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Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game [Illustrated] [Paperback]

Graeme Kirkpatrick

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Book Description

26 Aug 2011 0719077184 978-0719077180 1
This book draws on aesthetic theory, including ideas from the history of painting, music and dance, to offer a fresh perspective on the video game as a popular cultural form. It argues that games like Grand Theft Auto and Elektroplankton are aesthetic objects that appeal to players because they offer an experience of form, as this idea was understood by philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Theodor Adorno. Video games are awkward objects that have defied efforts to categorise them within established academic disciplines and intellectual frameworks. Yet no one can deny their importance in re-configuring contemporary culture and their influence can be seen in contemporary film, television, literature, music, dance and advertising. This book argues that their very awkwardness should form the starting point for a proper analysis of what games are and the reasons for their popularity. This argument is developed through investigation of a series of paradoxes that are present in all instances of gameplay. Gameplay is embodied activity, usually involving detailed work with the hands, yet this aspect is neglected in our thinking about play, which seems to be mainly about screens and visual interfaces. Similarly, game interfaces and packaging are overloaded with story elements, while much of play is repetitious and experienced as meaningless. Rather than viewing these aspects of gameplay as shortcomings of the medium, the book sees them as defining properties of the video game, integral to its appeal. This book will appeal to anyone with a serious interest in the increasingly playful character of contemporary capitalist culture.

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"An established scholar of the sociology of gaming and computers, Kirkpatrick (Univ. of Manchester, UK) argues video games are autonomous cultural forms that should be considered art." -- A. J. Wharton. Choice "Kirkpatrick positions the aesthetics of video games in interactivity, outside the traditional realm of formal or literary representation." -- A. J. Wharton. Choice "...adds a distinct, if rather conservative, perspective on video game play to the burgeoning field of game studies." --A. J. Wharton. Choice

Ranciere is one of a plethora of writers with whom Kirkpatrick artfully weaves propositions and readings of games to accumulate a coherently mapped theory of gaming as an aesthetic cultural practice... I have yet to encounter a book as extensive and thought provoking as Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game. --Julian 'McDougall is a British educationalist and media theorist. He specialises in the study of contemporary media, creative arts education and the role of video games in education.

About the Author

Graeme Kirkpatrick is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Manchester

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important contribution to debate 13 Feb 2013
By Persiflage - Published on Amazon.com
As the title suggests this is a scholarly look at the video game form. Kirkpatrick writes well and explains concepts clearly but this is definitely not an easy read (if that is what you are looking for).
The book argues that the aesthetic form that video game playing is most closely aligned to is dance:
"Players dance, mainly with their hands, in response to games as choreographic scripts and it is through this dance that they derive the pleasures and frustrations of form" p7.
This perspective leads to a very interesting discussion of the physical actions of the video game player and the rhythms of play.
In arguing his case Kirkpatrick draws on, amongst others, video game theorists Aarseth, Juul and Bogost and the philosopher Badiou. The book challenges cultural and media studies' focus on interpretation and meaning in games. Kirkpatrick describes these as "imposing alien principles of meaning making" (p6) on the video game experience. As someone who comes from a media studies background, I found these arguments both confronting and thought-provoking. Although I didn't agree with all Kirkpatrick's arguments, for me, this book makes an important contribution to the field of video game studies and is well worth careful consideration.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A startlingly original book on videogames 2 Jun 2014
By Wise Lobster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I would say that have read quite a lot of books on computer games, and this is certainly the most theoretically original, ambitious, and interesting one that I have come across. This book is an extremely rich vein of ideas that incorporates a range of theorists - most prominently Rancière, Badiou, Adorno, Benjamin, and Foucault - in making an argument about the distinctiveness of videogames.

The author thinks that the hegemonic linguistic or semiotic models of understanding and interpretation cannot be satisfactorily applied to videogames. Instead, he advocates an aesthetic approach, which foregrounds the experience of their ‘form’, or ‘formal structure’. ‘Form’ is a tricky term to explain, but it is something like a precondition to the coherence of a whole experience. It is the thread that runs through the entire book, and amounts to an attempt to deal with how the feel of videogame experiences can make sense to us in a way that I have not seen elsewhere. The way in which this form is unlocked is through the physical actions and behaviours of the player, which he likens to a dance (using the hands) that reveals the properties of the game as an object in accordance with a prior choreography (drawing upon Alain Badiou).

The book is also notably ambitious in its attempt to get beyond the traditional cultural and media studies’ concern of submerging the account of the emergence of videogames (a new Badiousian ‘event’) merely in the story of its social and historical context. It situates videogames in relation to a contemporary ‘structure of feeling’ (Raymond Williams), or rhythm. Videogames’ refusal of meaning, or excess of meaning, is another continuous thread that explains their relation to a contemporary ‘neo-baroque’ (Angela Ndalianis) as well as a prevalent ‘cynicism’ (Peter Sloterdijk). I would recommend this book if you are interested in videogames, meaning, aesthetics, or contemporary experience.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Serious Book on Game Aesthetics 16 May 2014
By Gunnar - Published on Amazon.com
Many attempts have been done to attach the booming video game phenomenon to serious aesthetic discussion. By not focusing on graphics, cutscenes, and narratives but on that what we actually do when we play -- use our fingers -- ATVG becomes so far perhaps the most important single author book devoted to the aesthetic questions concerning video games.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wow, completely discredited over the course of a single paragraph 25 April 2014
By Emilie - Published on Amazon.com
Someone who appeals to evolutionary psychology in a discussion of aesthetics while completely neglecting to discuss the social context which constructs and informs aesthetic choices shouldn't write about aesthetics. On top of that, his scope is incredibly limited and he cherrypicks games which support his flimsy and naive arguments rather than looking at tendencies across games as a whole. Comes across like an old, suggestible fool watching his grandson play Xbox wrote this.
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