Sunday, 18 March 2007

From 'Game Cultures' by Jon Dovey and Helen W Kennedy

Jon Dovey, Reader in Screen Media, Department of Drama: Theatre, Film, Television, Bristol University, sent me this extract from his new book, Dovey, J. and Kennedy, H. W. Game Cultures, Open University Press 2006, p2-3. Its recognition that new media are necessitating a reconfiguring of media studies chimes well with the kind of ideas and debates we're trying to start on this page:

If we want to understand where our media culture is going we need to understand where it is coming from. The hyperbole of techno-culture enthusiasts is usually resolutely a-historical. This book introduces some of the ways in which we might begin to study computer games culture by looking at its mass market as it has developed in the past ten years. The post-Playstation era has seen the game console become a ubiquitous part of the Western domestic media economy. Our study locates itself in the everyday experiences of millions of console gamers worldwide. In so doing, it attempts to understand the nature of the gameplay phenomenon.

Our approach to the study of computer games uses the methods developed within Cultural Studies to study popular culture. Within this tradition, generally speaking, popular culture is understood as a critical site of both the circulation and contestation of dominant ideologies. Cultural Studies also affords us ways of thinking about media consumption, identity and pleasure in everyday life. This broad approach will find its focus through the emergent traditions of a New Media studies. That is to say a Media Studies which takes digital media as its objects of study, but which is also ‘new’ in the sense that this process is having the effect of reconfiguring traditional Media Studies itself. We find ourselves constantly having to check to see if the disciplinary tools developed during the analogue age of the late twentieth century still function during the dawning of the digital twenty first century. This checking often produces interdisciplinary raids; for instance, systems theory, Cyberculture studies, Artificial Intelligence and Human Computer Interaction studies all find their way into ‘traditional’ Media Studies’ attempts to explain digital culture. (see Lister et al 2003, Mayer 1999).

Nevertheless, many of the traditional frameworks of Media Studies will continue to serve us as starting points for our investigations, offering the non-specialist reader a pathway into the new theoretical paradigms which the study of computer games produces. For instance political economy, textual analysis, the study of representation and of the ways in which fan cultures actively rework mediated experiences are all ‘foundational’ to our work in this book. These conceptual frameworks will only get us so far. We run the risk of misunderstanding and misrepresenting computer games if we analyse them using methods derived exclusively from literature, film or other mass media. As Espen Aarseth argues in the editorial manifesto of the first edition of the academic journal devoted to computer games, Game Studies:

"Games are not a kind of cinema, or literature, but colonizing attempts from both these fields have already happened, and no doubt will happen again. And again, until computer game studies emerges as a clearly self-sustained academic field". (2001 online)

Here Aarseth calls our attention to the specificity of the computer game, which needs new ways of thinking, and breaks with existing traditions.

The list below indicates the significant conceptual debates which will underpin the issues explored in this volume. Such a listing is in no way intended to imply a steady progress between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media – on the contrary , the way we study computer games is produced through the tension between these approaches.

Media Studies - New Media Studies

Media Studies: The effects of technology are socially determined.
New Media Studies: The nature of society is technologically determined.

Media Studies: Active audiences
New media Studies: Interactive users

Media Studies: Interpretation
New Media Studies: Experience

Media Studies: Spectatorship
New media Studies: Immersion

Media Studies: Representation
New Media Studies: Simulation

Media Studies: Centralised Media
New Media Studies: Ubiquitous Media

Media Studies: Consumer
New media Studies: Participant/Co creator

Media Studies:Work
New Media Studies: Play