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Video Game Theory from an English Major

After traversing some of my older HASTAC e-mails I came across one that referenced a video game discussion/conference. I usually don’t get too into gaming, because I have limited knowledge of gaming theory outside of Ludology vs. Narratology, and I only play a few true video games. However, when I began to read the discussion write-ups it really surprised me how much the ideas of   “Immersion/Interactivity” (one of the topics) related to my research on cybertext and the readers interaction with a text, especially because one of the texts discussed was written by Espen Aarseth, whose idea of “Ergodic Literature” is something that I heavily rely on when discussing hypertext literature. I decided then to give my own take on some of the questions asked, which were as follows:

  • What is the relationship between immersion and interactivity?
    • What are the essential qualities of each? And how are they generated?
    • How has the explosion of gesture-based motion control systems influenced these discussions?
    • Where is player agency in these concepts? Are there political ramifications to consider?
    • How do these terms, and our culture’s insistence on connecting them to video gaming, shape our conversations about gaming?
    • What are the implications of reading games through these terms?

From the standpoint of someone who has more of a firm root in literature and hypertext, immersion to me has the same meaning as the idea of immediacy that was defined by Jay D. Bolter as a mediums ability to impart a feeling of reality or disappearance of the medium, while interactivity seems to be more related to the actual interaction of the player with the game, which does not necessarily require immediacy. It would seem then that motion games, such as the PlayStation 3 Move, the Xbox Kinect, and the Nintendo Wii increase the feeling of immersion or immediacy. When a player is engaging as part of the game, it would also seem that what happens in the game will have a greater effect on the player. At the same time, looking at games through the lense of immersion/interactivity seems to set up the idea of examining video games as a virtual reality, and less as a gaming experience.

Overall, I love how interdisciplinary the discussions topics were, and it’s very interesting to learn more about the topic of video game theory.

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