Theme 6: Intelligibility in video games

Part of:
The semiotics of Video Games

How can we make sense of a video game? In his essay, Manic Miner under the Shadow of the Colussus: a Semiotic Analysis of the Spatial Dimension in Platform Video Games, Joaquin Siabra-Fraile argues that it is thanks to a “pragmatic net of objects”. What can be done with objects of a video game determines the logical space of actions. The regularity of that logical space, or system, enables meaning. Immersion is the player’s acceptance of that net of logical conditions; it is the only way for him to make sense of the goal and complete the video game.

The real-time audio/video Mountain (2009), made by the artist duo Depart for their Chukwa’s Approach performance, feels like a video game. Time is counted and flying objects are targeted. The comparison with video games might be a stretch, but they both share an obsession with targeting. This is the cognitive process that most video games use to engage players with the objects of the game.

The Chukwa’s Approach 1 – The Mountain, artist duo Depart, 2009

The Carmageddon data-bending (2005) by Tim Drage (Cementimental) is a journey to chaos, where objectification and the pragmatic net of objects do not exist any more  The machinima messes with the objects of the Carmageddon video game, “the player car is mutated into a jagged mass of mangled polygons which fill almost the whole screen, and becomes a moving virtual abstract sculpture.” The experiment is accompanied by the harsh noise of Cementimental, and the combination gives us a feel of what virtual worlds could look like if their creators did not restrict game representations to what we humans can apprehend.

Carmageddon data-bending, Tim Drage (Cementimental), 2005

Are pragmatic nets of objects the only conditions of intelligibility in video games? What else do you need to make sense of a game?

Next theme: Rules in video games

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