This page tries to show that computer games are an important contribution to our expressive tool kit and to our understanding of interactive experiences. My work concentrates on how to understand video games as an expressive medium und how to analyze games in this kind of context. In this research the narrative and textological qualities of computer games are my main focus.
Readers of this article should understand that ...
- the computer game is neither a narrative nor a game. The computer game is a new medium and should be treated as such.
- a computer game is a whole world and as such only has mechanics but no classical understanding of game rules.
- the computer game medium is expressive and conveys messages implicitly and explicitly. In this regard the computer game can be analyzed with different methods.
- a computer game is the result of an artistic development process.
- computer games help to understand actions.
Computer game medium
In terms of communication a medium could be the channel which is used by the sender to transmit an channel-specific encoded message to the receiver, who has to decode the message to understand it. The computer game as a medium could be understood as the channel on which the specific intended experiences of the developers are encoded as mechanics and transmitted to the players, who have to interact with and interpret the game to decipher it and get to the specific meanings or the intended experiences of the message. Playing would be a decoding process to reach intended meanings and experiences of the developers.
In another interpretation a medium could be understood as an art form, a group of similar activities that produce artifacts that are intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. The Computer game as a medium would be the possibility to produce specific works in the category of computer games which are intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.
Computer game genres
Genres are categories of a medium that include groups of characteristics and could exclude others.
Computer game genres encompass groups of mechanics, which can be understood as motifs.
A mechanic is the fundamental building block of a computer game. It is an understandable description of the interactive possibilities of a game, which are written in the code.
The code of a game is the part of the program that describes and controls all the other parts of the game. If something is not written in the code, it is not possible in the game.
A motif or a trope is a smaller more concrete narrative element that has a certain consistency over different texts. In contrast a theme is a more abstract narrative element like a feeling or a specific aesthetic. And a subject matter or the Stoff of a work is a bigger narrative element and is the base for different works with a similar plot.
Textology of computer games
Textology is the concept of looking for the characteristics of an artifact that shape the understanding of itself as a text of a specific kind or genre and therefore the medium as a whole.
A textology of computer games would be interested in the questions that define a specific computer game as a computer game and how those qualities shape our understanding of this specific game, the genre and the medium as a whole.
1. How was it published? What does this publishing say about the development process? How is the development process visible in the game? (Endres/Pichler/Zittel 2017, p. 3)
2. Different versions of mechanics and games, the development over an early access phase where significant changes in the inner workings of the game are possible and
Game mechanics as narrative devices
1. The code of a game describes the game in its entirety because the code describes and controls all the parts of the game. Mechanics as an understandable abstraction of the code have to contain all the possibilities of the game.
2. If mechanics are responsible for all the possible experiences, they have to contribute to the narrative and story line possibilities.
3. The experience of a story is connected to the perception of change. If something changes and we do perceive at least a part of this change, we would describe this as a story.
4. Mechanics are narrative devices because they describe possibilities of change in the player experience.
5. The mechanics of a computer game are also perceivable and can get cultural significance, in which case you convey something by using specific mechanics.
6. These forms of intertextuality go beyond the plot elements of a story-driven game because mechanics can encompass all actions.
Popularity as a factor to describe short term and long term consistency of computer game mechanics
- Popularity is an integral part in economic decisions because you want to maximize your target group. If something is popular it reaches per definition a big audience.
- mechanics are narrative devices and can be understood as specific narrative elements, as motifs
- Consistency is the major characteristic of motifs because it describes that a phenomenon has happened repeatedly
- In the case of motifs consistency depends on the usage of the narrative element over different texts, which encompasses different times
- short term consistency means that a motif is only used in a short time period, long term consistency is the opposite
- popularity is a major influence on short term consistency because as long as something is popular you have a greater incentive to use it - incentives could be money, bigger audience, easier to implement, better understanding for the player because the motif is known and doesn't need to be reintroduced
- something can get so popular that it gets implemented in the long term consistency of motifs
- this means that something gets picked up, because it fulfills some basic needs like the possibility of a single player game.