Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Essays on Algorithmic Culture

I've never really understood why critics devote large portions of time to name dropping someone only to tear apart their arguments. I figure it's some way to just give a shout-out to other people in your field, but since it mostly boils down to explaining how they're wrong I'm not sure why they would appreciate it. If the purpose is to actually debate with them, then it also goes against how I've been taught to argue. Time spent discussing your opponent's argument is time you should've spent building up your own, the only thing gained is getting the audience to think about what your opponent wants them to be contemplating. It's also uninformative, since the large paragraph spent explaining someone's theory will immediately be dismissed by the author in favor of the point they should've been making in the first place.

Which brings us to my approach to Galloway's book Essays on Algorithmic Culture and the decision to just go with the flow. I've been called out once or twice for my extreme dislike of comparing films to games and it's something I admit to. The fight is a cultural one, not just a theory discussion, and as a consequence a lot of what drives my argument is principle. When you've got David Jaffe wondering when someone will make the video game equivalent of American Beauty, it's time to put a stop to this nonsense.

I mean really, American Beauty is the standard now?

So I basically skipped the chapter where Galloway compares film technique to games and focused on his much more interesting approaches. I'm not totally sure where he falls in the game academic timeline, but his curious retro-fitting of film principles to video games to explain how they create meaning is really interesting. Contrasting game design over visuals and machine vs operator is an approach I've only seen done once or twice and it was refreshing to read his angle.

I'm still sticking with my Narrative and Game Design schtick, but that's just the English Major in me talking.

2 comments:

Ben Abraham said...

"Time spent discussing your opponent's argument is time you should've spent building up your own, the only thing gained is getting the audience to think about what your opponent wants them to be contemplating."

I think that's the lawyer in you talking - when you're in an argument with someone, I think sometimes it's easier to just prove the other guy wrong than to be right yourself.

And a lot of the academic 'tearing down' of other's arguments is, again I think, not only expected but kind of desired. It means your ideas are worth reading if someone disagrees with them.

L.B. Jeffries said...

Maybe...there's a certain amount of expecting a person who wrote a book (and charged me for it) to actually say something useful that gets factored in. Jabbering about how someone is wrong about this or that just strikes me as filling pages. If you don't agree with the info that you're publishing in the book or blog post, why write it? Why elaborate on it and spread awareness of it?

It all reeks of Pauline Kael when she started to slip up, you're just trashing the person's ideas for the spectacle. For the filler. I understand that it's important to acknowledge that there are other ideas at work, but in the age of the internet such things speak for themselves. My audience not being informed is their own problem, I'm just a middle-man.