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four types of gamic action

I realize that the first chapter of Galloway’s book is especially dense and theoretical. It’s a good taste of what graduate school is like if you are thinking about that.

However, I would like you to retain his concepts of gamic action, which, in the end, do not have to be that complex: diegetic machine acts, diegetic operator acts, non-diegetic machine acts, and non-diegetic operator acts. Machine and operator obviously refer to actions taken by the player versus actions taken by the game console/program. Diegetic and non-diegetic are terms from film theory. They refer to the parts of a film that are part of the narrative (diegetic) and those that are not (non-diegetic, e.g. the film’s score, the credits, etc.). Here are some brief examples of each type of gamic action.

Diegetic machine acts would include the cut scenes that propel the story forward or the actions of NPCs. Anything the machine does within the context of the story to move it forward.

Diegetic operator acts would similarly be the central activity of most gameplay, like dribbling down the pitch in FIFA 13.

Non-diegetic machine acts would include things like keeping score and tracking health meters. All that information that appears on the HUD of a game is not really part of the story. It’s data collected and presented to you.

Non-diegetic operator acts are the things you do when gameplay is paused. For example, when you spend experience points to move your way up a skill tree in Skyrim or Mass Effect. Or really the whole gameplay of something like Sim City or Civilization.

When you think about writing your game analyses (if you’re doing one) and possibly during your research, it might be useful to keep in mind these different areas of gamic action.


About Alex Reid

Associate Professor and Director of Composition in the English Department at the University at Buffalo


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