More than a game

More than a game: The computer game as fictional form

Barry Atkins
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt155j5w8
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  • Book Info
    More than a game
    Book Description:

    The first academic work dedicated to the study of computer games in terms of the stories they tell and the manner of their telling. Applies practices of reading texts from literary and cultural studies to consider the computer game as an emerging mode of contemporary storytelling in an accessible, readable manner. Contains detailed discussion of narrative and realism in four of the most significant games of the last decade: 'Tomb Raider', 'Half-Life', 'Close Combat' and 'Sim City'. Recognises the excitement and pleasure that has made the computer game such a massive global phenomenon.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-039-2
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. 1 The computer game as fictional form
    (pp. 1-26)

    The origins of this project can be located in an experience that could not have been further distanced, at the time, from the academic practice and teaching of cultural and literary criticism which usually fills my days: the successful conclusion ofClose Combat II: A Bridge Too Far(1997), a strategic wargame set in the Second World War. In addition to the usual feelings of unease at the amount of potentially productive research time that I had spent in solitary ‘communication’ with the intriguingly named, and necessarily limited, ‘artificial intelligence’ that was produced at the intersection between the game’s designers...

  5. 2 Fantastically real: reading Tomb Raider
    (pp. 27-54)

    The title of this chapter is offered as more than a weak pun, and with a full awareness that it begins with what appears to be a contradiction in terms.Tomb Raideris not, and does not make any claim to be, concerned with the real. Like well-written prose, we may admire its technical achievement, but we do not risk being so taken in by this fiction that we mistake it for fact. Nor does the increasing visual sophistication of the games within the series necessarily amount to an eliding of difference between text and real: the inclusion of ever...

  6. 3 Gritty realism: reading Half-Life
    (pp. 55-85)

    Any notion that game-fictions such asHalf-LifeandTomb Raidermight point, however vaguely, towards the eventual development of an increasingly refined form of computer-based fictional text would appear to be extreme if one were simply to judge them according to the sophistication of the stories that they tell. While this study does not seek to minimise the extent to which fictions such asHalf-Lifeare essentially formulaic, it is how they are told and how they are read that concerns us here far more than the content of their stories. In this sense we are more concerned with the...

  7. 4 Replaying history: reading Close Combat
    (pp. 86-110)

    Of all the game-fictions selected as primary examples in this study,Close Combatis the least likely to be an instantly recognisable brand name even to those who spend their leisure time staring at a computer monitor. Its relative popularity as a games franchise might be indicated by the longevity of a series that had seen five episodes released by the year 2000, but it has hardly become a household name in the same way thatHalf-Life,Tomb Raider, orSimCityhave. Its profile even among other real-time strategy games, itself an extremely popular sub-genre of game-fictions, is relatively slight.¹...

  8. 5 Managing the real: reading SimCity
    (pp. 111-137)

    The focus onSimCityas the final extended example in this study may come as something of a relief for those readers who find the concentration on the representation of violence within the computer game to be either worrying or simply tiresome.SimCitydoes not allow its player to wage war on other cities except in the vaguest of economic terms, opportunities for death or glory are few and far between, and even the request that the military might be allowed to set up a base within the city can be rejected by the more pacifistic player. There is no...

  9. 6 More than a game?
    (pp. 138-156)

    Cyberpunk fiction and cyberculture theorising have no monopoly of interest in the uncomfortable slippage that might accompany the potential for simulation offered by computer games. The three-way intersection between simulation, game and real, in particular, has exercised different constituencies in different ways. For the York-shire Flight Centre attempting to drum up custom for their ex-Royal Air Force F4 Phantom jet fighter simulator the stridency of their objection to any possible confusion is communicated through the use of emboldened block capitals. They really have a point they want to make. The distinction between simulation and game screams off the page – this...

  10. Glossary of game-specific terms
    (pp. 157-159)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 160-166)
  12. Index
    (pp. 167-170)