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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Are Video Game Narratives Postmodern?

Monday, May 13, 2013

I have a new article out in the Alluvium journal. In "Are Video Game Narratives Postmodern?" I ask about the best way to categorise video games amid the hangover of the postmodern period. Are games naturally postmodern narratives because they develop interactively? Or does a label, such as "postmodern," lose its usefulness when it applies across such a broad spectrum of activities and cultural products?

I've noticed increasingly that cultural critics, who are usually very discerning when it comes to distinguishing realism from modernism in literature, for example, or minimalism from expressionism in the visual arts, are happy to lump games together as examples of postmodern phenomena simply because game narratives happen to be interactive and unpredictable. In this article, I challenge this presumption, and suggest that there is no one way to box games generically. Indeed, to my mind even "games" is an misleading description of the various types of activity that might come under this rubric, from a sports simulation to a puzzle game to a narratively driven representation.

This article has its origins in this blog post on gaming and literary genres, which demonstrates statistically how hard it is to label games according to one particular theory. The unique thing about games is that the medium and mechanism of representation determines the message to a very great extent. A game which is allegedly "postmodern," or "realist," or "minimalist," or whatever other aesthetic label we may want to transport from fields such as art and literature, may actually be so due to the technical platform on which a game runs: no ZX Spectrum game could ever be much other than minimalist.

Anyway, I start to digress into other fields of enquiry, so for now, head over to Alluvium and read the article in its entirety. As ever, many thanks to Caroline Edwards for editing and glossing with some well-chosen pictures, to Martin Eve as online editor, and to all those who have posted kind early comments on my Twitter feed this afternoon.

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Posted by Alistair at 6:26 pm


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