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Literary Gaming

Literary Gaming

Astrid Ensslin
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Literary Gaming
    Book Description:

    In this book, Astrid Ensslin examines literary videogames -- hybrid digital artifacts that have elements of both games and literature, combining the ludic and the literary. These works can be considered verbal art in the broadest sense (in that language plays a significant part in their aesthetic appeal); they draw on game mechanics; and they are digital-born, dependent on a digital medium (unlike, for example, conventional books read on e-readers). They employ narrative, dramatic, and poetic techniques in order to explore the affordances and limitations of ludic structures and processes, and they are designed to make players reflect on conventional game characteristics. Ensslin approaches these hybrid works as a new form of experimental literary art that requires novel ways of playing and reading. She proposes a systematic method for analyzing literary-ludic (L-L) texts that takes into account the analytic concerns of both literary stylistics and ludology.After establishing the theoretical underpinnings of her proposal, Ensslin introduces the L-L spectrum as an analytical framework for literary games. Based on the phenomenological distinction between deep and hyper attention, the L-L spectrum charts a work's relative emphases on reading and gameplay. Ensslin applies this analytical toolkit to close readings of selected works, moving from the predominantly literary to the primarily ludic, from online hypermedia fiction to Flash fiction to interactive fiction to poetry games to a highly designed literary "auteur" game. Finally, she considers her innovative analytical methodology in the context of contemporary ludology, media studies, and literary discourse analysis.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32203-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book is about literary gaming—a specific form of digital gameplay that happens when we interact with digital artifacts that combine so-called ludic (from Latinludus: game or play) and literary (from Latinlittera: alphabetic letter, or plurallitterae: piece of writing) elements. In other words, it looks at a hybrid subgroup of creative media that has bothreaderlyandplayerlycharacteristics. Or, as you might say in more straightforward terms, this book is about the creative interface between digital books that can be played and digital games that can be read, and it suggests ways of combining both...

  5. I Theory and Methodology

    • 2 Playing with Rather Than by Rules
      (pp. 19-36)

      This chapter aims to provide the theoretical foundation for this book. It outlines some core theories of playfulness and traces the development of philosophical thought on play and games from eighteenth-century German idealism to the present day. It examines a range of aesthetic and theoretical movements and schools since the nineteenth century that have play (with forms, norms, and conventions) at their core and use it more or less politically to innovate, protest, or revolutionize institutionalized forms of art. Among these movements are modernism, the historical avant-gardes, theSituationists, and various elements of structuralism and poststructuralism.

      In this chapter I...

    • 3 Between Ludicity and Literariness
      (pp. 37-54)

      This chapter follows on from my earlier research into computer games as experimental literature (Ensslin 2012a), in which I have drawn up a tentative typology, or rather textual spectrum, of digital ludoliterary artifacts. Here I shall further develop and elaborate this spectrum and illustrate it with examples of the wide range of artifacts under investigation.

      With games studies established as an academic discipline, scholarly debate has moved from general, or generic, theories about digital games and gaming to a second wave of research dealing with more specific ludological and analytical concerns, game genres, and individual games and franchises (see also...

  6. II Analyses

    • 4 “The Pen Is Your Weapon of Choice”: Ludic Hypertext Literature and the Play with the Reader
      (pp. 57-72)

      This first analytical chapter examines a specific type of digital literature which has often been described as “play(ful)” (e.g., Fauth 1995; Morgan and Andrews 1999; Millard et al. 2005) and/or (being like) a “game” (e.g., Fauth 1995; Luce-Kapler and Dobson 2005; Rustad 2009; Bell 2010). Literary, or “serious” hypertext, as it is often called, is one of the earliest genres of digital writing. Its beginnings date back to the late 1980s, when media-savvy writers and scholars turned their attention to burgeoning home computer technologies and started exploring how and to what degree hypertextuality might be exploited for writerly and readerly...

    • 5 “Love Poem or Break Up Note?” Ludic Hypermedia Fiction and Loss of Grasp
      (pp. 73-88)

      Three of the four hypertexts analyzed in the previous chapter (Figurski, Patchwork Girl,andClues) are digital fictions, a large and diversified genre of digital literature that has narrative structures at its core. It is therefore akin to other forms of digital narrative, such as narrative videogames, interactive television, and digital (pictorial) storytelling.¹ That said, digital fiction is a type of verbal (rather than audiovisual) narrative art and supplements its linguistic features with a wide range of multimodal, kinetic, and ergodic elements. In this chapter we examine a specific type of digital fiction that uses the affordances of hypermedia programming...

    • 6 “Your Innocence Drifts Away”: Antiludicity and Ludic Mechanics in The Princess Murderer
      (pp. 89-104)

      Moving further along the literary-ludic continuum, this chapter deals with a second type of ludic hypermedia literature as outlined in chapters 3 and 5: it examines texts that implement actual ludic mechanics, such as game interface elements or minigames. More specifically, I shall closeread a digital fiction that not only implements ludic mechanics but indeed thematizes and problematizes default lusory attitudes and gamer behavior.The [somewhat disturbing but highly improbable] Princess Murderer(TPM) by geniwate and Deena Larsen (2003) has a distinctly antiludic agenda that it implements through both the digital narrative it tells and its technological and semiotic design....

    • 7 Of Windsighs and Wayfaring: Blue Lacuna, an Epic Interactive Fiction
      (pp. 105-122)

      In the previous chapter, we saw how ludic-mechanic elements can operate in digital fictions to a greater or lesser extent without diminishing their readerly agenda. Conversely, this chapter will venture further into ludic territory and focus on perhaps the most hybrid of all literary-ludic genres in the digital sphere. Interactive fictions consist almost exclusively of text in the sense of typescript, and they “must succeed as literature and as game at once to be effective” (Montfort and Moulthrop 2003, 1). In other words, they functionalize close reading in such a way as to make textual understanding a prerequisite of successful...

    • 8 The Paradox of Poetic Gaming: evidence of everything exploding
      (pp. 123-140)

      So far in this book we have dealt with instances of literary gaming that were either primarily readerly in design or—as we have seen in the case of IF—difficult to define as either game or narrative fiction. This chapter, by contrast, examines digital media that are made and referred to as games, but whose playable material is linguistic or rather poetic in nature: poetic (or poetry) games are a type of computer game that has an explicit or implicit poetic agenda without sacrificing or diminishing the phenomenological gameness that lies at its core. “Poetic” here has to be...

    • 9 From Paidia to Ludus: The Path, a Literary Auteur Game
      (pp. 141-160)

      With my analysis of poetry games in the previous chapter, we have firmly entered videogame territory and started moving toward the ludic end of the literary-ludic spectrum. As I mentioned previously, this area is far less abundantly populated with artifacts than the literary half of the spectrum. Arguably, this is related to the fact that there are currently far more examples of literary play than of literary games, both in print and electronically. My archival research for this book has found a rather limited number of literary e-games that truly merit the label and haven’t already been mentioned in this...

    • 10 Conclusion
      (pp. 161-164)

      This book has introduced literary gaming as a new object of digital media study, one that is relevant to ludologists and literary scholars alike, and one that might cause the disciplines of literary and game studies to enter into a more synergetic and collaborative relationship than has been possible so far. The body of texts that fall under literary gaming is growing rapidly and becoming increasingly diverse. It now ranges from literary texts driven mostly by cognitive and ergodic ludicity to literary games proper, which exhibit various forms of ludic mechanics. A principal aim of this book was to show...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 165-172)
  8. References
    (pp. 173-192)
  9. Glossary
    (pp. 193-200)
  10. Index
    (pp. 201-206)