A Dream of Embodied Experience: On Ian Bogost, Epistemological Gatekeeping, and the Holodeck

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3 Responses

  1. Gimlet Gamer says:

    the defensiveness in response to Bogost’s article and the attempt to yoke progressive politics against it with words like “patriarchy” are remarkable. What you and all the critics fail to do is to define “narrative” any more than Bogost did or tried to. Or to say why it’s remotely important. At one level, Bogost’s provocation was clearly meant to suggest that games are their own medium and don’t need to rely on other media for validity, so from that perspective you are pushing back against what one would think would be a position you might champion.

    your claim that Bogost owes Murray a debt is bizarre. Murray did not invent the holodeck and did not invent the idea of using it in discussions of VR or games; if anything, Star Trek: TNG is the source for the idea. An article in The Atlantic is not meant to be scholarship and does not need to cite every . I’m not clear that Bogost’s argument derives from Murray’s at all (they teach at the same school, too, so it’s likely Bogost would be sensitive to crediting Murray with concepts she originated). Further, Murray is arguing something that cuts against your point, which is that narrative itself is a kind of virtual play space that encompasses many different media, an argument which has merits IMO but suggests that what she means by “narrative” is not what we ordinarily mean by it, a connected linear story featuring one or more characters.

    Can videogames do story in this sense? No doubt. But why gamers should be defensive when someone points out that most gameplay is very different from the experience of reading a book or watching a movie is really beyond me. You are taking it as negative, when I take it the opposite way. As an avid gamer, I have to say that I rarely play games for the stories they offer, and that when I want to experience a story I read a book or watch a movie. And many games that attempt to do story do not do it anywhere near as well as books and movies, and seem to be stretching to prove themselves in some way rather than embracing the fact that they are games. This is clearly Bogost’s point. What in the world is so wrong with that?

  2. Alisha Karabinus says:

    I think you make some good points here – there is a lack of definitions of narrative, story, and plot in games (Battey gets into this in the article linked, which is part of why we linked it), but no matter how most scholarship slices it, we still end up comparing games to other narrative forms, and while there’s overlap and comparisons can be made, games need their own measures and definitions. It’s something I think about often, and one of the reasons I like working with Bianca, as she comes from a lit background and I am working in rhetoric. We need multiple perspectives, because not only are games unique forms, how players enter games adds new dimensions for consideration, I think – which is why the original Bogost piece falls short for me. For the good points it does make, it still only reflects one way of considering games.

    As for the Murray, the Atlantic may not be a scholarly outlet, but Bogost is a scholar and Murray is his colleague. I do think he has a responsibility to her work and to ethical public scholarship.

  3. David Griff says:

    Brilliant article :).

    For me the Bogost argument just seems a bit stale. I think there is value in asserting some level of independence for video games as a medium but ultimately Bogost doesn’t really manage to claim it. If he is trying this is undermined by the ubiquity of his argument across art forms. People have long argued, for example, that the story in an opera or a ballet is irrelevant and that one should focus purely on the beauty of form and music. Or, that one should not look for meaning in painting and instead focus purely on technique. Additionally art-forms that insist upon narrative (soap operas, for example, and I would say video games themselves) are regularly denigrated as less worthy than art-forms for which it is easier to suppress content.

    Ultimately it is a call to elevate the art-form out of the dirt of material lives. But, as Pierre Bordieu points out, this kind of distance, this denial of content, narrative and immersion is only easily accessible to the relatively powerful. And beyond that it is a tool used against the working class. The cultivation of a detached appreciation of form to the exclusion of content as the only way to really do(/consume) art prevents access by people who do not have the luxury of ignoring content, of ignoring politics. It prevents access by people who are prevented from thinking of themselves as blank slates.