FPS Abstraction

An abstract I submitted last year to a call for contributions for a book on First Person Shooter (FPS) games (with the awesome title: Guns, Grenades, and Grunts: The First-Person Shooter) has been accepted for further peer-review. Now I have to get cracking and write the chapter. Here is the abstract:

Creativity, Contagion and Control: Affect in Online Multiplayer First Person Shooter Games

The FPS genre attracts attention to the degrees of ‘realism’, ‘interactivity’ and ‘immersion’ afforded to the player. Such terms, however, only communicate part of the FPS experience and are not adequate in fully accounting for the social and political scope of gamer culture. To be sure, the subjective view has served gamers well: a combination of diegetic and non-diegetic visual information and the appropriation of the screen language of cinema (Galloway, 2006), coupled with ever increasing polygon counts, photo realistic rendering and physical simulation result in a focus on the events represented on and by the screen. The discourse of ‘realism’ encourages the concern over ‘effects’ that pervades the news media, obliging the top-tier FPS games’ courting of controversy, but moral panics are the result of media, no longer mediating, but amplifying and modulating the negative affective dimensions of the genre, leading to louder calls for stronger State-enforced regulation of games content.

Game scholars have begun to map out new theoretical ground in a consideration of the role of  games ‘affects’, increasing the understanding of games as ‘real’ events that involve visceral and embodied experiences. These accounts, including Carr (2003, 2006), Shinkle (2005), and Shaw and Warf (2009) still tend to overstate the degree to which ‘realism’ and ‘immersion’ have a primacy in the experience of FPS games. With attention to Medal of Honor (2010) and Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010), this chapter considers the role of affect in the creative play, marketing and distribution of FPS games for the PC. It provides an analysis of three vectors of affect intersecting in these games.

First is a consideration of the presence and role of creativity in FPS game play: affect, according to Massumi (2002a, 2002b) is what remains of the body’s potential after each or everything a body says or does, it is a remainder of excess, a reserve of creativity. This account of creativity in FPS games is also grounded in the account of Silvan Tomkin’s (1965) affect of interest, which is the precursor for creative action.

Affect contagion, is the second vector to be considered, which involves sympathetic communication through linguistic, mimetic and memetic modes of communication. Contagion is considered in terms of the full spectrum of interaction, and biological capacities within online multiplayer environments: through the cybernetic interface to the dynamics of multiplayer action and the role of the voice in online games.

If affect is the politicisation of potential, then its methods of control are equally politicised and industrialised. Deleuze (1996) extended Foucault’s account of societies of discipline to consider societies of control, and in third vector of affect to be mapped through these FPS games, this chapter considers the games industry new means for control in terms of the affective marketing strategies enabled via digital
distribution.

It seeks to contribute to the understanding of the means for which everyday practices of the gamer, including the formation of gamer personas, have become forms of value-producing labor and characterise the way power functions in the games industry around the play between representation, affect and access.

Carr, D. (2003). “Genre and Affect in Silent Hill and Planescape Torment.” Game Studies 3(2).
Carr, D. (2006). Space, Navigation and Affect. Computer Games Text, Narrative, Play. D. Carr,     K. Buckingham, A. Burn and G. Schott.
Cambridge, Polity Press: 59-71.
Deleuze, G. (1992). “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” October 59(Winter): 3-7.
Galloway, A. R. (2006). Gaming, Essays on Algorithmic Culture. London, University of Minnesota Press.
Massumi, B. (2002a). Parables for the Virtual. Durham, London, Duke University Press.
Massumi, B. (2002b) ‘Navigating Moments: Interview with Brian
Massumi’, Hope: New Philosophies for Change, Annandale Pluto Press (available: http://www.brianmassumi.com/interviews/NAVIGATING%20MOVEMENTS.pdf, accessed
November 15, 2010).
Shaw, I. G. R. and B. Warf (2009). “Worlds of Affect: virtual geographies of video games.”  Environment and Planning A 41(6):
1332-1343.
Shinkle, E. (2005). Feel It, Don’t Think: the significance of Affect in the Study of Digital Games, DiGRA 2005 Conference: Changing
Views – Worlds in Play, Vancouver, Authors and Digital Games Research Association.
Tomkins, S. (1962). Affect, Imagery, Consciousness, Volume 1. New York, Springer Publishing Company.

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