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Game Studies

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An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games

We may think of video games as being "fun," but in The Art of Failure, Jesper Juul claims that this is almost entirely mistaken. When we play video games, our facial expressions are rarely those of happiness or bliss. Instead, we frown, grimace, and shout in frustration as we lose, or die, or fail to advance to the next level. Humans may have a fundamental desire to succeed and feel competent, but game players choose to engage in an activity in which they are nearly certain to fail and feel incompetent. So why do we play video games even though they make us unhappy?

A Critical Lexicon

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.

Perspectives on Wargaming

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.

Japan's Videogames in Global Contexts

In the early days of arcades and Nintendo, many players didn’t recognize Japanese games as coming from Japan; they were simply new and interesting games to play. But since then, fans, media, and the games industry have thought further about the “Japaneseness” of particular games. Game developers try to decide whether a game’s Japaneseness is a selling point or stumbling block; critics try to determine what elements in a game express its Japaneseness—cultural motifs or technical markers. Games were “localized,” subjected to sociocultural and technical tinkering.

Emotion by Design

This is a renaissance moment for video games—in the variety of genres they represent, and the range of emotional territory they cover. But how do games create emotion? In How Games Move Us, Katherine Isbister takes the reader on a timely and novel exploration of the design techniques that evoke strong emotions for players. She counters arguments that games are creating a generation of isolated, emotionally numb, antisocial loners.

Video Games and Latin America

Video games are becoming an ever more ubiquitous element of daily life, played by millions on devices that range from smart phones to desktop computers. An examination of this phenomenon reveals that video games are increasingly being converted into cultural currency. For video game designers, culture is a resource that can be incorporated into games; for players, local gaming practices and specific social contexts can affect their playing experiences.

A maker of visually elegant and conceptually intricate games, Jason Rohrer is among the most widely heralded art game designers in the short but vibrant history of the field. His games range from the elegantly simple to others of almost Byzantine complexity. Passage (2007)—acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York—uses game rules and procedurals to create a contemporary memento mori that captures an entire lifetime in five minutes. In Chain World (2011), each subsequent player of the game’s single copy modifies the rules of the universe.

Edited by Mark J. P. Wolf

Video games have become a global industry, and their history spans dozens of national industries where foreign imports compete with domestic productions, legitimate industry contends with piracy, and national identity faces the global marketplace. This volume describes video game history and culture across every continent, with essays covering areas as disparate and far-flung as Argentina and Thailand, Hungary and Indonesia, Iran and Ireland.

The Nintendo Family Computer / Entertainment System Platform

In the 1987 Nintendo Entertainment System videogame Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, a character famously declared: I AM ERROR. Puzzled players assumed that this cryptic mesage was a programming flaw, but it was actually a clumsy Japanese-English translation of “My Name is Error,” a benign programmer’s joke.

The impulse toward play is very ancient, not only pre-cultural but pre-human; zoologists have identified play behaviors in turtles and in chimpanzees. Games have existed since antiquity; 5,000-year-old board games have been recovered from Egyptian tombs. And yet we still lack a critical language for thinking about play. Game designers are better at answering small questions (“Why is this battle boring?”) than big ones (“What does this game mean?”).

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