A Play of Bodies
How We Perceive Videogames
248 pp., 6 x 9 in, 23 b&w illus.
- Published: April 6, 2018
- Published: March 30, 2018
An investigation of the embodied engagement between the playing body and the videogame: how player and game incorporate each other.
Our bodies engage with videogames in complex and fascinating ways. Through an entanglement of eyes-on-screens, ears-at-speakers, and muscles-against-interfaces, we experience games with our senses. But, as Brendan Keogh argues in A Play of Bodies, this corporal engagement goes both ways; as we touch the videogame, it touches back, augmenting the very senses with which we perceive. Keogh investigates this merging of actual and virtual bodies and worlds, asking how our embodied sense of perception constitutes, and becomes constituted by, the phenomenon of videogame play. In short, how do we perceive videogames?
Keogh works toward formulating a phenomenology of videogame experience, focusing on what happens in the embodied engagement between the playing body and the videogame, and anchoring his analysis in an eclectic series of games that range from mainstream to niche titles. Considering smartphone videogames, he proposes a notion of co-attentiveness to understand how players can feel present in a virtual world without forgetting that they are touching a screen in the actual world. He discusses the somatic basis of videogame play, whether games involve vigorous physical movement or quietly sitting on a couch with a controller; the sometimes overlooked visual and audible pleasures of videogame experience; and modes of temporality represented by character death, failure, and repetition. Finally, he considers two metaphorical characters: the “hacker,” representing the hegemonic, masculine gamers concerned with control and configuration; and the “cyborg,” less concerned with control than with embodiment and incorporation.
This book challenges some of the dominant discourses of game studies in a way that is vital to the field right now. But it also adds a very specific focus on the body, which many people have referenced in game studies but not dealt with directly.
Adrienne Shaw, Assistant Professor, Media Studies and Production, Temple University; author of Gaming at the Edge and coeditor of Queer Game Studies
Brendan Keogh's A Play of Bodies is a map to the future of game studies. Thoughtful and provocative, Keogh brings the body back to play in all its crucial multiplicities, and gives us a vocabulary for bolder, more inclusive games research.
Miguel Sicart, Associate Professor, Center for Computer Games Research, IT University of Copenhagen; author of Play Matters