Cinema and Media Studies Video and Computer Games
by
Raiford Guins, Laine Nooney
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0063

Introduction

It almost goes without saying that video games have made a profound impact across culture and society. According to the Electronic Software Association, 67 percent of households within the United States play video and/or computer games. The average video game player is age thirty-four and has been playing games for well over a decade. Gamer demographics have also shifted significantly, as women and girls constitute 40 percent of gamers while, in 2010, 26 percent of gamers are over the age of fifty. Economically, video games have made a huge contribution to the global economy, with US sales estimated at $10.5 billion in 2009. Culturally, video games have radically reshaped our engagements with play, social experience, daily life, art, learning, new media, and our understandings and practices of culture in general. Video games have become part of our everyday life, as we experience them on our phones (42 percent of Americans play games on their mobile devices), online, at home, and increasingly within institutions of higher education. The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a significant growth in the scholarly study of video games, best evidenced by the emergence of game studies across North America, Europe, and Australasia. This growth would certainly give credence to Espen Aarseth’s declaration in Game Studies that 2001 is “year one of Computer Game Studies as an emerging, viable, international, academic field.” Where in the late 20th century a handful of academic texts helped initiate video games as an important research subject within the humanities and social sciences, today numerous universities offer courses on video games as part of their undergraduate curriculum and/or graduate programs; the professional study of games is further supported by peer-reviewed journals, international organizations, book series on major university presses, and through no shortage of academic conferences. Themes prevalent to the teaching and research of video games include, but are not limited to, the following: history; design and aesthetics; criticism and theory; worlds and spaces of games; play and players; identity, industry, business, and labor; civic engagement and ethics; military and the military entertainment complex; education and learning; regulation and law; transmedia and media convergence; hardware and storage media; and preservation.

Textbooks

As with any discipline or field of study, both students and teachers require accessible texts to help facilitate the teaching and learning of video games. Wolf 2001 was the first major text to pursue games as a scholarly medium. However, subsequent publications have produced compelling expansions beyond this book’s formal analysis. Neilsen, et al. 2008 makes a laudable effort at covering most critical subjects within video game studies. Newman 2004, and Dovey and Kennedy 2006 both frame their overviews through the disciplines of media and cultural studies. Raessens and Goldstein 2005 combines useful structure and significant contributors into a classroom-oriented collection of essays. Similarly written for teaching, Mäyrä 2008 begins with general explanation of game studies before moving into more detailed territory, and provides useful pedagogic additions of chapter summaries and student assignments.

  • Dovey, Jon, and Helen Kennedy. Game Cultures: Computer Games as New Media. Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press, 2006.

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    Framed by the fields of cultural studies and media studies, Dovey and Kennedy’s text centers the subject and practice of play as vital for our understandings of games. It invests in both the consumption of games as well as their production with a firm grasp on the political economy of game culture.

  • Mäyrä, Frans. An Introduction to Game Studies: Games in Culture. London: SAGE, 2008.

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    Beginning with a discussion of the field of game studies, the book then moves into chapters on game culture and play to help establish its decadal management of game genres and types from the 1970s to the early 21st century. Mäyrä provides summaries, further readings, and assignments for the book’s readers at the end of each chapter.

  • Neilsen, Simon Egenfeldt, Jonas Heide Smith, and Susana Pajares Tosca. Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction. London: Routledge, 2008.

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    Provides its readers with thematic access points to structure the unwieldy study of games. Chapters are organized by Game Industry, History, Aesthetics, Game and Player Culture, Narrative, Serious Gaming, and the book’s final chapter, on games in the social sphere, is framed by the category of Risk.

  • Newman, James. Videogames. Routledge Introductions to Media and Communications. London: Routledge, 2004.

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    Attempts a thorough introduction to the medium of games in the early 21st century. Subjects include definitions of games, development, players, game design, game narrative and space, the social context of play, and a conclusion nodding toward future possibilities of gaming.

  • Raessens, Joost, and Jeffrey Goldstein, eds. Handbook of Computer Game Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.

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    Designed for classroom use as well as a guide for researchers, Handbook of Computer Game Studies includes wide coverage of the major subjects contributing to the study of games in the mid-21st century. The collection’s longevity and strength reside in the editor’s intelligent structure and the original contributions by the book’s influential contributors.

  • Wolf, Mark J. P., ed. The Medium of the Videogame. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

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    While the balance of this edited collection may appear a little strange (with the bulk of the content provided by the book’s editor), it nonetheless was a seminal publication when it debuted in 2001. It was one of the first books to adopt a scholarly tone in explaining the formal aspects of the video game.

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