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Gaming

Essays on Algorithmic Culture

2006
Author:

Alexander R. Galloway

Gaming

A groundbreaking examination of the rise of video games.

In Gaming, Alexander R. Galloway considers the video game as a distinct cultural form that demands a new and unique interpretive framework. Using examples from more than fifty video games, Galloway constructs a classification system of action in video games, and, ultimately offers a new conception of gaming and, more broadly, of electronic culture, one that celebrates the qualities of the digital age.

Galloway is active as both a scholar and an expert player of the video games he is analyzing. This is contemporary media theory at its best.

Lev Manovich

Video games have been a central feature of the cultural landscape for over twenty years and now rival older media like movies, television, and music in popularity and cultural influence. Yet there have been relatively few attempts to understand the video game as an independent medium. Most such efforts focus on the earliest generation of text-based adventures (Zork, for example) and have little to say about such visually and conceptually sophisticated games as Final Fantasy X, Shenmue, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and The Sims, in which players inhabit elaborately detailed worlds and manipulate digital avatars with a vast—and in some cases, almost unlimited—array of actions and choices.

In Gaming, Alexander Galloway instead considers the video game as a distinct cultural form that demands a new and unique interpretive framework. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, particularly critical theory and media studies, he analyzes video games as something to be played rather than as texts to be read, and traces in five concise chapters how the “algorithmic culture” created by video games intersects with theories of visuality, realism, allegory, and the avant-garde. If photographs are images and films are moving images, then, Galloway asserts, video games are best defined as actions.

Using examples from more than fifty video games, Galloway constructs a classification system of action in video games, incorporating standard elements of gameplay as well as software crashes, network lags, and the use of cheats and game hacks. In subsequent chapters, he explores the overlap between the conventions of film and video games, the political and cultural implications of gaming practices, the visual environment of video games, and the status of games as an emerging cultural form.

Together, these essays offer a new conception of gaming and, more broadly, of electronic culture as a whole, one that celebrates and does not lament the qualities of the digital age.


Gaming

Alexander R. Galloway is assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University and author of Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization.

Gaming

Galloway is active as both a scholar and an expert player of the video games he is analyzing. This is contemporary media theory at its best.

Lev Manovich

Galloway has been able to construct a framework that allows us to understand the theoretical import of a player’s choices, the game’s mechanics and the designer’s intentions. There is no doubting that he has a firm grasp on his subject material.

International Journal of Communication

From the origins of the first-person shooter to game structures and new interpretations of images and character, any interested in media and gaming will find this scholarly discourse exciting.

Bookwatch

Succinct and conceptually broad, these important essays recognize the potential for video games and video-game criticism to mature beyond aesthetic novelty and definitional disputes. Galloway confidently extends and goes beyond issues that have characterized video-game studies thus far.

Choice

Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture is a first-person book, written by an avid game player, who understands his game playing experiences in the context of a broader cultural movement. Overall, Galloway’s book makes a convincing case for the connection between video games and contemporary, algorithmic culture.

International Journal of Cultural Studies

The book makes a significant contribution to the scholarship around computer games, adding variety to the range of approaches taken, and pushing scholarship on games across disciplinary borders to audiences the would not necessarily otherwise encounter academic work on such subjects.

Game Studies

Gaming

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

1. Gamic Action, Four Moments
2. Origins of the First-Person Shooter
3. Social Realism
4. Allegories of Control
5. Countergaming

Notes

Index