“Tomb Raiders & Space Invaders” by King & Krzywinska

The book looks games for four different perspective:

  • gameplay
  • gamespace
  • realism, spectacle, and sensation
  • cultural

I find the first chapter Gameplay and its context most elaborated part. Conceps like gameplay, genre, narrative (or representations), and their relations are explored in detail. They argue, e.g., that the role of genre (and representational level) is to guide players in the game (building their argument from paper by Satu and me among others, so I must mention this;).

Chapter Gamespaces: Exploration and virtual presence in game-words takes look spatial issues of games and players relation to gamespace. They suggest:

The third-person perspective creates a reduces impression of presence in games such as Morrowind and Grand Theft Auto but, as with other examples, this can be beneficial to gameplay. (p. 106.)

Notabley King and Krzywinska aknowledges that psychological sense of presence might not be tighly connected to perspective and there are varius ways to create presence. This might be a case, but this view downplays the role of engagement to game through, e.g., characters, goal status evaluation, and controls, which also can create immediacy to game or game world (see my Goals, affects, and empathy) without sense of presence. Thus, psychological sense of presece might not be (always) needed for engagement; on the other hand, players aways needs to have sense of playing a game to be able to enjoy a game as game.

Chapter Realism, spectacle, sensation deals issues that relates to sensorial aspects of games and their implications (they also touch functional apects like how closely weapons in war games corresponds to they physical counterparts). What quality of grahics and photorealism means in terms of gameplay or playing experience? For example, King and Krzywinska notes, that certain amount of resolution and realism is required for Thief games be possible: players must be able to distiguish shadowed from well lit areas or sounds of different surfaces from each others to minimize risk of being noticed by guards. Spectacle, according to tem, can be found in games in many forms: e.g., spectacular audio-visual effects and environmental spectacles.

Last chapter Social, cultural, and political dimensions was more problematic to me as I do not buy some of premise, which can be seen, e.g., in following:

Lara is clearly designed to arrest the gaze (the heterosexual male gaze in terms of lust, but perhaps soliciting more complex reaction from others). (p. 181.)

Arguments of this kind makes me wonder what Vogue covers are designed to arrest — heterosexual male gaze? Moreover, people get attracted by beaty and rebelled by ugly (what is evaluated as beutiful or ugly vary people by peole but the general princible is newertheless the same) (see, Zeki & Kawabata, 2004).

To conclude, the book contains two very strong chapters and two chapters that are toughtprovoging but some arguments are problematic, most probably because I do not agree with some premises.

King, K., Krzywinska, T. (2006). Tomb raiders & space invaders: Videogame forms & contexts. London: I. B. Tauris.

Zeki, S. & Kawabata, H. (2004). The neural correlates of beauty. Journal of Neurophysiology 91: 1699-1705. At http://www.neuroesthetics.org/research/pdf/neurobeauty.pdf.

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