Videogame as a language, why not? Part One.

“The narrative and formal canon transmits not only past subjective experience and affection but also the dynamics and power to govern contemporary reality”. (Einstein via Quigley. 2007).

‘The Game FAVR’  FAVR: A Framework for the Analysis of Visual Representation in Video Games (2015) is a report researching the language of videogame. The aim was to review and formulate a language to enable an academic discourse for the medium. It was developed due to ‘a need to create a unified framework to analyze videogame images … that would account for the transformative and historical nature [of videogame].’ (Arsenault 2015). The term historical is used in relation to videogame development from an art historical context, in particular painting. The term transformative is referencing the potential of videogame to enable change. The paper suggests that currently videogame is discussed through an amalgam of borrowed terminology from art history, film and animation. The authors are concerned with creating and presenting a usable toolkit, a ‘unified framework of the ergodic animage, the rule-based and interaction-driven part of visual representation in video games.’  (Arsenault 2015). They have a structured methodology and aim to locate their research within the analytical game spaces first proposed by Micheal Nitsche in 2003. 

Game Spaces. M. Nitsche’s five analytical planes. (Nitsche 2003. p.15). Source:

In Nitsche’s model ‘Players … engage in a constant dance between abstract problem-solving and partial suspension of disbelief by deciphering visual information, narrative propositions and game mechanics’. (Arsenault 2015).

Arsenault et al. (2015). ‘The Game FAVR: A Framework for the Analysis of Visual Representation in Video Games’. [online]. Loading… The Journal, 9.14.

The Game FAVR researchers used Nitche’s model as a foundation from which to define their own set of game spaces or planes. In this diagram FICTION is game narrative, RULES the game mechanics and VISUAL MEDIATION the decoding of visual information presented by the game. All three planes together form the plane of intelligibility, or how all parts combine to enable the player to play the game. The paper exposes a linguistic structure of videogame, categorising it into internal and external occularizations. In terms of composition the authors categorise the space of videogame as ‘1. tangible space, 2. intangible space and 3. negative space’. (Arsenault 2015). In short, the document makes the case for videogame as language and so develops a methodology that can be used for critical analysis of videogame in terms of image, space, constraints and potential.

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