Video Games: What’s the Point?

What is the meaning behind video games? Jones aims to answer this question in his 2008 article, The Meaning of Video Games: Gaming and Textual Studies. The text looks at understanding the experience of playing a game, by using analyzing consoles such as the Nintendo Wii and Spore. To Jones, the meaning of video games lies within the experience of playing them. Video games are an example of technological determinism, and through analysis we can understand how hardware can be an actor.

Jones begins his discussion by looking at the television show, Lost. He highlights how the show drew the audience in through an online marketing campaign that linked the show to real life products. Audiences could go online and access products through paratext, which gave the audience deeper insight into the show’s narrative. The marketing campaign was regularly changed according to feedback from the audience. To Jones, these results from Lost saw a significant change in gaming and the way producers immerse the audience. He believed that by extending the show’s paratext and narrative onto the online world, that made the show into a game. Jones puts forward that Lost had many intentional video game elements to it, with the purpose of immersing the audience into the Lost world just as a game would. This blog post will look at how the meaning of video games has helped shaped creative practices.

There are five layers to platform analysis. Jones addresses each layer, including the function of the console, its interface and the way it is operated, and how cultural context is made and received through playing a video game. He also examines the hardware and how it contributes to culture. Through Jones’ analysis, we are given detailed understanding of each layer through the examples he uses. Our understanding of platforms is aided through Jones’ text because he considers how meaning is created not only through the narrative of a game, but also through the experience of playing the game itself. He adds to this through looking at the possibility of meaning being discovered through alternative access points. Video games are a social platform because console has a system that is designed to encourage users to interact with one another through game play. This social aspect gives consoles and video games cultural meaning because they impact on the way individuals interact, communicate, and take meaning.

Based on this discussion, I have concluded that meaning is relative to each playthrough and individual. For example, in the game trilogy Mass Effect, players interact with non-player characters (NPCs) throughout the course of the game, which produces a unique story. This is created through the player’s choice of responses to NPCs, the objects they decide to click on, and the actions they make. Each factor contributes to the overall meaning of the game. Rather than creating a meaning that is decided by the game’s creator, Mass Effect is designed to only possess only one meaning, which is produced through player’s experience. Therefore, in each playthrough of Mass Effect, the meaning is determined by the interaction between the console and the user. Through this analysis, individuals gain a better understanding of the impact of platforms.