For a Good Read, Click on! (Shh, It’s an Annotated Bibliography)

Interested in how my research is going so far?  Me too!Bradford, C. (2010). Looking for my corpse: Video games and player positioning. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. 33 (1), 54-64.

This article differentiates between ludology, or the study of games through their form and adherence to genre conventions, and narratology, or the examination of narratives in the medium.  The author argues that scholars have had difficulty analyzing games in the past because they were trying to use techniques traditionally applied to literature or film studies.  She suggests that games are a hybrid medium that has specific form and narrative elements that impact people’s emotions and processes differently than traditional media.  She discusses the commentary that video games make on society and how players’ values and ethics affect their interaction with artificial worlds.

I believe that this article may prove valuable to my term project because I’m considering examining the growth of the gamer audience from the typical 12-25 year-old male demographic to broader audiences.  I will assert that the incorporation of rich narrative experiences have played a role in attracting female gamers like the author.

Brooker, W. (2009). Camera-eye, CG-eye: Videogames and the “cinematic”. Cinema Journal, 48 (3), 122-128.

Approaching his analysis of video games from a cinema studies perspective, Brooker observes how cinematic techniques have influenced video games.  Brooker supports his argument that visual and narrative techniques are finding common ground in film and gaming by suggesting that game conventions are being used in movies like “The Matrix” and film conventions like lens flares are intentionally added to gameplay to convey a cinematic feeling in games.  The article also discusses technical limitations that prevented games from developing narratives earlier in their history.  He concludes by suggesting that games are moving away from using now-traditional cut-scenes to incorporating exposition into actual game play for fully immersive playable “interactive movies.”

This article applies to my term project because of its examination of cinematic technics in games as well as its references to game motifs within Hollywood movies.  It supports my assertion that the two media are strongly influencing one-another beyond oft-shared underlying source material.

Mallon, B., Webb, B. (2005). Stand up and take your place: Identifying narrative elements in narrative adventure and role-play games. Computers in Entertainment. 3 (1).

This article summarizes a study developed to identify which components of video game design factor into achieving the deepest engagement for gamers.  Specifically, the authors aim to assess the importance of narratives, role-playing, characterization, motivation, plot, etc. when applied to a non-traditional media form such as video games.  Testing two groups of gamers in a controlled environment, they seek to better understand how narrative impacts engagement.  Their results demonstrated a need for further study to better grasp conflicts between the game, player participation, non-linear structures, and story.  They conclude that these issues have prevented talented screenwriters and novelists from pursuing expanding their reach into video games.  The authors ultimately express concern over the growth importance of powerful narratives in adventure and role-playing titles.

Mallon and Webb’s study deepened my understanding of the interplay between active, enjoyable game play and the cohesive benefits that engaging narratives can have on the enjoyment of video games.  I plan to follow this with the implications this can have on video game’s growth in disrupting more traditional narrative-driven media.

Postigo, H. (2003). From pong to planet quake: Post-industrial transitions from leisure to work. Information, Communication & Society. 6 (4), 593-607.

This article aims to explain the importance that video games will have in the coming years.  It suggests that analysts and academics interested in how and people spend leisure time (and why) start paying serious attention to gaming as a mainstream medium.  The author summarizes how economics and a global workforce can cheaply develop and distribute games for big profits.  With parallels to the hardware tinkerers in the 1970s that led to today’s dominant computer companies, the article suggests that hobbyist programmers and designers will become increasingly important to the industry.  Interested in why people work for free, the author concludes that innovations will come from those seeking to catch the eye of companies that recognize their value.

My interest in this article is purely for background and the brief history it gives of the video game industry.  It was an interesting read, but may not be essential to my argument.

Tavinor, G. (2005). Video games and interactive fiction. Philosophy and Literature. 29 (1), 24-40.

The article discusses the role gamers play in the development of what the author refers to as interactive fiction. In this medium (which is considered an outgrowth of older video games) the player has a direct and deep engagement with the narratives of the gameplay.  Using the example of “Grand Theft Auto III” the author explains how the act of directly controlling a character’s interactions within the context of a playable narrative elicits differing and additional emotions (both positive and negative) than traditional media of books, movies, or television shows.  Further, these emotions have direct impact on how people play after experiencing them.  The author also discusses the importance of manipulating “props,” within the game world (cars, doors, weapons, and other objects) and how these interactions parallel the positive impact play has on young children.

Most likely, this article will serve as background research for me.  However I can see bringing it into my paper to address the importance narratives play on driving video games further into the mainstream.

Taylor, T. L., & Kolko, B. E. (2003). Boundary spaces: Majestic and the uncertain status of knowledge, community and self in a digital age. Information, Communication & Society. 6 (4), 497-522.

This article explorers ideas of what the authors refer to as “mulit-modal” gameplay, which means that in order to complete a game, players must use both in game and real world communications systems to complete it.  The authors focus their attention on a now defunct game called Majestic.  This conspiracy theory video game required players to use real websites, faxes, phones, email, instant messaging with real people and bots, and the game itself.  This sweeping use of technology and real world assets blurs the line between game and reality.  It also relies heavily on knowledge communities to work together to solve puzzles and progress through the narrative.  The article dissects the gameplay to provide insight into how cultural norms are used within the context of a game environment and what effect that has on behaviors.

I plan to use the authors’ critique and analysis of the game Majestic to address the idea of immersion – a powerful concept that traditional media cannot provide and may be a possible future for the medium.  It would be far more challenging for a novel or movie to engross their audiences in a narrative beyond the screen in front of them.

Weil, P., & Peña, N. (2008). Avatar mediated cinema. Proceedings from ACE ‘08: International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (209-212). Yokohama, Japan: ACM.

This article reports on findings of an experiment that integrates documentary video footage within a virtual world to make the film become more “real” for the participant viewers.  Recreating the Guantanamo Bay Prison in Second Life, the researchers want to put audiences, via their avatars, in the prison so they can experience what it would be like to be held there.  This is done in support of the documentary, “Unconstitutional.”  The authors hope to better comprehend how delivering a narrative spatially to an avatar viewership creates identity with that avatar for the person controlling it.  Games have historically paused game play with cut scenes to relay story information.  By integrating the two, the researchers want to create a more immersive experience in which the user remains active throughout, thus removing the passivity of watching cinematics that often result in disruption of the experience.  The article argues that avatar viewing and experience will prove central to evolving techniques of storytelling and narrative.

I think that there is a lot of useful information in this article for the future section of my term project.  More games are eliminating cut scenes or at least allowing players to interact with them in some way to keep engagement high throughout the gaming experience.  As narratives become more interwoven into the actual gameplay of video games, the stories they can tell will get more complex and appealing to wider audiences.

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2 Responses to For a Good Read, Click on! (Shh, It’s an Annotated Bibliography)

  1. Pingback: week 6 – From Mass Communication To Customized Information « COM546 : Evolutions

  2. Hi Josh! This is an impressive set of resources! I’ll be interested in your findings re widening the scope of the audience from adolescent males. 🙂

    Consider making hot links to the online articles and databases (your fellow researchers thank you in advance). Remember to include the database for electronic access (this style is for “paper” access) and add the DOI if available. When you revise these annotations for your final deliverable, simply revise the “maybe” to “how” the source informed your research.

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