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May 03, 2005



I think the question is really whether computer games simply serve designers’ goals, or whether games function somehow apart from -- or regardless of -- designers’ intentions. That is, do computer games -- games in general -- have formal properties determining an objective game aesthetic?

This is basically the position of formalism, which assumes that literature has formal properties determining a literary aesthetic (i. e., "literariness"), regardless of the more “applied” intentions of literature writers. Thus, to consider the “application” of literature in criticism or analysis is to commit an intentional or affective fallacy.

I think computer games -- games in general -- do have formal properties that determine their aesthetic qualities. In brief, the relationship of literature to language (as described by early formalists) is similar to the relationship of games to semiosis (as described by current formalists -- of which there are very, very few).

If you take a non-formalist approach -- if you are a culturalist, for instance -- then you indeed emphasize applications and goals and agendas and trainings of games -- ultimately to the detriment, I believe, of an understanding of the more fundamental forms of games and play. This particular detriment, however, seems to be commonly outweighed by a significantly increased likelihood of getting funded.


There are a number of game-related people here at IU, but I didn't know about Bonk. Here are some others, if you're local and want to meet people:

Robert Appelman

Sasha Barab

Thom Gillespie

Joshua Fairfield is coming to the Law School this fall. (Click on 'F' - it's not in his vita, but he's got characters in DAoC and WoW.)

In Telecommunications, we will have several openings for lecturers and assistant professors next year. I will be pushing for games scholars.


I'd be interested to discover how Bonk and Dennen went about their investigation into virtual worlds. Given their extensive reference to Constance's work, my guess is that this was their route in. They seem to have found quite a lot of stuff, but I don't believe the field is quite as research-impoverished as they make out.


PS: Bonk is a mildly amusing word in the UK.

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