Playing the system: videogames/players/characters

Newman, J (2009) 'Playing the system: videogames/players/characters.' Semiotica, 173. pp. 509-524. ISSN 0037-1998

Official URL: 10.1515/SEMI.2009.024


Playing videogames ranks among the most popular activities on the contemporary media menu. However, just what ‘play’ entails remains poorly researched and consequently little is written on the role and subject positions of the player in relation to on-screen characters. This article offers a way of thinking about the player's subject position that moves attention away from identification with on-screen characters and towards the engagement with the videogame as a simulation. In doing so, and drawing on Fuller and Jenkins (Nintendo and new world travel writing: A dialogue, Sage, 1995) and Friedman (Civilization and its discontents: Simulation, subjectivity, and space, New York University Press, 1999) for example, the author suggests that the videogame player engages not with any single element of the system such as a character or ‘avatar,’ but rather apprehends the videogame as a system — a mathematical model. This mode of engagement encourages and requires that the player ‘think like the computer’ in exploring its boundaries, scrutinizing its rules, exploiting its potentialities, and ultimately becoming part of the system itself.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: subjectivity, play, ‘cyborg consciousness’, videogames, characters, computer
Divisions: Bath School of Design
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Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2013 12:46
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2023 19:16
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