Tag: Media Archaeology

The Video Game Archaeologist

Darren Wershler dusts off old consoles that say a lot about our culture

/ June 8, 2017

Press START: Reflections on the Making of the Arcade Table

In the first class, we discussed media archaeology’s relationship relative to culturally-oriented and hardware-oriented academia. A project such as the construction of an arcade table or softmodding a Nintendo Wii are very much located between these two extremes, which I see as profoundly productive. During my probe on nonnarrative media, I argued that, just as it is problematic to focus solely on an object’s narrative history, it is equally problematic to read objects as entirely independent of their cultural contexts and the ways they have been narrativized. The arcade table project ultimately allows us to to think through both aspects of a cultural object simultaneously; constructing a fully operational model requires ideology, aesthetics, theory and materiality to work together, despite...

/ June 1, 2017

Working Notes on Sterne’s reformulation of Bourdieu

Sterne, Jonathan. “Bourdieu, Technique and Technology.” _Cultural Studies_ 17.3/4 (2003): 367–89. Sterne begins his article by framing the critical study of technology within the humanities and then responding to what he viewed as a critical lack of nuance and specificity about technology in critical study.1“For instance,  consider the use and non-use of the word ‘digital’  as a modifier to the word  ‘technology’  in academic discourse.  Academic job descriptions, grant announcements and journal articles joyfully collapse the historically specific instance of digital technology with the category of ‘technology’  itself.  In this logic,  if you are to care about technology,  then your work is supposed to be driven by  an interest in that which is new and digital. Alternatively,  take the example...

/ May 23, 2017

A Feature, not a Bug: Fractals and Video Game Glitches as Nonnarrative Media

In 1975, Benoit Mandelbrot coined the word fractal to describe an iterative curve or geometric shape that can be divided into parts that each possess the same statistical character as the whole (“Stochastic Models” 3825). Taking its etymology from the Latin fractus, meaning broken (“Fractal”), his research sought to concretize a theory of roughness—that is to say, to provide a model for describing the recursive fractioning of the Earth’s coastlines, the structure of plants and leaves, the distribution of galaxies, the biology of blood vessels, and even human recreations such as music, architecture, and the stock market (The Fractal Geometry of Nature). Mandelbrot was not alone in his interests in such patterns: Gottfried Leibniz contemplated the phenomenon of self-similar recursion...

/ May 22, 2017

When We Can’t Play, Wii Emulate: A Critical Investigation into the Politics and Uses of Softmodding a Nintendo Wii

Last February, Nintendo launched Fire Emblem Heroes, a highly anticipated mobile spin-off of the Fire Emblem series for Android and iOS. Framed as a free-to-play “catch-them-all” tactical role playing game, Fire Emblem Heroes features collectible avatars of main and supporting characters from eleven games in the canonical series, strategically offering Nintendo and Intelligent Systems an additional platform not only to advertise their upcoming installment for the 3DS but also to rekindle interest in earlier games.  While intrigued gamers can purchase the most recent 3DS titles online or at any local games store, what happens when such an audience is drawn to a character from a title that ceased to be produced decades ago? What happens when new international fans wish...

/ May 17, 2017

Structures of Feeling (part 2)

link to part 1 The other structure of feeling I wanted to explore was that of melancholy and nostalgia. Particularly, I’m interested in the relation between nostalgia and labour. Could there be a RMD without the urge to collect and play old video games? As Hu says, “melancholy is something of a perservative.” (108)  The nostalgic, melancholic desire to play older games is a powerful drive. See the recent (failed) attempts to set up a WoW server that plays as it did before the release of the first expansion ten years ago . This case illustrates the friction between and the desire to experience residual games the regimes of copyright and censorship that codify their use. In contrast, consider the...

/ November 16, 2016

Structures of Feeling (part 1)

The RMD’s What’s in a Name?  positions the depot in contrast with two figures: the lab and the archive. What distinguishes the RMD from the lab is that, despite using scientific tools, the depot is oriented towards understanding the practices around these tools and the communities that determined their use. Nor is the RMD an archive: it’s designed to be functional, working collection. One advantage of this approach to storing and sharing a collection is that it addressing the difficulty the academy has had in producing knowledge about videogame media – it creates a space to explore them. Jussi Parikka charts his approach to media archaeology in relation to the dead media manifesto where Bruce Sterling applies Motoori Norinaga’s concept of...

/ November 16, 2016

Google’s Forgotten Platforms

In our discussion of the Kirschenbaum reading, we looked at the materiality of digital storage; how the material trace is inscribed into an environment “engineered to model ideal conditions of immateriality” (Kirschenbaum 71). In keeping with that analysis of the material infrastructure of communications technology, we discussed the history of network exchanges in relation to Tung-Hui Hu’s A Prehistory of the the cloud. I was reminded of Andrew Blum’s work on the creation of internet exchange points in Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet. Despite the titular “Center”, Blum’s work challenges (in the same vein as Hu) the notion of the internet as an universally connected plane. He traces the origins of modern internet exchanges back to the codification...

/ November 9, 2016

Interventions in Machine to Machine Writing

by Kyle Bickoff Hi all— I really tried to bring my hands-on work and some of the theory I’ve been interested in all together here. I’ll first talk about the additional research I did before speaking, and then I’ll go into what I believe this can help me understand. In particular, I’m concerned with, perhaps, illuminating the moment of human intervention in machine-to-machine writing, a moment clearly marked when we ‘codebent’ Super Mario Bros. So, after talking yesterday in class, and after Patrick’s suggestion, I looked most closely into Footnote 6 in Chapter 1 of Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms. Kirschenbaum here discusses a great many of the origins surrounding inscription, particularly in relation to the divide between the terms communication and signification....

Textual Communities and Gameplay

by Becky Anderson This past week, my research has circulated around transmedia, storytelling, & sub-creation with a specific focus on the way in which a secondary world is mapped. The two lines of inquiry precipitated by these three concepts that I’ve been thinking about this week are first, Mapping & Player Experience of Space; and second, Proprioception & Experience of Place. Specifically, I’ve been particularly interested in a game’s topographic transfer of a Secondary World into the chosen medium and how the adapted layout of that world into the game impacts player experience. I’ve been equally interested in exploring how space influences and interacts with the social within the gameworld of a particular secondary world. With LOTRO, I’ve been thinking...