Tuesday, December 23, 2008

an exploration of the video game as architecture using phenomenological methodology

Phenomenology is an attempt to make rigorous accounts of subjective experience. One way of briefly illustrating the problem is by considering the following quote attributed to musician Fats Waller regarding what Jazz is;

"…if you hafta ask, you ain't never gonna know!"

Phenomenology attempts to offer a rigorous approach to getting answers to such questions without resorting to mysticism or metaphysics on one hand or reducing experience to the denigrated status of qualia. Qualia is term used to refer to experience as a minor phenomena produced by the physical universe.

When we play a video game, if it is successfully executed, we become immersed in a two dimensional representation of a two or three dimensional space. We may become a medieval Persian prince as in the game Prince of Persia, even though we are female. We may become immersed as an acrobatic Asian female leaping across the roof tops of a futuristic Tokyo, as in the game Mirror's Edge although we are clumsy, Caucasian males.

Our identity then becomes briefly mirrored on either side of the screen. Within that screen we have both landscapes and and architecture, whether it is the expansive worlds of games such as Myst or the multiplayer online worlds of games such as Second Life or World of Warcraft.

And at what point does the game itself become an architecture? We experience moving through an environment that we interpret as "Bricks and Mortar"

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"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster