is hard to not look critically at a video game because they are so packed full of issues that need to be explored and discussed. So, I think that it would be hard for me to look at a video game and NOT think critically about it. Honestly I think that everyone should be aware of the issues that run through the entertainment they consume. By no means should people not enjoy entertainment because it has problems, but people can be aware and still enjoy the content at the same time.

    1. Chelsea Spence

      Aaron, I read your last paragraph and I wanted to say how I completely agree with what you’ve written. Since I was a young girl, I’ve always been drawn to playing female characters when I have the option to in a game. And I’m usually disappointed in the choices that I have to choose from when playing. I remember when my brothers bought the game TimeSplitters for the PS2, and while it was a very fun game with them and my cousin, I still was slightly embarrassed when I would choose some of the female characters and they would be wearing barely any clothing and/or doing something risque for their animation.
      Even now, I’ll be playing Injustice: Gods Among Us with friends, and I’ll pick a female character, and I’ll just think to myself, did they really have to make her breasts so large? I understand with that particular game, they are basing the characters off comic books where women have been drawn with outrageous proportions, but I still think that they could tone down certain aspects.

      1. Clayton Goodman

        When playing games that allow a gender option, I have been choosing the female option since Pokemon Silver version. I like the idea of not being confined to a specific sex. One of the main reasons I play video games is to experience things I could not otherwise and gender swapping is one of those things. I have seen a shift in the models of female characters over time for the better. Lara Croft was a huge victory recently. The new model is much more physically sound “if you catch my drift”. Also, I have seen the option to switch gender more often, due to sandbox-type games.

      2. Austin Bennett

        you must despise Team Ninja… joking! unless you really do… I’d love to hear more about the female perspective on games like these, and games you think have an appropriate balance of female characters? Does Smash Bros. make the cut? I’m just curious, I don’t know many girl friends who play video games!

        1. Chelsea Spence

          Very few games that are older make the cut, but I think Smash Bros. is coming close. With every new version they release, they add more female characters and characters with ambiguous gender, like Kirby. I think that some game developers are starting to realize that their audience wants more from them than the old representations of men and women, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
          One game in particular that I haven’t played yet, but look forward to, is Bioshock Infinite. Even though Elizabeth isn’t the main playable character, she is a large presence in the game, and a strong one. And in the DLC, I believe she is the main character for part 2.

      3. Ryan Freels

        I fully agree with you, Aaron and Chelsea. How the communities respond to these observations is also heavily reflective of video game culture, and is a topic that need studied. When Anita Sarkeesian addressed the problems in video games, a vast amount of the video game community responded by threatening her as a woman for talking about the sexism women struggle with. The very mentioning of sexism in their culture made them feel provoked to outlash into violent sexism. Interesting that they proved themselves at fault in the very nature of their response against her.

        I also agree that there needs to be more physical variation, and that the lack of it is very isolating. It irritates me in games such as Fallout 3 and Skyrim. I would also add that your criticism lends itself to the medum of comics, where women are often obilagated to strip down and take certain physical positions to walk amongst supermen.

        From a humanities feminist idealogical stand point, this also reminds me of the literary tropes shared by comics and video games, such as Damsels-in-Distress, and Girls-in-Refrigerators, which is about how women are killed off the progress the masculine journey. There is a lot about that in Feminist Frequency.

      4. Aaron Miller

        I totally agree, ever since I was young and playing video games I would always choose the female characters. Being a male, it was kind of like getting to step into someone else’s shoes and that is technically part of what gaming is all about.

        However, there are the problems like the drastic body proportions and the over sexualization of their entire persona. These things are hard to ignore, and when something deviates from that norm, it is often tore down by the gaming community. For example, in the game League of Legends that I play, they just recently introduced their first female character in their four year history that is flat chested. The community went into an uproar and demanded that they wanted it changed. These kind of situations are super degrading and do not depict any kind of reality. Albeit games do not have to depict reality, but they should not objectify women to the extent they do without doing the same for men. There are no games I can think of that oversexualize a man for the female gamer’s viewing pleasure, and that shows the large double standard in the gaming world

    2. Michele Post author

      Aaron, you are off to a good start, though I would be wary to being too critical off all the bad things games point to in society. They can also be beautiful examples of human complexity and creativity.

      Being a critical consumer of media is a good thing and luckily it spreads 😉

  3. Austin Bennett

    I think I and pretty much every other person I know who plays video games relates to them as a casual pastime detached from the realms of academia or even interpretation. We simply take them as they are, or for the more narrative ones as stories as we would a film, with a cathartic experience at the end.

    Being a cinema major, however, and taking classes in high school about film theory, I’m used to putting together theory and movies like I am tying my shoes (i don’t tie my shoes during summer btw, CUZ I WEAR FLIPPY FLOPPYS); you can’t explain it, it just kinda happens. But video games have always been a separate category, where I like to analyze cinematic cut scenes as i do scenes in movies, but I’d rather just enjoy a VG in it’s entirety. Especially first-person shooter games. Do you analyze your life through your eyes scene by scene? VG’s are emersive in that sense, so I don’t usually catch myself doing it. I like that this book is going to help with VG analysis through everything it encompasses as a culture just as we’ve been doing with film in college, but Jesus I hope it doesn’t ruin it for me the way theory classes have with me and movies ;]

    We can’t analyze VG’s scene by scene, because that’s different to each player and each run through. So I think we should analyze them with their context as stories, characters, and locations, and what that tell us about our current time and the ages of video games past (cuz let’s face it, in the pre 9-11 world things were a lot simpler. Not that 9-11 changed video games, but it changed us, and some of us make video games).

    I want to hear what everyone else thinks about when they play. I’ve never really thought about it, other than paying attention to what needs to happen next and admiring the aethestics. I guess it’s sort of a fantasy, isn’t it? We imagine ourselves to be these characters and inhabit them as we can’t do with anything in the real world. Achievements of our characters become our achievements, and bragging rights. Even if you can’t do anything in the real world, you can be something and someONE in the pixel one.

    I think once we get started it will become second nature to have a dialogue with yourself about what this video game is doing to you or me at any given time. And it’s not like film, it’s going to be a little different. I’m quite excited, it’s going to feel very fresh, and I’ll discover many things I never have before.

      1. Clayton Goodman

        I agree with you. Breaking myself of not putting critical eye on games is hard at times, especially when the game is really engaging. I do think it is necessary though for the betterment of the culture. Not to mention, I think it is fun to look at games on a deeper level than just playing them. Like movies, games have undertones of meaning and putting your brain on auto pilot is good for relaxing, but what has a person really gained from that?

        1. Austin Bennett

          I think many of us underestimate the value of a good session of relaxation, and VG’s seem to be ones that are engaging and strengthen our hand-eye coordination as well as thrust us into environments of extreme multitasking. That’s just some of the things i can think of that we can gain from them!

  4. Stefan Grimsley

    The text brought up some very interesting points in its views on what we should study and the routes we should consider when studying games. I agree that we should consider the anthropological approach into why we play games, but I also think we should consider games as their own separate study. While games do contain many qualities similar to film, I believe it’s everything else that attributes to games that makes them unique. Computer technology, cinema, literature, and pop culture are just a few qualities that make up a video game, and we should view that collaboration as its own study to fully appreciate the creativity and art work involved.
    While we can study and appreciate games as their own source of study, we should also consider the audience, or the player, in this sense. Within cinema and literature, it is common to reference the audience experience, and their ability to get wrapped up in a story and a character. While with video games we are reaching a new experience for the audience and that is now becoming the story. Video games allow us to actually plug into a fiction world with freedoms that cinema and literature cannot provide. I find it very interesting when I play how easily I get wrapped up into a game and how I feel when playing these characters. I look forward to hearing what other have to say on the matter. Good luck and happy playing.

  5. Jennifer Machura

    For me, video games have always been a mental escape as well as a source of entertainment. When I say “mental escape”, I don’t just mean spacing out in front of a TV for a few hours. I would often play games based on the mood I was in. If I was feeling happy and carefree, I would play Super Mario Bros. or Spyro the Dragon (I would also sometimes play these if I needed some cheering up). If I was in a dark mood, I would play one of the Resident Evil games or Metroid. If I felt ambitious, it was Legend of Zelda. My mood seemed to always dictate my game choices and those games that I played would feed into that mood. I wonder if it has ever been like this for anyone else.

    When I was younger and played video games, particularly one on a console like Playstation or Nintendo, I really was not thinking of anything other than the game itself and the actions I was performing to make the characters on screen move. Now that I am older and more appreciative of the aesthetics and social commentary that a game can present, I look past just the actions and the main objective of playing a game. I now appreciate the little nuances, whether they be creative or contextual. I find it difficult to NOT think critically of a game I’m playing. I am always trying to look deeper into the games I’m playing, whether it’s admiring the artwork and music, or finding a connection to a real world social event or an “easter egg” that references a past game. I am also looking at all of the negatives that a video game can present, such as the celebrated violence and the misrepresentations of women.

    I think that we should study video games by not only looking at the history of them, but also the social and psychological aspects of them. Games are a social outlet for many. MMORPG’s connect players from all over the world and systems like the Wii bring friends and family together to play sports games. We should look at how video games not only affect the individual, but how they affect our relationships with others. I believe it’s also important to study the artistic aspects of games and how the choices the designers and animators impact the rest of the game.

    1. Austin Bennett

      I like what you’re saying about video games being being social. I think that contributes it more to being of a culture than with film, because film is about a group of people experiencing something together but separately while VG’s are capable of being an interaction. THAT definitely lends to the creation of cultures of people who work or fight together rather than a group of people who just share a similar interest. I don’t know, just an idea on the culture of video games. Any thoughts are welcome!

    2. Ryan Freels

      One of the things I was thinking about when it was stated that games are locked within themselves is how they have impacted us to the point of being beyond that. Communites celebrate them with the existence of there consumer choices, fan art, fan literature, festivals, and ultimatley, culture. They started of as locked in worlds but became very absorbed by the real world.

    3. Aaron Miller

      I could not agree more about the fact that it’s hard to not think critically about video games. The issues are so blatantly in you face everytime you play that it’s hard to ignore. I mean there is nothing wrong with enjoying games, but I think that they should be enjoyed with the knowledge that what is being portrayed is questionable, whether it be sexism or extreme violence.

      I also agree that the social aspects are huge with the gaming culture. MMORPG’s can foster friendships between people who may never otherwise meet in person, but yet they are connected by this game. I think it’s an interesting new way for people to connect with others, and it’s all made possible due to advancing technologies.

      1. Dimitri

        I’ve also seen the aftermath following the closure of a MMORPG. Friendships are destroyed and a player may never see his or her friend again, which is depressing.

  6. Natalie Masucci

    After reading through everyone’s replies and the readings, I found some interesting points that I feel that I can elaborate further with. Yes, I can see how both video games can go into their own category but at the same time everything relates. Personally the field I want to go into with my cinematography degree would be going into the video game industry . A lot of things in the cinema world directly connects to the world of video gaming, wether it comes down to the animation of certain characters, helping to pixelize a scene , or filming a scene in the predevelopment stages of a game to help guide designers. At the same time, though, gaming and gaming theory are completely their own category. Film has been around for over 100 years and television for over 50 and from that we have learned/ continue to learn how to captivate an audience. The gaming world does that on its own by taking and audience into a different world, much like cinema does, but releases them to have their own freedom of what they wish to do within the world, which is unlike what cinema or tv can do.

    While looking further into the world of video games, like brought up before you can see many pop culture references. Like other aspects of entertainment, the gaming industry choses current topics and often releases them into their games ( if historically accurate of course). So with changing mindsets of what is ok in the world and what is not, it can drastically change the world of the gaming industry . This allows people to get wrapped up within the game because they feel as if they can relate to the situation.

    Personally I choose games not based upon pop culture, but what is moreso appealing to my personality, so reading through this reading did open my mind to why certain people play certain games. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!

    1. Ryan Freels

      I agree, even live action filming is animation anymore because as you said, we pixelize. The pixels simply are organize to imitate the live image before them. Also, the simple ability to rewind, fast forward, and pause, allow viewers to move through the films at their own paces, much like a player can do with video games.

    2. Parrish Colbert

      I feel the same way the games I choose now are less pop culture more what gratifies me and what fits my personality. I also agree with your comment stated on how cinema and games connect because it’s there even if underlying but more prominent in games like The Last Of Us.

  7. Chelsea Spence

    After reading the text, I believe that video game theory should definitely have its own field in the world of academia. Even though it is still considered “new”, there are many reasons why people turn to video games. The main reason is for a fun experience, but there are also other reasons. My mother is a kindergarten teacher, and she is always looking for educational computer games that will help her students with letters and numbers and things like that, especially since children are now learning from a very young age how to use technology. They even have applications on phones and tablets specifically for toddlers to teach them certain skills, like matching.
    But video games are also so different then they were when they first started. Pac-Man and Dig Dug have turned into Call of Duty and Bioshock, The Last of Us and Final Fantasy. With games like Final Fantasy and Beyond Two Souls, the game may even feel more like an interactive story than a straight out game, with just small choices being made for the game play and the rest of the time the viewer watches minute long cutscenes. It is becoming like a melting pot between games and cinema, and I believe it would be interesting to study this growing area of video games, that walk the line between film and game. With an expanded field in video game theory, I hope this will be elaborated upon.

    1. Ryan Freels

      This is interesting because while the field is so new, the subject already has a lot of history. We already need to study games within time frames as well as the time frames in relation to each other. Questions come up, such as what the do these changes say about are culture and our values. Also, how does this compare and contrast to the history and culture of film, comics, board games, etc.

    2. Parrish Colbert

      I agree there is tons of money being put into these games as it is for example Destiny took $500 million to develop. It is a new age for creatives and educators as well as kids who are growing up on this technology. Plus what’s an easier way to teach a child something than through a game?

  8. Clayton Goodman

    Okay, I have already had some experience with playing games critically and continue to do so. That aspect of playing video games is one of my favorite things about the medium. It one ups movies by putting players in the action or in some cases the non-action and gives you ,at least the illusion, of a choice in things.
    Being a gamer and someone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the medium’s effect on society, I think we should study games’ effect on reality. There is no doubt that games have blurred the lines of reality and fantasy. I want to study the effects of this on the minds of gamers.
    Video games have a multitude of uses outside the realm of entertainment. Ralph Baer, the inventor of the “Brown Box” aka the Magnovox Odessy, got funding from the defense company at which he was working for the project because of the promise that it could be used to train soldiers. Also, the rise in ‘indie” games has brought about games for the sake of art. “Journey” is a good example of this. (I would be remissed if I didn’t mention “Myst”. That game is beautiful.) Lastly, games such as “Final Fantasy X” are used to convey personal viewpoints to a wide audience in a format that is accessible to the masses.
    How I think when playing a video game depends on the game itself. Usually, I will be in the world of the game if it is good. I will be thinking of supplies, leveling, etc. But, I will also make note of things that I like or dislike about the experience itself and dwell on that later. If the game is not enjoyable, I will take note of what is horribly wrong with it and use that experience when deciding what games to buy in the future.
    I believe that for the benefit of the video game culture, we should also strive to make video game theory accessible to the people who live the culture instead of bogging it down with academia. Not to say we should “dumb it down” just more accessible.

  9. Ryan Freels

    I found these to be excellent introductions to class subject and possibilities. Chapter #01 told us what we were studying: games, players, and context (isolated single player, multiplayer, online multiplayer, mmo, what culture did the game arise in, history of the company that made it, etc.) as well as introduced us to how complex the field of gaming, needing input from many fields of research, including literature, film, psychology, sociology, culture, etc. Not to mention all the different methodologies and theories we need to form and put into practice, and how this needs to be done for multiple genres, multiple series, multiple time frames, etc. While it had its stated limitations, ludology seemed a very accurate sense of scope. We have a lot to build upon.

    Chapter #08 told us how we could approach the subject matter, including, social sciences, humanities, design, and game play, as well as the methodology within these approaches. It also relates them. qualitative social science regards but the effects on people and the cultures they are effected by. Also, the thematic game analysis targets the ideas, themes, and meanings from the games as cultural mediums. I myself and interested in the humanities idealogical methods, particularly feminism, the social science qualitative research, and thematic game analysis. The connection give emphasis to while all these are needed standpoints and methodologies in games.

  10. Garretkay Willis Bonner

    My impressions of the chapters were that the first chapter was clearly a setup for what it to come and chapter8 is more about overall reaction same time ns on how to do things. I think that it may not be too difficult overall to think critically and play games at the same time, it will just change the experience. When I play video games I never choose too think about anything other than the game itself and treat it as an escape from everything else. Besides entertainment video games can be used to point out various historical and social issues. One of the ways that I think that we should study video games is through structural gameplay analysis as from the description it gets into the bulk about what features within a game are able to make people keep playing

  11. Garretkay Willis Bonner

    Previous post was unfinished accident
    My impressions of the chapters were that the first chapter was clearly a setup for what it to come and chapter 8 is more about the various methods that a game can be analyzed. I think that it may not be too difficult overall to think critically and play games at the same time, it will just change the experience, and given the many factors it also depends on how critical one is willing to think while playing. When I play video games I never choose too think about anything other than the game itself and treat it as an escape from everything else. Besides entertainment video games can be used to point out various historical, cultural and social issues. An example can be the game Destroy All Humans which shows life in the mid 50’s and connects to the early Aliens in Roswell theory. One of the ways that I think that we should study video games is through structural game play analysis as from the description it gets into the bulk about what features within a game are able to make people keep playing

  12. Jaylin Johnson

    After reading these two chapters, I find myself asking several questions while also carrying what feels to me like new insight in to this field. The first chapter dealt with the basic concepts of the game industry and also how it is often viewed by several people within our society and more importantly, how it is viewed from an academic standpoint.

    The eight chapter dealt with a more academic approach by explaining how to do research in the field of gaming itself. This leads me to a my questions and conundrums. The chapter details all that fields that go into gaming and development as well as the research of the topic as a whole. Many people have debates about video games, for example, Are video games art? Well these this chapter left me with the question of if not art then what category do they fall under? Are they art, an interactive social science, a science in and of themselves, or do they fit into a category all their own?

  13. Parrish Colbert

    My initial impressions about this class is that it would possibly help me explore underlying themes and historical effects our society has with these video games. What makes a successful game and why is what it all boils down to for me, as well as if there is a common thread in iconic a memorable games. I feel we should study games as not just a means of entertainment and like any media you can’t just say it’s bad or good and not explain why. You also have to mindful of what your casual video game player is today opposed to 10 even 20 years back.

    I believe video games can be tools of education apposed to just a means of entertainment. For example when I was a child I always got my left and right mixed up. I had toy video game that taught you basics in english math and other educational themes. There was a level that helped remind me of my right and left and I could just go back to that level in my head in a time I had to choose the right direction. Games like that and Reader Rabbit really helped me grabbed the concepts of things I might not have understood at first. Putting educational material into a story line is also a great method of teaching through video games.

    When I play video games now I don’t really delve into meaning too much because the games I play now follow less of a story and just allow you to do your own thing ex. Journey, GTA and Skate 3. Of all the games I play now Skyrim probably is what gets analyzed the most because it is packed with content.

  14. Sam Lundberg

    A few months ago, at the PCA/ACA conference, a friend of mine, while presenting on a panel, in defending the value of theory in modern pop culture studies, said he liked to “play” with theory and not take it as seriously as some people do – or at least, that latter part was the implication. It really bothered me, and I’ve been thinking about it off and on since then. The similar ideas in the chapter, that ultimately, all academic fields are forms of play, brought that back to mind.

    There are definitely fields that I see as merely play, absolutely, the big one for me being Biblical criticism. Despite all of the Bible scholars rhetoric about it being a humanistic field concerned with “the greatest work of literature ever,” or whatever new justification they’ve found this week, in the way it ultimately plays out, it’s almost purely a game: the game of finding new clues and hints in regards to authorship, or context, or interpretation, or any of another dozen categories. I actually find myself fascinated by this competition, especially authorship and legitimacy, and while I don’t comb over the primary sources myself I always enjoy reading the reports of those who do.

    But in the last decade or so, it has seemed as if analysis of popular culture, in which video game theory comfortably fits, has given up on criticizing popular culture. Instead, we seem to be heading towards an I.A. Richards-esque “equal appreciation of everything”. Scholars tend to obsessively defend all of their favorite objects of popular culture and always, always find some reason to refer to them as subversive, no matter how thoroughly enmeshed conventional capitalist values are into the works’ core. As someone who feels that, in the end, no one actually consistently believes in the “all aesthetic judgments are subjective, so no work can be considered good or bad” maxim, and they only throw it on as a protective cloak when a work they like but can’t defend comes up, it seems this idea of emphasizing theory as play is really a smokescreen to try to hide the degree to which terms from theory, applied inconsistently and outside of the system in which they originated, are being used to make it toothless, so that scholars, many of whom are huge fans of popular culture, can go on enjoying works that ultimately are capitalist products designed to shape their behavior and thoughts in specific ways without feeling guilty about them.

    I can’t fully work out why I feel that way in this comment – that would entail going into my theories about “guilty pleasures,” which is an entire tirade of its own – but that should give a bit of an idea of why I’m uncomfortable with the way that theory as play is often presented.

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