Henry Lowood

Henry Lowood is Curator for History of Science and Technology and for Film and Media collections at Stanford University and the coeditor of The Machinima Reader (MIT Press).

  • Debugging Game History

    Debugging Game History

    A Critical Lexicon

    Henry Lowood and Raiford Guins

    Essays discuss the terminology, etymology, and history of key terms, offering a foundation for critical historical studies of games.

    Even as the field of game studies has flourished, critical historical studies of games have lagged behind other areas of research. Histories have generally been fact-by-fact chronicles; fundamental terms of game design and development, technology, and play have rarely been examined in the context of their historical, etymological, and conceptual underpinnings. This volume attempts to “debug” the flawed historiography of video games. It offers original essays on key concepts in game studies, arranged as in a lexicon—from “Amusement Arcade” to “Embodiment” and “Game Art” to “Simulation” and “World Building.”

    Written by scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines, including game development, curatorship, media archaeology, cultural studies, and technology studies, the essays offer a series of distinctive critical “takes” on historical topics. The majority of essays look at game history from the outside in; some take deep dives into the histories of play and simulation to provide context for the development of electronic and digital games; others take on such technological components of games as code and audio. Not all essays are history or historical etymology—there is an analysis of game design, and a discussion of intellectual property—but they nonetheless raise questions for historians to consider. Taken together, the essays offer a foundation for the emerging study of game history.

    Contributors Marcelo Aranda, Brooke Belisle, Caetlin Benson-Allott, Stephanie Boluk, Jennifer deWinter, J. P. Dyson, Kate Edwards, Mary Flanagan, Jacob Gaboury, William Gibbons, Raiford Guins, Erkki Huhtamo, Don Ihde, Jon Ippolito, Katherine Isbister, Mikael Jakobsson, Steven E. Jones, Jesper Juul, Eric Kaltman, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Carly A. Kocurek, Peter Krapp, Patrick LeMieux, Henry Lowood, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Ken S. McAllister, Nick Monfort, David Myers, James Newman, Jenna Ng, Michael Nitsche, Laine Nooney, Hector Postigo, Jas Purewal, Reneé H. Reynolds, Judd Ethan Ruggill, Marie-Laure Ryan, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Anastasia Salter, Mark Sample, Bobby Schweizer, John Sharp, Miguel Sicart, Rebecca Elisabeth Skinner, Melanie Swalwell, David Thomas, Samuel Tobin, Emma Witkowski, Mark J.P. Wolf

    • Hardcover $50.00
  • The Machinima Reader

    The Machinima Reader

    Henry Lowood and Michael Nitsche

    The first critical overview of an emerging field, with contributions from both scholars and artist-practitioners.

    Over the last decade, machinima—the use of computer game engines to create movies—has emerged as a vibrant area in digital culture. Machinima as a filmmaking tool grew from the bottom up, driven by enthusiasts who taught themselves to deploy technologies from computer games to create animated films quickly and cheaply. The Machinima Reader is the first critical overview of this rapidly developing field. The contributors include both academics and artist-practitioners. They explore machinima from multiple perspectives, ranging from technical aspects of machinima, from real-time production to machinima as a performative and cinematic medium, while paying close attention to the legal, cultural, and pedagogical contexts for machinima. The Machinima Reader extends critical debates originating within the machinima community to a wider audience and provides a foundation for scholarly work from a variety of disciplines. This is the first book to chart the emergence of machinima as a game-based cultural production that spans technologies and media, forming new communities of practice on its way to a history, an aesthetic, and a market.

    • Hardcover $42.00

Contributor

  • Homebrew Gaming and the Beginnings of Vernacular Digitality

    Melanie Swalwell

    From the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, low-end microcomputers offered many users their first taste of computing. A major use of these inexpensive 8-bit machines—including the TRS System 80s and the Sinclair, Atari, Microbee, and Commodore ranges—was the development of homebrew games. Users with often self-taught programming skills devised the graphics, sound, and coding for their self-created games. In this book, Melanie Swalwell offers a history of this era of homebrew game development, arguing that it constitutes a significant instance of the early appropriation of digital computing technology.

    Drawing on interviews and extensive archival research on homebrew creators in 1980s Australia and New Zealand, Swalwell explores the creation of games on microcomputers as a particular mode of everyday engagement with new technology. She discusses the public discourses surrounding microcomputers and programming by home coders; user practices; the development of game creators' ideas, with the game Donut Dilemma as a case study; the widely practiced art of hardware hacking; and the influence of 8-bit aesthetics and gameplay on the contemporary game industry. With Homebrew Gaming and the Beginnings of Vernacular Digitality, Swalwell reclaims a lost chapter in video game history, connecting it to the rich cultural and media theory around everyday life and to critical perspectives on user-generated content

    • Hardcover $35.00
  • The Elusive Shift

    The Elusive Shift

    How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity

    Jon Peterson

    How the early Dungeons & Dragons community grappled with the nature of role-playing games, theorizing a new game genre.

    When Dungeons & Dragons made its debut in the mid-1970s, followed shortly thereafter by other, similar tabletop games, it sparked a renaissance in game design and critical thinking about games. D&D is now popularly considered to be the first role-playing game. But in the original rules, the term “role-playing” is nowhere to be found; D&D was marketed as a wargame. In The Elusive Shift, Jon Peterson describes how players and scholars in the D&D community began to apply the term to D&D and similar games—and by doing so, established a new genre of games.

    Peterson examines key essays by D&D early adopters, rescuing from obscurity many first published in now-defunct fanzines. He traces the evolution of how role-playing was theorized, as writers attempted to frame problems, define terms, and engage with prior literature. He describes the twin cultures of wargames and science fiction fandom that influence the first role-players; examines the dialogue at the core of the game; explains how game design began to accommodate role-playing; and considers the purpose of the referee or gamesmaster. By 1977, game scholars and critics began to theorize more systematically, and Peterson explores their discussions of the transformative nature of role-playing games, their responsibility to a mass audience, and other topics. Peterson finds that the foundational concepts defined in the 1970s helped theorize role-playing, laying the foundation for the genre's shift into maturity in the 1980s.

    • Hardcover $35.00
  • Gaming the Iron Curtain

    Gaming the Iron Curtain

    How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games

    Jaroslav Švelch

    How amateur programmers in 1980s Czechoslovakia discovered games as a medium, using them not only for entertainment but also as a means of self-expression.

    Aside from the exceptional history of Tetris, very little is known about gaming culture behind the Iron Curtain. But despite the scarcity of home computers and the absence of hardware and software markets, Czechoslovakia hosted a remarkably active DIY microcomputer scene in the 1980s, producing more than two hundred games that were by turns creative, inventive, and politically subversive. In Gaming the Iron Curtain, Jaroslav Švelch offers the first social history of gaming and game design in 1980s Czechoslovakia, and the first book-length treatment of computer gaming in any country of the Soviet bloc.

    Švelch describes how amateur programmers in 1980s Czechoslovakia discovered games as a medium, using them not only for entertainment but also as a means of self-expression. Sheltered in state-supported computer clubs, local programmers fashioned games into a medium of expression that, unlike television or the press, was neither regulated nor censored. In the final years of Communist rule, Czechoslovak programmers were among the first in the world to make activist games about current political events, anticipating trends observed decades later in independent or experimental titles. Drawing from extensive interviews as well as political, economic, and social history, Gaming the Iron Curtain tells a compelling tale of gaming the system, introducing us to individuals who used their ingenuity to be active, be creative, and be heard.

    • Hardcover $45.00
  • Zones of Control

    Zones of Control

    Perspectives on Wargaming

    Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

    Examinations of wargaming for entertainment, education, and military planning, in terms of design, critical analysis, and historical contexts.

    Games with military themes date back to antiquity, and yet they are curiously neglected in much of the academic and trade literature on games and game history. This volume fills that gap, providing a diverse set of perspectives on wargaming's past, present, and future. In Zones of Control, contributors consider wargames played for entertainment, education, and military planning, in terms of design, critical analysis, and historical contexts. They consider both digital and especially tabletop games, most of which cover specific historical conflicts or are grounded in recognizable real-world geopolitics. Game designers and players will find the historical and critical contexts often missing from design and hobby literature; military analysts will find connections to game design and the humanities; and academics will find documentation and critique of a sophisticated body of cultural work in which the complexity of military conflict is represented in ludic systems and procedures.

    Each section begins with a long anchoring chapter by an established authority, which is followed by a variety of shorter pieces both analytic and anecdotal. Topics include the history of playing at war; operations research and systems design; wargaming and military history; wargaming's ethics and politics; gaming irregular and non-kinetic warfare; and wargames as artistic practice.

    Contributors Jeremy Antley, Richard Barbrook, Elizabeth M. Bartels, Ed Beach, Larry Bond, Larry Brom, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Rex Brynen, Matthew B. Caffrey, Jr., Luke Caldwell, Catherine Cavagnaro, Robert M. Citino, Laurent Closier, Stephen V. Cole, Brian Conley, Greg Costikyan, Patrick Crogan, John Curry, James F. Dunnigan, Robert J. Elder, Lisa Faden, Mary Flanagan, John A. Foley, Alexander R. Galloway, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Don R. Gilman, A. Scott Glancy, Troy Goodfellow, Jack Greene, Mark Herman, Kacper Kwiatkowski, Tim Lenoir, David Levinthal, Alexander H. Levis, Henry Lowood, Elizabeth Losh, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Rob MacDougall, Mark Mahaffey, Bill McDonald, Brien J. Miller, Joseph Miranda, Soraya Murray, Tetsuya Nakamura, Michael Peck, Peter P. Perla, Jon Peterson, John Prados, Ted S. Raicer, Volko Ruhnke, Philip Sabin, Thomas C. Schelling, Marcus Schulzke, Miguel Sicart, Rachel Simmons, Ian Sturrock, Jenny Thompson, John Tiller, J. R. Tracy, Brian Train, Russell Vane, Charles Vasey, Andrew Wackerfuss, James Wallis, James Wallman, Yuna Huh Wong

    • Hardcover $50.00
  • Third Person

    Third Person

    Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives

    Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin

    Narrative strategies for vast fictional worlds across a variety of media, from World of Warcraft to The Wire.

    The ever-expanding capacities of computing offer new narrative possibilities for virtual worlds. Yet vast narratives—featuring an ongoing and intricately developed storyline, many characters, and multiple settings—did not originate with, and are not limited to, Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers, J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Marvel's Spiderman, and the complex stories of such television shows as Dr. Who, The Sopranos, and Lost all present vast fictional worlds. Third Person explores strategies of vast narrative across a variety of media, including video games, television, literature, comic books, tabletop games, and digital art. The contributors—media and television scholars, novelists, comic creators, game designers, and others—investigate such issues as continuity, canonicity, interactivity, fan fiction, technological innovation, and cross-media phenomena. Chapters examine a range of topics, including storytelling in a multiplayer environment; narrative techniques for a 3,000,000-page novel; continuity (or the impossibility of it) in Doctor Who; managing multiple intertwined narratives in superhero comics; the spatial experience of the Final Fantasy role-playing games; World of Warcraft adventure texts created by designers and fans; and the serial storytelling of The Wire. Taken together, the multidisciplinary conversations in Third Person, along with Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin's earlier collections First Person and Second Person, offer essential insights into how fictions are constructed and maintained in very different forms of media at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    • Hardcover $55.00
    • Paperback $35.00
  • Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected

    Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected

    Tara McPherson

    How emergent practices and developments in young people's digital media can result in technological innovation or lead to unintended learning experiences and unanticipated social encounters.

    Young people's use of digital media may result in various innovations and unexpected outcomes, from the use of videogame technologies to create films to the effect of home digital media on family life. This volume examines the core issues that arise when digital media use results in unintended learning experiences and unanticipated social encounters. The contributors examine the complex mix of emergent practices and developments online and elsewhere that empower young users to function as drivers of technological change, recognizing that these new technologies are embedded in larger social systems, school, family, friends.

    The chapters consider such topics as (un)equal access across economic, racial, and ethnic lines; media panics and social anxieties; policy and Internet protocols; media literacy; citizenship vs. consumption; creativity and collaboration; digital media and gender equity; shifting notions of temporality; and defining the public/private divide.

    Contributors Steve Anderson, Anne Balsamo, Justine Cassell, Meg Cramer, Robert A. Heverly, Paula K Hooper, Sonia Livingstone, Henry Lowood, Robert Samuels, Christian Sandvig, Ellen Seiter, Sarita Yardi

    • Hardcover $7.75
    • Paperback $16.00