Jaroslav Švelch

Jaroslav Švelch is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Studies at Charles University, Prague, and Lecturer in the Department of Game Design at the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He is the author of Gaming the Iron Curtain: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games.

  • Player vs. Monster

    The Making and Breaking of Video Game Monstrosity

    Jaroslav Švelch

    A study of the gruesome game characters we love to beat—and what they tell us about ourselves.

    Since the early days of video games, monsters have played pivotal roles as dangers to be avoided, level bosses to be defeated, or targets to be destroyed for extra points. But why is the figure of the monster so important in gaming, and how have video games come to shape our culture's conceptions of monstrosity? To answer these questions, Player vs. Monster explores the past half-century of monsters in games, from the dragons of early tabletop role-playing games and the pixelated aliens of Space Invaders to the malformed mutants of The Last of Us and the bizarre beasts of Bloodborne, and reveals the common threads among them.

    Covering examples from aliens to zombies, Jaroslav Švelch explores the art of monster design and traces its influences from mythology, visual arts, popular culture, and tabletop role-playing games. At the same time, he shows that video games follow the Cold War–era notion of clearly defined, calculable enemies, portraying monsters as figures that are irredeemably evil yet invariably vulnerable to defeat. He explains the appeal of such simplistic video game monsters, but also explores how the medium could evolve to present more nuanced depictions of monstrosity.

    • Hardcover $26.95
  • 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