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Gameplay Mode

War, Simulation, and Technoculture

Patrick Crogan

Publication Year: 2011

From flight simulators and first-person shooters to MMPOG and innovative strategy games like 2008’s Spore, computer games owe their development to computer simulation and imaging produced by and for the military during the Cold War. To understand their place in contemporary culture, Patrick Crogan argues, we must first understand the military logics that created and continue to inform them. Gameplay Mode situates computer games and gaming within the contemporary technocultural moment, connecting them to developments in the conceptualization of pure war since the Second World War and the evolution of simulation as both a technological achievement and a sociopolitical tool.

Crogan begins by locating the origins of computer games in the development of cybernetic weapons systems in the 1940s, the U.S. Air Force’s attempt to use computer simulation to protect the country against nuclear attack, and the U.S. military’s development of the SIMNET simulated battlefield network in the late 1980s. He then examines specific game modes and genres in detail, from the creation of virtual space in fight simulation games and the co-option of narrative forms in gameplay to the continuities between online gaming sociality and real-world communities and the potential of experimental or artgame projects like September 12th: A Toy World and Painstation, to critique conventional computer games.

Drawing on critical theoretical perspectives on computer-based technoculture, Crogan reveals the profound extent to which today’s computer games—and the wider culture they increasingly influence—are informed by the technoscientific program they inherited from the military-industrial complex. But, Crogan concludes, games can play with, as well as play out, their underlying logic, offering the potential for computer gaming to anticipate a different, more peaceful and hopeful future.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Electronic Mediations


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

The original research for this book was completed with the assistance ofan Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant for 2005–2007. Aninternal research grant from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciencesat the University of Technology, Sydney, supported its early developmentin 2001–2003. Several small grants from the University of Adelaide also...

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Introduction: Technology, War, and Simulation

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pp. xi-29

Maxis’s 2008 computer game Spore (Electronic Arts) offers a world of inter-active play that tells us much about the world in which it jostles for position among competing digital entertainments. Designed by Will Wright,legendary designer of video game classics Sim City (Maxis, 1989) and The Sims (Maxis, 2000), it is a game of many modes. Single-player play (includ-...

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1 From the Military-Industrial to the Military-Entertainment Complex

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pp. 1-18

Mainstream media commentary on the carefully orchestrated “highlights packages” released daily to the international press during the U.S.-led 1991 Desert Storm campaign in Kuwait and Iraq registered the striking resemblance between the “missile cam” and spotter plane footage of targets being destroyed and the screens of contemporary combat-based video games....

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2 Select Gameplay Mode: Simulation, Criticality, and the Chance of Video Games

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pp. 19-36

Alternative reality games (ARGs) have grown in popularity since the turn of the most recent century. Players are engaged to uncover some mystery or puzzle by searching for clues in documents, on Web sites, via communication with other players or game-created automatic agents (“bots”), and so forth. The multimodal means by which ARGs are played is key to their...

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3 Logistical Space: Flight Simulators and the Animation of Virtual Reality

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pp. 37-58

James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) opens with a sequence in which the viewer flies over a computer-generated landscape. The groundbreaking 3-D graphics approach, disappear out of the frame, and rock and sway to provide the fulfilling illusion that you inhabit a real flying vehicle in a real, exotically beautiful space. You are the warrior–protagonist whose voice-over accom-...

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4 Military Gametime: History, Narrative, and Temporality in Cinema and Games

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pp. 59-86

The perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attack included commercial and game flight simulation software systems in their training regimen for their suicide missions.1 As one of the many facts to have emerged via mainstream media reporting to the American (and worldwide) audience in the weeks after the attacks, this contributed to the shocking sense that the world...

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5 The Game of Life: Experiences of the First-Person Shooter

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pp. 87-110

This chapter examines the experience of information in first-person shooter computer games. At first glance, this might seem to refer to the rich layerings of textual and graphically presented information that accompany the perspectival animation of virtual space in these games. Elements of the screen interface, such as a compass heading graphic, a mini map, or a radar screen...

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6 Other Players in Other Spaces: War and Online Games

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pp. 111-134

The American new media artist/activist Joseph DeLappe is waging an interventionist campaign in the U.S. military’s own multiplayer online game,America’s Army (U.S. Department of Defense, from 2002). Having qualified for entry to the multiplayer mode of the game by completing the basic training (or “boot camp”) missions, he joins a game on one of the official...

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7 Playing Through: The Future of Alternative and Critical Game Practices

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pp. 135-156

In this chapter, I will examine several alternative and critical new media projects taking computer game systems or practices as their major medium and/or theme. This will enable me to explore some instances of aesthetic and critical reproduction of mainstream computer game forms and techno cultural practices for what they say about these, and for what they indicate of the...

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Conclusion: The Challenge of Simulation

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pp. 157-176

The 2009 Army Capstone Concept is a short video released by TRADOC (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) as a digestible summary of the Army’s concept statement about what kind of capabilities the Army estimates it will require to “apply finite resources to overcome adaptive adversaries in an era of complexity and uncertainty.”1 This statement, based on...


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pp. 177-208


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pp. 209-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780816678334
E-ISBN-10: 0816678332
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816653355

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Electronic Mediations