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Gamer Theory [Hardcover]

Mckenzie Wark

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Book Description

8 May 2007
Ever get the feeling that life's a game with changing rules and no clear sides, one you are compelled to play yet cannot win? Welcome to gamespace. Gamespace is where and how we live today. It is everywhere and nowhere: the main chance, the best shot, the big leagues, the only game in town. In a world thus configured, McKenzie Wark contends, digital computer games are the emergent cultural form of the times. Where others argue obsessively over violence in games, Wark approaches them as a utopian version of the world in which we actually live. Playing against the machine on a game console, we enjoy the only truly level playing field - where we get ahead on our strengths or not at all. "Gamer Theory" uncovers the significance of games in the gap between the near-perfection of actual games and the highly imperfect gamespace of everyday life in the rat race of free-market society. The book depicts a world becoming an inescapable series of less and less perfect games. This world gives rise to a new persona. In place of the subject or citizen stands the gamer. As all previous such personae had their breviaries and manuals, "Gamer Theory" seeks to offer guidance for thinking within this new character. Neither a strategy guide nor a cheat sheet for improving one's score or skills, the book is instead a primer in thinking about a world made over as a gamespace, recast as an imperfect copy of the game.

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The release of media theorist McKenzie Wark's new book Gamer Theory is many things at once. If you're interested in the growth of a new medium, it's a media academic's major guide to the key issues. If you're games-savvy, you are just as likely to recoil in horror at Wark's analyses. To proclaim that he has simply expanded on his previous work, a hacker manifesto, ignores what gamer theory is--a study in the catastrophe of reading culture. It's an intensely difficult-to-navigate work but ultimately rewarding for those up to the challenge of the game before them. -- Christian Mccrae Realtime Innovative, though-provoking. -- J. A. Saklofske Choice 20071101 A crucial addition to a long history of discussion on gaming and play...This is philosophy constructed as and while the author plays the game (which also might include the academic game). This idea is actualised by Wark's layered breakdown of Gamer Theory into meditations on various digital games like Vice City and SimEarth...It is a distinctive work in that it synthesises aspects from a range of critical discourses that might otherwise have no interest in gaming and play, largely because, as Wark writes: "Games are our contemporaries, the form in which the present can be felt and, in being felt, thought through." -- Terrence Maybury Media International Australia 20080201

About the Author

McKenzie Wark is Associate Professor of Cultural and Media Studies at Lang College and the New School for Social Research. He is the author of A Hacker Manifesto (978-0-674-01543-2 - GBP 14.95 - Hbk).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
30 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Abstract, meandering, out of touch 7 Jan 2011
By kyle karthauser - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is light on both theory and gaming. There are plenty of references TO theory, and Wark has the nebulously elliptical "the-form-is-the-content" style down pretty pat, but being an avid gamer of 20+ years and a working background in English theory did not prepare me for this book. I'm not sure what would, really. It's not really worth anyone's time to go into the book in-depth, but here are the most puzzling/frustrating aspects of the book:

Wark speaks of a "military entertainment complex" behind the ever expanding reach of video gaming in mainstream culture. He either actually believes this, or uses this phrase in the casually aloof post-structuralist fashion of (I assume) his idols. While the US Army has put out a few games in the last decade, conflating the "military industrial complex" with the video game industry (and its concurrent effect on pop culture) is laziness bordering on absurdity.

Sentences such as: "If history is an endless list of things that should not have happened, boredom is what refuses not to happen," "What the game highlights is a logistics of targeting, an economy of order against time--the battle of alternating between merger with, and separation from, the other," and "The realm of the not-game is the domain in which the gamer cannot act as a gamer."

There are plenty of charts and "illustrations" Wark cobbles together to make his point clearer. These aren't to be missed.

If you're interested in theory and how it can appear to sound as though it applies to a topic, read this book. If you're interested in video games and/or constructive uses of theory, don't.
10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ludic and Lucid 30 Mar 2009
By S. Dowdle - Published on
I picked this book up through a series of highly fortunate events, and have not regretted in the least the purchase. I agree in part with another reviewer who said that you have to read the book at least twice to understand it: That is not a down side to the book at all.

Wark's understanding of what gaming can and should be is wonderfully expressed. The ideas are complex, accessible, and continuously thought-provoking. I shared excerpts and themes from it to my high school video game class, and though they didn't catch everything, they understood a lot. I wish there were more than just five stars I could give to this book.

It should be noted, however, that there is definitely a lot of theory in this book (which makes sense, given the title). It requires thought to go along with it--just like any good game.
2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gamer Theory 18 Jun 2008
By James Donohue - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It was very good book that kept me reading through every chapter with every intent being to finish it. It's a quick read and I loved not only it's game references but also the other pop culture references that it brings up with simplicity. It had simplicity in it's complexity. The only bad thing I can think of is that it's hard to truly understand unless if you have read it at least twice.
4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gamer Theory Class 27 Jun 2008
By Andres Jaquez Garcia - Published on
I am working on a gamer theory class at the university i work for and this book is simple awesome, funny, insightful and very educative. I think this book is one of the most imppresive philosphical analysis of games. I luv it!
1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prescient 30 Aug 2010
By JR - Published on
Wark is a skilled dissector of popular culture. His investigation, clear-sighted yet revelatory, is destined to be a classic of an emerging critical landscape.
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