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Key Terms And Concepts

These are some notes and quotes I took from Ch. 1 to help me stay consistent with Galloway. They are coming in handy with my paper so they might help with yours too. I cut out most of the Diegetic/Nondiegetic things because that conversation has been had many times already.

Video Game– “A cultural object, bound by history and materiality, consisting of an electronic computational materiality, consisting of an electronic computational device and game simulated software.”

Machine– typically has input devise like keyboard or controller and output like a screen.

User– communicates with software and hardware through input device. A.k.a. operator.

Software to Hardware– Software is data that issues instructions to the hardware of the machine. The hardware turns the coded software into the ‘materialized’ game.

Action– “Word one for video game theory.” The user interacts with the materialized game that makes the medium unique.

As “Object and Process”- Video games only exist as an object in process. “They can’t be read as texts or listened to as music, they must be played.” -Aarseth

Active Audience Theory– Media theory “that claims audiences always bring their own interpretations and receptions of the work.” Galloway points the reader to resist this theory for video games action.

Action-Based Medium- From cybernetics and IT. States “an active medium is one whose very materiality moves and restructures itself” Represents a shift from passive spectatorship to action.

Machine to User– “[The Machines] act in response to player actions as well as independently of them.

Machine actions- “acts preformed by the software and hardware of the game computer.”

Operator actions- “acts preformed by players.”

*Games are often rated in hours of total gameplay.

Friedrich Kittler (code)– German media theorist. Paraphrasing him, Galloway states, “code is the only language that does what it says. Code is not only a syntactic and semantic language; it is also a mechanic language.” Like the speech act (ex. “I now pronounce you husband and…).

Video games as software systems- Stresses this point as key to understanding medium. Videogames, being algorithmic functions are more closely related to other kinds of software than other kinds of games.

Ambience Act– A timeless safe place where the operator produces the only stimulus. The machine will randomized environment changes independent of user action (“in a state of pure process”). The machine becomes “purely aesthetic,” like painting or film.

Offline– Moments of player passivity filled with film or animation that relates to diegetic whole of the game. A playful bit of perspective: “Formally speaking, cinematic interludes are a type of grotesque fetishization of the game itself as machine.”

“Nondiegetic operator acts in video games are an allegory for the algorithmic structure of today’s informatic culture.”

Game– An activity defined by rules in which players try to reach some sort of goal.

Play– Executed within fixed limits of time according to rules that are freely accepted, but absolutely binding with its aim in itself. A game produces feelings of tension, joy, and consciousness that it is “different” from “ordinary life.” – Huizinga. “culture arises in and through play.”

*Galloway separates play and game theory from his videogame analysis to decentralize play in relation to the medium as a whole. Play is a component of the medium, but not the foundation. Galloway argues that Huizinga and Caillois overly focus on the human experience, which detracts from other components of the medium.

The dromenon– the ritual act. Strongly relates to the diegetic operator act inside the imaginary world of gameplay.

Move act– changes the physical position or orientation of the game environment.

Expressive acts–  interacting with the environment.

Disabling acts– death and software crash are examples. These nondiegetic machine acts negatively impact diegetic user experience.

Enabling acts– bonuses and other nondigetic machine acts that positively impact diegetic user experience.

The HUD is uncomfortable in its two-dimensionality, but forever there it will stay, in a relationship of incommensurability with the world of the game, and a metaphor for the very nature of play itself. The play of the nondiegetic machine act is there fore a play within the various semiotic layers of the video game. It is form playing with other form.”

“I have deliberately avoided the assumption… that videogames are merely games that people play on computers. Such a position leads to a rather one dimensional view of what video games are. I have also tried to avoid privileging either play or narrative, another tendency that is common in other approaches… Thus I suggest that video games are complex, active media that may involve both humans and computers and may transpire both inside diegetic space and outside diegetic space.”

SGT. Galloway’s Lonely Hearts Club Essays

I was reviewing Galloway and noticed a bit of analysis towards the end of chapter one that reminded me of The Beatles: 

“Gaming is a subjective algorithm, a code intervention exerted from both within gameplay and without gameplay in the form of the nondiegetic operator.”

Of course, the quote uses the same language as in the track “Within You Without You.” But there is a bit more to it than that. Both the song and quote point towards similar concepts of how art transcends the bridge into reality. The Beatles use the term to describe ones relationship to life (nondiegetic in “without” and diegetic in “within”) and Galloway in his observation on nondiegetic user interaction within and without the narrative. We can better understand the division between the two mediums by getting to the crux of the linguistic truth embedded in the relation between “within” and “without” and by viewing how each medium employs that truth. 

The New Media Drug

Galloway addresses the effects of social realism of both videogames (and other mediums) in his third chapter. It is particularly interesting how Galloway draws on the relationship between videogames and other types of media (particularly film) throughout Gaming. It was not so long ago that we, as a society, were fighting the same fights about representations in film not more than half a century ago. Whenever there is a new medium introduced to society, there is a cycle we go through as societal sheep. Be it radio, television, videogames, or the Internet, we go through these basic steps. First we are enthralled with the new technology. It is an entirely new way to reach people and we cannot seem to get enough of it. Much like a drug, we become skeptical. What are the side effects? With the amount of said media we are consuming, what will this do to us? Will we become violent? Will we have an unrealistic view of society? Will we lack ability to adequately maintain interpersonal relationships? Eventually all this talk and skepticism dies down to a degree (the noise will always be there) and a new medium is introduced and the cycle begins again.

Galloway and FPS

In Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture by Galloway, I enjoyed reading chapter 2 entitled Origins of the First-Person Shooter.  As a media study major and avid Call of Duty gamer, this chapter where Galloway describes the use of different types of POV shots throughout the history of film, as well as how the mediums of both film and digitally rendered video games impacted each other in their own uses, was particularly fascinating.  First differentiating between a typical POV shot as opposed to a more in depth subjective shot, Galloway comments on how the gaming environment is more apt to succeed in this type of viewpoint stating, “Where film uses the subjective shot to represent a problem with identification, games use the subjective shot to create identification.”  I also enjoyed this part Gaming, in that Galloway touches on how violence is not necessarily the main element to a video game, stating, “So I argue that it is the affective, active, mobile quality of the first person perspective that is key for gaming, not its violence.”

Games compared to Films

Alexnder R. Galloway uses comparisons between film and gaming to bring up points for his breakdown of a video game world. In the first chapter he describes the use of the diegetic and non-diegetic aspects of a game to separate how we see a game. These different acts are described for specific games. “The heads-up display (HUD) in Deus Ex is non-diegetic, while the various rooms and environments in the game are diegetic”. (Galloway, 8) To relate that to a game that I might know is more of a difficult challenge. I think that with his meaning; in the game Guitar Hero the start and pause actions are considered to be non-diegetic while playing the correct notes on the guitar would be a diegetic act. This is a concept that he says is present in film and is where he draws his theory. He refers to many specific movies such as Hitchcock’s Rear Window in the second chapter when talking about point of view (POV) camera perspectives compared to subjective camera perspectives. A first person subjective view is one that shows exactly what a person would see if the camera were the persons head. The POV first person perspective is a more generalized view of the surroundings the person is looking at. The thing that I like about his analysis throughout the book is his correlation of one medium to another. Movies are very similar to gaming in how they are created, viewed, and manipulated. His book takes many avenues to show how these worlds are intermingled.

Chapter Three

One thing that Galloway touches on in chapter three but does not speak much about is the “Columbine Theory” which states that “games plus gore equals psychotic behavior”. I have to agree with him that this is a flawed theory. For me this takes me back to the idea of gaming addiction. In my opinion, people do not get addicted to a game because the game makes them become addicted to it, they become addicted to the game rather because of something in their personal life that causes them to become addicted to the game as someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. Sticking to this idea, if someone were to play a video game and then go kill a bunch of people, they did not perform this act because they played the video game. They did it because of something going on within their lives or themselves. Some people may say that violence in video games can still have a negative effect on children. I would not disagree to this but that does not mean that if a kid plays a violent video game he is going to begin acting “psychotic”.

Subjective Shot

I found the chapter titled Origins of the FPS very interesting. I have always been familiar with the subjective shot but never known what it was called or noticed that it is only used in certain situations. After reading the chapter I thought about the numerous movies that I have seen this in and realized that it was always used at the perfect times. While the subjective shot cannot be successfully used throughout an entire movie, using it at the right time can make a big difference. I especially like this technique in horror movies! While I enjoy what the subjective perspective can be used for in movies, I am not a fan of it in video games. I agree that it does, as Galloway says, “achieve an intuitive sense of motion and action in game-play” and for most people this is most likely enjoyable. The sense of seeing things through your characters eyes gives the game a more authentic feeling than if you were to be controlling your character from the general point of view. I personally just prefer the general point of view.

Enactment, Interaction, and Individual Interpretation.

“Without the active participation of players and machines, video games exist only as static computer code. Video games come into being when the machine is powered up and the software is executed; they exist when enacted.” Galloway raises an argument similar to Ian Bogost’s discussion of video games as art—more specifically, to the fact that art does not become art until it is seen and interacted with; like Galloway believes, a video game is not a video game until it is played. Even though computer science, or the game designer, has specific goals, rules, and algorithms in mind, the individual is still able to customize the experience according to their preferences. They are able to play.

(Just realized I never posted this, was saved as draft on accident.)

Galloway and Countergaming

In Galloway’s chapter about Countergaming, he discusses ways in which players can take games and alter its designed purpose. They use the game as a raw material for their own creativity. For example, in Forza Motorsports 4, gamers have taken their car paint jobs to an entirely new level. The video posted below will exemplify what I am talking about. Forza 4 provides gamers with a paint program in which they can create anything their heart desires within a one thousand character limit. This is a unique feature because the player is not limited to the possibilities designers have included. This way, players can use their own artistic abilities to create one-of-a-kind creations that are truly remarkable. Another example of this sort of developmental freedom is the create your own map option in Halo Reach in which the player has a number of ways to make a unique environment to play in.

Thoughts on Diegetic and Nondiegetic

A look at diegetic and nondiegetic from the context of the terms introduction:

Diegetic Space- “Total world of narrative action… includ[ing] both onscreen and offscreen elements.”

Nondiegetic Space– “External to the world of narrative action.” A display panel or Pause button are examples.

Galloway’s emphasizes that the nondiegetic space becomes part of the narrative structure of the video game as a medium. He is not saying the nondiegetic becomes the diegetic. He simply means the non-narrative structure has enough character to become a staple of video gaming in general. This unique focus helps to separate video games from the active audience theory used by other media forms.

This otherwise paradoxical association of nondiegetic as contributing to narrative establishes a precedent for inverse relationships between different facets of gaming. In this example, he has enabled game play to contain a concept that would be contradictory in a particular game. The stratification and elasticity of terms in different contexts establish a procedural mirror of the medium as valuable as the applied language. Galloway’s adopted vocabulary becomes his own grammar of action. Below, diegetic and nondiegetic are portrayed in a way that assumes their existences are innate to gaming. While Galloway is open about this in other spaces, its worth keeping in mind the synthetic origins of this language.

“In some instances it will be difficult to demarcate the difference between diegetic and nondiegetic acts in a video game, for the process of good game community is to fuse these acts together as seamlessly as possible.”