McDougall, Julian, and Wayne O’Brien. Studying Videogames. Leighton Buzzard: Auteur, 2008. Print.
In the first chapter of their book, McDougall and O’Brien attempt to explain the reading of a videogame as a text. To start, they refer to Burn, Carr and Schott in 2003 to discuss how a videogame, as a text, will remain incomplete because they depend on movements based solely on the player.
Using Lara Croft as an example, they say that the way that Lara moves will vary a great deal among different players because different players will move the character according to their will. I feel that this argument almost ignores the fact that each player is assigned a particular goal in order to move on in the game. This argument may be more valid when discussing the order in which some goals are achieved. I am reminded of games like Eragon and such role-playing games where a goal is to defeat a certain number of foes. In a book, despite the reader being the source of meaning as is assumed in Death of the Author, if the book says that a particular enemy was attacked by Eragon in the scene corresponding to the videogame, that will always be the person attacked by Eragon first; this is not so in a videogame whereas the player can be more flexible in deciding his first target, the only requirement is to accomplish the goal.
However, taking the first Rachet And Clank game where one level insisted that a series of tasks be accomplished in one order, as a gauntlet, if everything is not done at the perfect time, the level is repeated. In such a level, individual strategy disintegrates and leaves behind a gamers’ skill. I feel that this most closely reflects the reading of a book because dictation depends more on the text and less on the meaning creator.
Burn, Carr and Schott do go on to say that a person’s control over the “hero” of the game remains why theory cannot fully describe digital games. Moreover, due to the player controlling the main character, the relationship between author and reader (in this case; player) is complicated and the use of cheats and game hacking further distort the lines between game producers and its consumers.
McDougall and O’Brien then explain that in this book, they attempt to deconstruct a range of games to analyse how media language makes meaning for players and how genres and narrative structures represent people and ideas and, to an extent, reality itself. They refer to Bruce (2002) and his acronym for studying a media text: ‘MIGRAIN’.
Standing for Media Language, Institution, Genre, Representaion, Audience, Ideology and Narrative, this acronym offers a sort of checklist in which each game is discussed to further delve into the game form and design.