The Brechtian, Absurdist, and Poor Video Game: Alternative Theatrical Models of Software-based Experience

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Abstract

Springing from an interview with video game critic Morgan Webb, this essay proposes a set of avant-garde models for video game illusions prioritizing artistic goals that do not necessarily function in terms of the market. These models are derived from the history of 20th Century experimental theatre and transposed to video game practice via the “Computers as Theatre” analogy proposed by Brenda Laurel in 1991. This analogy asserts that software (especially video games) is more like theatre than any other artistic medium and is therefore suitably analyzed through the tools of theatre criticism. Laurel's use of this analogy drew from the model of classical Aristotelian illusory space. This article appends Laurel's analogy with other critical theatrical models, in particular Bertolt Brecht's concept of Verfremdungseffekt, The Theatre of the Absurd, and Jerzy Grotowski’s Poor Theatre. Insofar as these techniques provided alternative theatrical illusions from the emotional influence inherent in the classical model of Aristotelian theatre, they can also provide different contexts for evaluating and experiencing meanings embedded into video game texts such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Katamari Damacy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Games Criticism
Volume1
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

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Video Games
Bertolt Brecht
Software
Illusion
Aristotelian
Criticism
Theatre of the Absurd
Avant Garde
Experimental Theatre
History
Emotion
Artistic Medium
Warfare

Cite this

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title = "The Brechtian, Absurdist, and Poor Video Game: Alternative Theatrical Models of Software-based Experience",
abstract = "Springing from an interview with video game critic Morgan Webb, this essay proposes a set of avant-garde models for video game illusions prioritizing artistic goals that do not necessarily function in terms of the market. These models are derived from the history of 20th Century experimental theatre and transposed to video game practice via the “Computers as Theatre” analogy proposed by Brenda Laurel in 1991. This analogy asserts that software (especially video games) is more like theatre than any other artistic medium and is therefore suitably analyzed through the tools of theatre criticism. Laurel's use of this analogy drew from the model of classical Aristotelian illusory space. This article appends Laurel's analogy with other critical theatrical models, in particular Bertolt Brecht's concept of Verfremdungseffekt, The Theatre of the Absurd, and Jerzy Grotowski’s Poor Theatre. Insofar as these techniques provided alternative theatrical illusions from the emotional influence inherent in the classical model of Aristotelian theatre, they can also provide different contexts for evaluating and experiencing meanings embedded into video game texts such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Katamari Damacy.",
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