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Language, Power, and Computer Game Culture
Video and computer games in their cultural contexts.
As the popularity of computer games has exploded over the past decade, both scholars and game industry professionals have recognized the necessity of treating games less as frivolous entertainment and more as artifacts of culture worthy of political, social, economic, rhetorical, and aesthetic analysis. Ken McAllister notes in his introduction to Game Work that, even though games are essentially impractical, they are nevertheless important mediating agents for the broad exercise of socio-political power.
In considering how the languages, images, gestures, and sounds of video games influence those who play them, McAllister highlights the ways in which ideology is coded into games. Computer games, he argues, have transformative effects on the consciousness of players, like poetry, fiction, journalism, and film, but the implications of these transformations are not always clear. Games can work to maintain the status quo or celebrate liberation or tolerate enslavement, and they can conjure feelings of hope or despair, assent or dissent, clarity or confusion. Overall, by making and managing meanings, computer games—and the work they involve and the industry they spring from—are also negotiating power.
This book sets out a method for "recollecting" some of the diverse and copious influences on computer games and the industry they have spawned. Specifically written for use in computer game theory classes, advanced media studies, and communications courses, Game Work will also be welcome by computer gamers and designers.
Ken S. McAllister is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English at the University of Arizona and Co-Director of the Learning Games Initiative, a research collective that studies, teaches with, and builds computer games.
War, Simulation, and Technoculture
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.
Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop
2007 Alan Merriam Prize presented by the Society for Ethnomusicology
2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Book Award Finalist
When we think of African American popular music, our first thought is probably not of double-dutch: girls bouncing between two twirling ropes, keeping time to the tick-tat under their toes. But this book argues that the games black girls play —handclapping songs, cheers, and double-dutch jump rope—both reflect and inspire the principles of black popular musicmaking.
The Games Black Girls Play illustrates how black musical styles are incorporated into the earliest games African American girls learn—how, in effect, these games contain the DNA of black music. Drawing on interviews, recordings of handclapping games and cheers, and her own observation and memories of gameplaying, Kyra D. Gaunt argues that black girls' games are connected to long traditions of African and African American musicmaking, and that they teach vital musical and social lessons that are carried into adulthood. In this celebration of playground poetry and childhood choreography, she uncovers the surprisingly rich contributions of girls’ play to black popular culture.
Applying Game Theoretic Models to Political Science
To study the strategic interaction of individuals, we can use game theory. Despite the long history shared by game theory and political science, many political scientists remain unaware of the exciting game theoretic techniques that have been developed over the years. As a result they use overly simple games to illustrate complex processes. Games, Information, and Politics is written for political scientists who have an interest in game theory but really do not understand how it can be used to improve our understanding of politics. To address this problem, Gates and Humes write for scholars who have little or no training in formal theory and demonstrate how game theoretic analysis can be applied to politics. They apply game theoretic models to three subfields of political science: American politics, comparative politics, and international relations. They demonstrate how game theory can be applied to each of these subfields by drawing from three distinct pieces of research. By drawing on examples from current research projects the authors use real research problems--not hypothetical questions--to develop their discussion of various techniques and to demonstrate how to apply game theoretic models to help answer important political questions. Emphasizing the process of applying game theory, Gates and Humes clear up some common misperceptions about game theory and show how it can be used to improve our understanding of politics. Games, Information, and Politics is written for scholars interested in understanding how game theory is used to model strategic interactions. It will appeal to sociologists and economists as well as political scientists. Scott Gates is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University. Brian D. Humes is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The Top 10 Book of Players, Pawns, and Power-Ups
Ever thought about capturing a queen, amassing real estate gold, or striking down a zombie or two? For centuries, games have stimulated the imagination. They have divided, and they have united. They have driven our competitive spirit and indulged our fancy. Live an entire lifetime in a few rolls of the dice. Push a few buttons and sustain perfect health. Essentially, games have and will continue to provide people worldwide a break from the everyday grind.
With more than forty chapters, Games' Most Wanted whisks readers away into the fantasyland of games. Learn more about board games that have been passed through generations, video games that predict the future, and card games that have brought down the house. Ben H. Rome and Chris Hussey also reveal the culture behind the entertainment-the codes of conduct, the language, the conventions, and the workshops-proving that leisure can be a lifestyle. Something they won't reveal: how to rescue the princess. Regardless of the hand you're dealt, Games' Most Wanted is sure to cure any boredom.
Explaining the Great War
Frank C. Zagare combines a deep command of historical scholarship and the sophisticated skills of an applied game theorist to develop and test a theory of why deterrence failed, catastrophically, in July 1914. . . . Zagare concludes with sage advice on how to avoid even more cataclysmic breakdowns in a nuclear world. ---Steven J. Brams, New York University "Zagare's deft study of the origins of the First World War using his perfect deterrence theory uncovers new insights into that signal event and shows the value of formal theory applied to historical events. A must-read for those interested in security studies." ---James D. Morrow, University of Michigan "Through an exemplary combination of formal theory, careful qualitative analysis, and lucid prose, The Games of July delivers important and interesting answers to key questions concerning the international political causes of World War I. Its well-formed narratives and its sustained engagement with leading works in IR and diplomatic history . . . make it a rewarding read for security scholars in general and a useful teaching tool for international security courses." ---Timothy W. Crawford, Boston College Taking advantage of recent advances in game theory and the latest historiography, Frank C. Zagare offers a new, provocative interpretation of the events that led to the outbreak of World War I. He analyzes key events from Bismarck's surprising decision in 1879 to enter into a strategic alliance with Austria-Hungary to the escalation that culminated in a full-scale global war. Zagare concludes that, while the war was most certainly unintended, it was in no sense accidental or inevitable. The Games of July serves not only as an analytical narrative but also as a work of theoretical assessment. Standard realist and liberal explanations of the Great War are evaluated along with a collection of game-theoretic models known as perfect deterrence theory. Frank C. Zagare is UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Cover illustration: Satirical Italian postcard from World War I. Used with permission from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.
Sports and the Presidency
The Games Presidents Play provides a new way to view the American presidency. Looking at the athletic strengths, feats, and shortcomings of our presidents, John Sayle Watterson explores not only their health, physical attributes, personalities, and sports IQs, but also the increasing trend of Americans in the past century to equate sporting achievements with courage, manliness, and political competence. The author of College Football begins with George Washington, whose athleticism contributed to his success on the battlefield and may well have contributed to the birth of the republic. He moves seamlessly into the nineteenth century when, for presidents like Jackson, Lincoln, and Cleveland, frontier sports were part of their formative years. With the twentieth-century presidents—most notably the hyperactive and headline-grabbing Theodore Roosevelt—Watterson shows how the growth of mass media and the improved means of transportation transformed presidential sports into both a form of recreation and a means of establishing a positive self-image. Modern presidents have used sports with varying degrees of success. Herbert Hoover fled Washington on weekends to the trout pools of Camp Rapidan in the Blue Ridge to escape relentless pressures and public criticism during the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt demonstrated remarkable physical endurance in his campaign to restore his ravaged body from polio. An obsessive love affair with golf became an issue for Dwight Eisenhower in his campaign for reelection in 1956. Richard Nixon, a former third-string college football lineman, placed calls to Coach George Allen of the Washington Redskins, once suggesting a trick play in a big game. From the opening pitch of the baseball season to presenting awards to Olympic champions, our sports culture asks the president to play an increasingly active role. Sports, Watterson argues, open a window into the presidency, shedding new light on presidential behavior and offering new perspectives on the office and the sporting men—and women—who have and will occupy it.
Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture
Video games have long been seen as the exclusive territory of young, heterosexual white males. In a media landscape dominated by such gamers, players who do not fit this mold, including women, people of color, and LGBT people, are often brutalized in forums and in public channels in online play. Discussion of representation of such groups in games has frequently been limited and cursory. In contrast, Gaming at the Edge builds on feminist, queer, and postcolonial theories of identity and draws on qualitative audience research methods to make sense of how representation comes to matter.
In Gaming at the Edge, Adrienne Shaw argues that video game players experience race, gender, and sexuality concurrently. She asks: How do players identify with characters? How do they separate identification and interactivity? What is the role of fantasy in representation? What is the importance of understanding market logic? In addressing these questions Shaw reveals how representation comes to matter to participants and offers a perceptive consideration of the high stakes in politics of representation debates.
Putting forth a framework for talking about representation, difference, and diversity in an era in which user-generated content, individualized media consumption, and the blurring of producer/consumer roles has lessened the utility of traditional models of media representation analysis, Shaw finds new insight on the edge of media consumption with the invisible, marginalized gamers who are surprising in both their numbers and their influence in mainstream gamer culture.
Essays On Algorithmic Culture
The small city of Macao — formerly a Portuguese colony, now a Special Administrative Region of China — liberalised its gaming industry in 2002. Since then a score of new casinos have been built and millions of gamblers have flooded in from mainland China. Per capita income has more than doubled in five years and the gaming operators have outstripped their Las Vegas counterparts in revenue and profits. But rapid economic growth has also brought social and political problems. In this structured survey of modern Macao, 15 experts examine the effects of massive foreign investment, the problems of governance, and increasing public policy challenges in a time of rapid change and potential social instability. They also discuss the efficacy or otherwise of measures to address economic hardship, social dislocation and political change over the past decade. Gaming, Governance and Public Policy in Macau will be of interest to anyone concerned with the gaming industry and its uses in strategies for economic growth. For those who want to know more about Macao than its gaming tables and neon lights, the book will provide a range of interpretations of the way in which the city is developing.