Putting the "Video" Back in Video Games: Opportunities and Challenges for Visual Studies Approaches to Video Game Analysis
Doctor of Philosophy
Media, Art, and Text
I argue for the application of visual studies in video game analysis. This approach presents opportunities for the intersectional analysis of video game visuals as games are brought into dialogue with other visual media like film and painting. This approach also presents challenges due to ontological distinctions between different media as well as due to academic divisions regarding the study of different art and media objects. Despite the challenges presented, a visual studies approach is particularly useful as a critical window into contemporary visual culture at large.
I outline the fields of game studies and visual studies, marking their distinctions as well as the areas in which they overlap. I provide examples of visual studies approaches to video game analysis through an emphasis on the visual characteristics of video games. As visual studies is generally considered an interdisciplinary endeavor, I contextualize my analyses through comparisons with other visual media, in particular finding intersections with art history and film studies.
Specifically, I argue that perspective is an integral visual trait of many video games, relating the use of linear perspective and isometric perspective, used in some genres of games, with the development of perspective in painting. I examine various cinematic techniques used in video games and discuss their ideological potency. I also cover ways in which video games subvert conventional norms, such as through self-reflexivity, to open up novel avenues for visual expression.
© Francis A. Longaker
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