I am pleased to announce that another essay on videogames, “Metaproceduralism: The Stanley Parable and the Legacies of Postmodern Metafiction,” just appeared in Wide Screen. The essay is part of a special issue on videogame adaptation, edited by Kevin M. Flanagan, and includes articles by Jedd Hakimi, Cameron Kunzelman, Kyle Meikle, Bobby Schweizer, and Kalervo Sinervo. It’s also open access, so anyone can read it.
Abstract: Most critics of contemporary literature have reached a consensus that what was once called “postmodernism” is over and that its signature modes—metafiction and irony—are on the wane. This is not the case, however, with videogames. In recent years, a number of self-reflexive games have appeared, exemplified by Davey Wreden’s The Stanley Parable(2013), an ironic game about games. When self-awareness migrates form print to screen, however, something happens. If metafiction can be characterized by how it draws attention to its materiality—the artificiality of language and the construction involved in acts of representation—The Stanley Parable draws attention to the digital, procedural materiality of videogames. Following the work of Alexander R. Galloway and Ian Bogost, I argue that the self-reflexivity of The Stanley Parable is best understood in terms of action and procedure, as metaproceduralism. This essay explores the legacies of United States metafiction in videogames, suggesting that though postmodernism might be over, its lessons are important to remember for confronting the complex digital realities of the twenty-first century. If irony may be ebbing in fiction, it has found a vital and necessary home in videogames and we underestimate its power to challenge the informatic, algorithmic logic of cultural production in the digital age to our detriment.
I have just published a review of Ian Bogost’s How to Talk about Videogames (2015),“The Function of Videogame Criticism,” in The b2 Review. The review signals a slightly new direction in my work–toward game studies–and will be the first of three pieces of videogame criticism that will appear in 2016. I have been teaching games for the past few years, so I am excited to be writing about them now.
With the aid of a Course Development Grant from the Office of Undergraduate Studies, this past year I had the chance to develop a new course at the University of Pittsburgh, ENGLIT 1002 Critical Game Studies. As I may not likely get to teach this course anytime soon, I thought I would share the syllabus.
The course’s reading includes Tom Bissel’s Extra Lives (2010), Alexander R. Galloway’s Gaming (2006), Jesper Juul’s The Art of Failure (2013), McKenzie Wark’s Gamer Theory (2007), and many interesting critical essays on play, narratology v. ludology, gender, empire, countergaming, and other related concerns. The majority of games on the syllabus are quite recent, and indie games in particular dominate, including (but not limited to): Between (2008), Braid (2008), Depression Quest (2013), Goat Simulator (2014), Papers, Please (2014), Sunset (2015), and The Stanley Parable (2013).
It’s that time of year when I’m busy busy with all sorts of things. Combined with the miserable weather (it got down to -11° Fahrenheit in Pittsburgh last night), some links have been piling up.
Environment, Science, International, Disaster
Rebecca Solnit, “The Age of Capitalism Is Over.”
Noam Chomsky, “The World of Our Grandchildren.”
Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants.”
Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, “Climate Hacking Is Barking Mad.”
Sam Kriss, “Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space.”
Cari Romm, “How Three People Can Make a Baby.”
Alan Taylor, “What Record-Breaking Snow Really Looks Like.”
As part of the Digital Brown Bag Series, a series of talks on various ways one might incorporate digital tools into their teaching and scholarship, tomorrow, November 14, from 12:00 – 1:00, I am giving a presentation on “Immersive Pedagogy: Teaching Videogames In and Out of the Classroom” at the University of Pittsburgh in room 435 of the Cathedral of Learning. Here’s a brief description of what I will be addressing:
Teaching videogames present a number of pedagogical challenges and possibilities that are not involved with teaching more traditional media objects. Many things can go wrong when teaching videogames: they can (and do) frequently break down or are incompatible with certain machines; they are hardware dependent, thus limiting the games that can be included in a syllabus; they are actionable rather than passive—they need to be played—meaning that students with less familiarity or skill with videogames can struggle. But videogames also open up a number of pedagogical avenues that are unavailable to other media: they can be radically immersive, collective, and social, reconfiguring the classroom into a virtual space that can extend significantly beyond the physical boundaries of traditional instruction; they provide new ways of looking at and interacting with media objects in the classroom, promoting new pedagogical methods of critical engagement; and they are, inevitably, fun, inviting students to participate in what I call “critical play.” This presentation will discuss some of the logistical, critical, and theoretical challenges presented by teaching videogames, how these challenges might be addressed, and some exciting pedagogical possibilities that are opened up by bringing videogames into the classroom. The presentation will conclude with an interactive demonstration of how one particular videogame, The Stanley Parable (Galactic Café, 2013), might be taught. (This talk largely reflects my experiences teaching Narrative and Technology.)