Foucauldian analysis of game space

A new PhD thesis is available analyzing “game space.”

This thesis focuses on the novel spatial paradigms emerging from computer and video games. It aims to develop an original theoretical framework that takes the hybrid nature of the medium into account. The goal of this work is to extend the present range of methodologies directed towards the analysis of digital games. In order to reveal the roots of the spatial apparatus at work an overview of the most significant conceptions of space in western thought is given. Henri Lefebvre’s reading of space as a triad of perceived, conceived and lived space is adopted. This serves to account for the multifaceted nature of the subject, enables the integration of divergent spatial conceptions as part of a coherent framework, and highlights the importance of experiential notions of spatiality. Starting from Michel Foucault’s notion of the heterotopia, game-space is posited as the dynamic interplay between different spatial modalities.

Between 1998 and 2004 I produced a series of videos in the art context that portrayed players engaged with computer games in different environments. The camera was placed in such a way that the players faces were filmed from the point of view of the monitors they were concentrating on during gameplay. In a sense it was as if the game was watching the player. The almost imperceptible movements of the players’ bodies that seemed to mirror their actions in the gameworld intrigued me.
Since it is not necessary for the success in a computer game to move one’s entire body, I saw these movements as a kind of leftover from movements in physical space. They appeared to stem from a body memory that crossed the threshold between the physical space and the representational space of the game. In other words, the players seemed to perform movements with their bodies that were directly connected with their mental spatial experience in the game. This simple change of perspective (from watching the screen to watching the player) became the starting point for a growing interest in the curious spatial activities of the players and the kinds of spaces produced by the games.

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