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Computer Games and/as Literature

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History of Computer GamesEdit

Computer games date as far back as the mid Twentieth century.  In the early 1950's A.S. Douglas created the first graghical computer game, Tic-Tac-Toe.  In 1958, Willy Higginbotham wrote the game "Tennis for Two."  In 1962, Steve Russell created the first popular computer game Spacewar.[1] The Early 1970's led to the birth of commercial 

640px-Spacewar screenshot

Spacewar

games, such as Computer Space and Tank.  In the mid 1970's, the first text based adventure game was released, called Colossal Cave Adventure.  In the late 1970's Atari gets revamped and takes the main stage.  

The Early 1980's proved to be a busy time for the figital gaming industry. While Atari and Pacman were taking center stage, the popular text based game Zork is released.  In 1983, Gragon's Lair is released after taking six years to make.  In 1985, Nintendo introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  From this point on, video game consoles would rival the PC platform.  It was't until the 1990's until both PC gaming, and console gaming were both extremely profitable.  As computer components continued to improve, so did the games.  In late 1993, Myst was released and became the best selling PC game until 2002.  Computer games are continueing to evolve with technology and are growing in popularity.  Massive multiplayer online games, such as World of Warcraft,  are uniting millions of gamers around the world. [2]

The Evolution of PC Games02:31

The Evolution of PC Games

The Evolution of PC Games


World-of-warcraft-screenshot

One of the features of RPG games includes multiplayer interaction, as seen in World of Warcraft.

Types of Computer GamesEdit

Like any type of media, there are varying types of computer games that have been created in the past decade. Some computer games also can fall under multiple categories (for example, World of Warcraft is an RPG game, but also falls under the adventure genre). The categories of computer games are described below: 

Interactive fictionEdit

Interactive fiction (IF) is a type of literature that utilizes text commands to control the story, characters and the setting. Interactive fiction can also be viewed as a narrative and as video games, "or rather something in between."​[3] Usually, the player takes the role of one character and must solve a series of puzzles using these text commands (i.e., LOOK, TAKE, DROP, SEARCH, etc). Similar to RPG games, IF can take multiple paths depending on the player's choices. 

Action gamesEdit

Fast-paced and requiring quick reflexes, action games are typically focused on combat and fighting an enemy. These kinds of games usually requrie the user to press certain buttons on the controller or press these buttons in a certain order. Some examples include Mass Effect, Battlefield, and Dead Space

Adventure gamesEdit

The games are usually single-player and have a specific storyline, setting and characters. In adventure games, players usually must complete puzzles or tasks. Users can play as a character in the story or create their own, which usually is an option in RPG games. 

RPG gamesEdit

Often set in a fantasy world, RPG games allow the player to create their own character make decisions based around the plot of the game. They are often narrative and this format guides the player through the storyline. RPG games can also cross different genres and are not bound to one in particular (examples of RPG games include World of Warcraft).

Simulation gamesEdit

Based on reality and the world we live in, simulation games allow the player to control vehicles, such as cars, aircraft, boats, and more. Players can also use simulation games to prepare themselves for real-life careers in operating machinery (for example, airline companies use simulation games to train their pilots). 

Gta-san-andreas

GTA: San Andreas utilizes intertextuality in an ironic way, Dormans argues.

Intertextuality Edit

Although it may not seem so at first, computer games have intextuality just like printed literature does. Computer games are often based off of reality (i.e, simulation games ) or from previous media, such as comic books, films, and television shows. Joris Dormans argues in his essay on intertextuality in computer games that intertextuality is what occurs in video games rather than unoriginality. He says that in games such as Grand Theft Auto, intertexuality is especially prevalent:"To sum up, there are many different forms of intertextuality: direct quotations of other fictional sources, references to the non-fictional texts and reality, and the copying of various cultural and non-cultural forms, genres and styles. In the case of GTA, it is guilty of all charges."[4]

Literary StructureEdit

Background

The structure of a computer game is what leads the player to the many literary aspects that exist in the art of computer games. Although computer games have greatly evolved, these aspects have changed slightly. The player is still of great significance in the progression of the story. Each type of computer game has a structure that most often consist of a beginning, middle and end to a storyline. 

Storyline

A plot of a computer game develops as the player progresses through the game. The storyline of a computer game is usually structured for the player to achieve a goal. The flow of the storyline contributes to the structure of the game by breaking down the events of the plot into levels. Computer games that have a goal involving more than the accumulation of points, give a sole purpose to the main character of the story.

Narrative Stereotypes

Computer games inherit stereotypes from different genres of books. Computer games stereotypically consist of a hero, a villain, and a character or object that needs to be obtained. [5] 

Function

Gamingblinds 0003 closeup.jpg
The fundamental functions are critical to structure of the game. The player's capabilities in a computer game reflect the role of the main character. Computer games introduce functions that contribute to the characteristics of the protagonist. The advancement of technology enhanced the functionality of a computer game. The introduction of the game controller revolutionized the capabilities of the player. 

Theme

Themes are important to the literary structure of a computer game. The theme of a computer game combines the user’s senses to create a dynamic gaming experience. The theme corresponds to the game's virtual environment . These attributes provide additional detail to the setting of the game.

Video game addiction thumb

AudioEdit

The music or sound that plays in the background sets the tone of the current scene in the story. Audio gives the player an indication of different events in the game. Music could indicate the level of difficulty, importance, and mood of a certain scene.Sound could indicate a correct or incorrect action or movements by the player. The aspect of audio is important to the theme of a game because it uses music and sound to add meaning to the player's progression.

Digital Storytelling - The Evolution of Video Game Graphics02:40

Digital Storytelling - The Evolution of Video Game Graphics

Evolution of Computer Game Graphics

Edit

VisualEdit

The evolution of visual graphics allows computer game developers to expand their creative fantasy onto the structure of the game. The visuals in a computer game give appearance to the theme of the game. Visual appearances attach a personality to the characters being controlled. Players develop personal preference corresponding to a game's appearance.The development of 3-Dimensional Graphics expanded the perspective of gaming in the virtual world.

Games as a Complement to Print-Based LiteratureEdit

While many are afraid that games are taking over and replacing literature, this is not at all true.  Computer games can be an excellent complement to print-based literature, providing additional elements to enhance the literary work that are not possible in print.

Immersive ExperienceEdit

In print-based literature, the reader simply reads the story, without any interaction of any kind.  With literature-based computer games however, the reader, or "interactor" as N. Katherine Hayles refers to them[6], plays as a character in the story, often the main character.  By making the reader/interator act, and make choices as the character, the author allows them to actually immerse themselves into the story, and feel as if they are a part of the plot instead of just an outside observer.  Even in a non-graphic interactive fiction like Andrew Plotkin's Shade for instance, the interactors are still immersed in the world of the story through the detailed descriptions and by being forced to make decisions for/as the character.

The Last of Us Trailer02:39

The Last of Us Trailer

An example of an extremely immersive game. The detailed art helps bring an immersive experience to the story.

ArtEdit

The art present in graphic computer games brings another element to literature that is not possible with print alone.  Today's latest computer games create whole digital "worlds", leaving no detail to spare.  This extraordinarily detail driven art also helps to contribute to the immersive experience for the player.  While text-based descriptions can be extremely detailed, they still cannot compete with an actual visual representation of the environment and events taking place.  By providing these visuals to the player, the authors are able to create a more in depth experience than would be possible with print alone.

Digital LiteracyEdit

Digitalliteracy

Digital Literacy

Today's world is growing more and more wired by the day.  We rely on computers for practically everything in our daily lives, whether we realize it or not.  In this wired world,  a certain level of digital literacy is essential and can be contributed to by computer games.  "While some may criticize videogames as a shallow medium relative to literature, others suggest that videogames may actually help develeop a new type of 'digital literacy' necessary for a digital age.  Proponents of this perspective suggest that given recent technological innovations, videogames today can offer players rich experiences that promote creativity and critical thinking." [7]

SourcesEdit

  1. "History of Computer Games" by John E. Laird
  2. "A History of the Computer Game"
  3. "A Beginner's Guide to Playing Interactive Fiction." Fredrik Ramsberg, Feb 17, 2003
  4. The World is Yours: Intertextual Irony and Second Level Reading Strategies in Grand Theft Auto by Joris Dormans
  5. "Sterotypes in Video Games and How They Perpetuate Prejudice" by: Troy G. Deskins
  6. Electronic Literature: What is it?
  7. “Playing” a book or “reading” a game?

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