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Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism Hardcover – 13 Apr 2006


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"Bogost challenges humanists and technologists to pay attention to one another, something they desperately need to do as computation accelerates us into the red zones of widespread virtual reality. This book gives us what we need to meet that challenge: a general theory for understanding creativity under computation, one that will apply increasingly to all creativity in the future. Not only that, but we get an outstanding theory of videogame criticism in the mix as well. Highly recommended."--Edward Castronova, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University, author of *Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games*

About the Author

Ian Bogost is Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC, and the coauthor of Newsgames: Journalism at Play (MIT Press, 2010).


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To unpack the relationships between criticism and computation, I will rely on the notion of unit operations. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9a1cf408) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b633fcc) out of 5 stars Criticism and Computation 4 Sept. 2008
By lacanthropy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Bogost's begins with a promising venture into the video game territory. This time we are promised that video games are distinguished from books and films, and that the "ludology" of video games is recognized as an independent field. Bogost uses philosophy in order to accomplish this mission. Although when it comes to critical arguments, Bogost's approach is mainly Badiousian, he sets forth a rich array of classical and contemporary philosophies, from Plato to Spinoza, Deleuze, and Harman. I have this feeling that at some point Bogost emphasizes too much on the narrative and cultural aspects of video games and therefore, his project falls into the same category of mainstream cultural critiques of video games. But there are sections which penetrate right into the structure of games and their architecture. In these sections, Bogost uses a heavy deal of Badiou's axiomatic set theory to back up his theory of unit operations. This is not essentially a negative point but he could develop a genuine theory of his own and eliminate the risk of associating video games with philosophy which for the most part has the same restricting role of literature (the narrative) and cinema (the filmic) for video games. Overall, Unit Operations is a rich and an insightful book, but falls short in some of its ambitions.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8bb41cfc) out of 5 stars Terrifyingly Erudite, Immensely Useful 9 July 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is how interdisciplinarity is done: Bogost weaves Madame Bovary, Grand Theft Auto, cellular automata and Deleuze together into a powerful theory cutting through the my-piece-of-the-elephant scholarship which dominates games studies.

If you have a particular need to feel uncultured and slow witted, this is definitely a 5 star recommendation: it's terrifyingly erudite while being, if not a stroll in the park, at least a manageable uphill hike through difficult terrain.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b8e0b34) out of 5 stars Too much jargon 13 April 2015
By Song Z. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first chapter is full of philosophical jargon. I understand that the author attempts to pave the way to his own method called 'unit analysis' through his interpretation and analysis of the preceding philosophers' theories.However, as a reader without a philosophical background, I find it extremely hard to figure out what those philosophers are talking about. They seems to just take some conceptions out of nowhere and, without a clear definition of what such conceptions are, begin to make up connections between them. This is really annoying. Furthermore, it inevitably impairs the credibility of the author's own theory. And it is reasonable to believe that this is the case for most readers who don't know too much about philosophy.
19 of 43 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8bb4cd5c) out of 5 stars Criticism Reloaded 29 Mar. 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unit Operations is every bit as brilliant - and damn fun a read - as those of us lucky enough to've had early glimpses at Bogost's project had hoped.

It's tempting to write a review of this book in the form of a treatment for a mega-million-dollar console game, and that temptation seems to me no accident: this book will change the way you pay attention to ALL, in both senses of the word, coded systems you yourself use.

The backstory of the book's authoring is itself almost too Hollywood (or new Hollywood, since EA, Blizzard, and LucasArts are the MGM, WB, and Disney of our era): author was a Chief Technology Officer for an A-list interactive marketing agency in L.A.; author leaves the biz to become a professor working on recombining the DNA (and languages and ontologies) of software development with the DNA (and languages and ontologies) of literary and cultural criticism; his mutant creation is now on the loose.

Your mission, reader, is to...

To what? Because in the game of Unit Operations, the first-person shooter is transformed into something of an Eleatic archer: where before our attention would just race to the next target, Unit Operations teaches us new ways to listen to the Bow.

The open-source software movement has from its beginning been particularly well-attuned to games with written language's units of operation. Unit Operations provides a long-awaited common ground for both technological and literary culture.

Not since first reading Geertz' Interpretation of Cultures have I had the sense of encountering so path-breaking a work in the level of its critical innovation and the clarity of its readings.
4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b634b58) out of 5 stars Slightly misleading 24 Jun. 2011
By Labouts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book isn't what it sounds like at first glance. It is a view of video games from a literary criticism perceptive. Don't buy this if your interested in game design if you don't also have a passion for literary criticism.
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