Like with my posts on the uncanny and the abject, I am here providing the raw text of my description of the fantastic, a literary genre described by Tzvetan Todorov in The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. The fantastic (and Todorov) is extremely straightforward, but this particular theory is actually key to the work that I’ve been doing. As such, I may have spent a bit more time describing it than needs be, but I want to make sure everything is clear (something you can help me with). In any event, here is the text of the final theory being described by my thesis.
As in my last post, I am trying to make sure that my thesis writing is accessible to a wider audience. Since psychoanalytic theories are difficult to grasp without a psychoanalytic background, I am doing my best to distill texts down to meaning. This time, it is for Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject, as described in Powers of Horror. Kristeva can be more difficult to understand than Freud, so I have tried to be redundant in my description of the abject. Although it is not required, the following text will have expected you to have read the previous passage on the uncanny.
Ok, so as promised, I am going to tell you about my experience with Chris Crawford and his book, Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling [CCIS]. I have spent way too much time reading this book and I need to move on to the next one. Also, I really really need to start writing those two papers I need to write this semester! Let me start by saying this: When I bought the book, I didn’t even know who Chris Crawford really was. I knew he was a name in the games industry, but otherwise I knew nothing. I can’t even remember what led me to the book. Maybe someone recommended Crawford, and I looked at his dearth of books on Amazon. Out of them, I would have naturally chosen CCIS, just based upon the title alone. I’ll say right now, it was probably a good and necessary choice, but that doesn’t mean I like every bit of it.
I am probably about to do two books probably a great deal of injustice. I do not mean to, but I feel like I have been a bit lax in some of my reading lately. I have had two books on my radar for a while, bought them about a month ago, and I hadn’t really gotten around to reading them yet. One was Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling by Chris Crawford (no surprise). I’m still working on that one because it is really interesting to me and I want to give more than usual. The other book is Imaginary Games by Chris Bateman. You may have noticed that I also indicated Patterns in Game Design as part of the post title. A few days ago, I was skulking about on Twitter, following conversations back for context, when I came across a book recommendation from Brenda Brathwaite. She mentioned Patterns in Game Design (by Staffanto Bjork) to someone as a must-read book. I casually checked my university library and found we had an electronic copy. I didn’t read it right away, but instead tried to find someplace to buy the book (with no luck as the book appears to be a bit rare). Eventually I got around to reading it in my own way. The injustice I am giving these books is, for the most part, that I did not read every word. In fact, I read only parts that I thought were relevant to my topics. Even still I am going to talk about them anyway.
Or: Why I Can Now Relent on the Magic Circle Topic
So, as if there was some kind of divine justice sweeping in to kill my own argument, Eric Zimmerman made a heartfelt confession last week about the whole magic circle snafu. Eric Zimmerman is the man behind the modern magic circle (Katie Salen is the woman behind it, but Zimmerman makes sure to say that he does not speak for her). Zimmerman has made what is perhaps the most definitive statement about the magic circle that anyone could ever make. And that statement was that he and Katie Salen pretty much made up what they said about the magic circle in Rules of Play:
To be perfectly honest, Katie and I more or less invented the concept, inheriting its use from my work with Frank, cobbling together ideas from Huizinga and Caillois, clarifying key elements that were important for our book, and reframing it in terms of semiotics and design — two disciplines that certainly lie outside the realm of Huizinga’s own scholarly work.
I’ve been a bit quiet lately, but expect that to change once the 5th rolls around. The 5th is the last day of classes for me. I thought I would make a post about what to expect in the upcoming month.
So, in my Games in Culture class, we just read Jesper Juul’s Half-Real, and I fired this tidbit out to Twitter when I finished the book:
Just finished Half-Real by Jesper Juul. Enjoyed the book. Makes me feel ten times less antagonistic towards him.[link]
Now, for those of you who know me and Jesper Juul’s work, you would find that a bit of a strange thing to say. I’ll get to why I would say something like that, but first, a tiny story. You see, I made that statement and went to bed, and it was quietly ignored for a few days (apparently). Then I received the following reply:
@incobalt Do you miss the old antagonism?[link]
So, yesterday I popped Catherine into the 360, pretty much knowing what to expect by playing it. Adult drama with a puzzle game attached. And I played the game for about three hours before I put it away. I might not go back to Catherine for a while, but that’s ok. Three hours was enough for me to really evaluate what I wanted to out of it. This was the nature of the game’s difficulty in relation to its story.
Now, I could go into a rant here about games and story and how story is treated in Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun (On page 86 Koster even says, “my background is a writer, so this actually pisses me off.”). Instead I want to talk about how Catherine is fun and what it is teaching us. I will needless get back to story and challenge just that which Koster is so pissed off about.
This semester, I have a book-a-week class on games in culture. I’ve tentatively decided to try giving a go at posting a blog on each after both reading and discussing the book in class. This is a bit ambitious, considering all I have to do, so I might get backlogged. Please bear with me 🙂
The first book we read for class is Roger Caillois’s Man, Play and Games, a rather foundational book for games studies. Caillois discusses the social nature of play and tries his best to categorize play into four distinct categories (with two distinct styles). I, personally, latch on to theoretical frame works (and subvert them, usually), and this is mostly what I got out of the book. To a sociologist, the chapters on sociocultural play practices might be infinitely more interesting than a theoretical framework. Here is my take-away.