June 24, 2008

Critical Approach to Analyzing Games

Filed under:Theory — Lake Desire @ 12:54 pm

My gaming and academic work have lined up rather nicely. I started this blog in a women’s studies class when I was a junior. At the time, I was in an interdisciplinary program studying science fiction and gender, and that eventually opened up to include race and cyborg theory. All of that provided plenty of blogger fodder for videogame discussions, although looking back I could have written more accessibly in my old posts since for theory to really mean something, it needs to speak folks in the real lives we actually live. I just got so excited when I learned those smarty-pants words, I was giddy to use them.

I study English now, already less than a year away from finishing my master’s degree, and although I’ve written on videogames in some of my classes English studies lacks that personal is political drive that prompts me to blog on media. If anything, I feel like blogging takes time away from my studies. Fuck that! If I can write about videogames in school, what I study can come back around and make an appearance here.

BomberGirl of Girl in the Machine writes an accessible post Musing Over Method in which she uses the theory of new criticism (or perhaps more accurately new historicism) to debunk the “authorial intent” defense of an art. She writes in response to defenses of Resident Evil 5:

Which brings us back to my initial question: What’s a writer / artist / video game designer to do when a critique reveals some important theme in her work that she neither foresaw nor intended? Getting defensive about it definitely won’t help; it’s out there, it’s what it is. Absolutely everyone is prejudiced to some degree, including when it comes to race and sex. It’s my firm belief that a lot of racism and sexism is actually subconscious, molded by our experiences of social conventions throughout our lives, and the first step to overcoming these prejudices is to recognize that they exist. You are not a Horrible, Awful, Terrible person for admitting you’ve done something prejudiced. The point is to see that it’s there, and to do something about it; to fix it, to change how you think; to spread awareness to others.

Theory is a pretty useful approach to analyzing games, and defending critical thinking and debunking passive absorption of media. Especially since gaming is especially not passive in comparison to television/movies or even reading.