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Playing with Virtuality

Theories and Methods of Computer Game Studies


Edited By Benjamin Bigl and Sebastian Stoppe

Computer games have fascinated millions of users for more than 30 years. Today, they constitute the strongest sector in the media-entertainment industry and are part of the experience of digital daily life. Computer Game Studies require a deep understanding of functional and communicational mechanisms of games that support the player’s immersion in virtual worlds. Unfortunately, the discussion and the academic research about usage and effects of computer games mostly takes place isolated within different scientific contexts with various theoretical and methodological approaches. Therefore, this anthology combines the perspectives of Media Studies, Game Studies, and Communication Studies, and presents their findings in an interdisciplinary approach.


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Since the early 1970s the academic discourse about computer games is determined by different perspectives. The first one is situated in the broad field of media studies and is oriented in a more general way about the media itself. The second one is taken by the Game Studies. Generally spoken, the Game Studies try to establish an academic area which can fulfill the special needs of computer games. However, it must be noted ahead that it is the claim of the present book to embed both of these perspectives. Some preliminary considerations are needed to outline the current development in the field. Especially because the Game Studies themselves were conducted hitherto in two slightly different traditions. First, Narratology tries to approach the subject’s area by determining the narrative paradigms within the medium and its structure. It recurs on an “objective framework (story and discourse, dramatic design of the game) beyond its use” (Schuhmacher & Korbel, 2010: 57). Second, in contrast, Ludology refers to the game play which includes rules, game mechanics and the application of these rules (ibid.). Therefore both approaches try to describe and to explain the features, the fascination and the function of computer games in a particular view. They do this either “through their narrative or representational strategies” (Apperley, 2006: 8) or with models or typologies of players or games. Nevertheless, both traditions try to decrypt the digital code of the game to make the quality of the game-experience understandable also for non-players. We also have to notice...

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