Video games and postmodernism


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A2 Media Studies student work fromTCC - Postmodernism topic.

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Video games and postmodernism

  2. 2. 1. Self Referencing Many video games can be seen as postmodern as they often make reference to their own constructed nature. For example, in the video game ‘Metal Gear Solid’ (Konami 1998) many references are made to the gaming equipment, particularly the controller. When the game's protagonist Solid Snake encounters a psychic boss character Psycho Mantis; he implores him to “put his controller on the floor” so he can “control it with his mind.” And he can also tell what games are saved on your memory card...
  3. 3. 2. Blurring of boundaries <ul><li>Merely studying video games in a postmodern context can be viewed as postmodern, because of their status as ‘popular culture’ as opposed to high art. Andreas Huyssens the cultural theorist has called this distinction ‘the relentless hostility towards mass culture.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Another way the boundaries are blurred in video games is shown through the lack of </li></ul><ul><li>distinction between the audience </li></ul><ul><li>and the game in first person </li></ul><ul><li>perspective gaming, such as </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Call of Duty 4’. (Activision 2007) </li></ul>
  4. 4. 3. a state of hyper-reality <ul><li>It can be argued that all video games are postmodern to a certain extent as they intend to create a state of hyper-reality for the player to fully immerse themselves into. For example in ‘Grand Theft Auto III’ (Rockstar Games 2001) the player can become someone different from themselves and exist within Baudrillard’s theory of a simulacrum of the game. They can have a house, commit crimes and generally live in a way that is unconventional or different to their actual life. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>The one game that probably creates the biggest state of hyper-reality for the player is The Sims (Maxis, 2000). In the game, the player creates their ‘sim’ (short for simulation) and can then make decisions for them, build them a house, get a job for them and basically do anything that you could do in real life. This therefore creates a simulacra of life. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  6. 6. 4. Death of the meta-narrative <ul><li>A common definition of postmodernism is one of Strinati’s 5 concepts - The decline of the meta-narrative. In video games there is very often a ‘sandbox’ style of gameplay, meaning that the player can choose their own ‘micro-narrative’ within the game. For example, the game ‘Heavy Rain’ (Quantic Dream 2010)The player interacts with the game by performing actions highlighted on screen related to motions on the controller, and in some cases, </li></ul><ul><li>performing a series of quick time events during </li></ul><ul><li>fast-paced action sequences. The player's </li></ul><ul><li>decisions and actions during the game </li></ul><ul><li>will affect the narrative; the main characters </li></ul><ul><li>can be killed, and certain actions may lead </li></ul><ul><li>to different scenes and endings. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>The Fable series (Lionhead studios, 2004) is another example of video games that focus on the micro-narrative, that the player has control over. In Fable, the player’s actions and decisions affect how others in the game ‘see’ the character, and the player must choose whether to be ‘good’ or ‘evil’ within the game. In the most recent release, Fable III, the player becomes king or queen of albion, the imaginary country in which all of the Fable games are set, and can </li></ul><ul><li>then rule the country in </li></ul><ul><li>whatever way they please, </li></ul><ul><li>thus creating their own </li></ul><ul><li>story in the game, rather </li></ul><ul><li>than following a </li></ul><ul><li>pre-defined story, written </li></ul><ul><li>for them. </li></ul>
  8. 8. 5. Confusions over time and space <ul><li>Now that almost all video games have an ‘online’ mode (and some, such as Team Fortress 2 (Valve Corporation, 2007) are solely multiplayer), there are considerable confusions developing in time and space, as the two slowly become completely fractured. You can be playing a game in your bedroom, at 9pm, and at exactly the same time, your team member can be up at 3am in Japan. Since multi-player games don’t have a typical beginning-middle-end narrative, the </li></ul><ul><li>game that you are playing in literally </li></ul><ul><li>never ends; you could potentially be </li></ul><ul><li>playing the game forever - examples of </li></ul><ul><li>this sort of game could include online </li></ul><ul><li>games such as World of Warcraft. </li></ul>
  9. 9. 6. Breakdown between high art and popular culture <ul><li>It could be argued that video games can be seen to represent the breakdown between these two opposing ideals, as whilst many people view video games as ‘popular culture’, the technology used to create them is incredibly complex, and requires a whole team of highly intelligent and creative people to make a game. Also, the stories seen in some games, for example Bioshock (Irrational Games, 2007), have recurring motifs and themes such as love and </li></ul><ul><li>power, and centres around a utopian </li></ul><ul><li>society gone wrong, a story that one </li></ul><ul><li>would usually expect to see in </li></ul><ul><li>literature (eg. Brave New World deals </li></ul><ul><li>with similar issues), which is considered </li></ul><ul><li>to be ‘high art’ by most people. </li></ul>