Media Archaeology and Video Games Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Media Archaelogy and Videogames

In today's world, the rapid development of technology has opened worlds of vast information and entertainment that are instantly accessible at the touch of a button. The relationships created in this way not only involve those we interact with online or via gaming, but also our own perception, the mental imagery we create and the apparatus we use to access these. A researcher who truly wants to understand the past of a medium cannot only work with historical imagery or archival footage. There must also be a consideration of the technologies used in the past; the technology used to create historical imagery and archival footage. This is the point of study for media archaeology; where the researcher studies the specific technological devices used in the past to create media from the past and how this developed and its relationship to technology today.

Media archaeology is a field of study that involves theories and methodologies to address media history in unconvenitonal ways. Elements of repetition and variation are used to determine relationships between past and present media technologies. In this essay, recent medial archaeological waves in European and U.S. media studeis are examined in terms of its hardware materiality and time-critical focus, as wella s software and platform studies in their relationship to videogames.

The Nature of Media Archaeology

Part of media archaeology is investigating the concept of "new media" and where the starting point of this new media lies as opposed to "old" or traditional media (Huhtamo and Parikka, 2011, p. 1). The "new media" today are considered to be things like the Internet, digital television, interactive multipmeida, virtual reality, mobile communicaiton, and video games. These have spawned research areas such as network analysis and software studies. Network economies and new media as ways of seeing are investigated in all their divergent areas and experiences. In addition, philosophies and languages have been identified as these pertain to what we regard as the new media today. What is interesting about this is the many focus points that researchers may choose from when investigating the new media and their points of origin. Some, for example, focus on the social and psychological aspects of the new media, while others would investigate the economical or ideological aspects.

In video gaming, for example, an economic aspect might consider the revenues that innovative factors within various versions of the same game might bring in. Many researchers have investigated the psychological effects of playing violent games such as Grand Theft Auto on the young mind. In terms of social aspects, it is interesting to investigate the demographic who is allowed to purchase and play games such as Grand Theft Auto when the age restriction is clearly delineated as no persons under 18. Indeed, many teenagers from as young as 11 and 12 play this game, which can lead to further social study of the kind of parent who would allow his or her child access to such potentially harmful gaming.

According to Huhtamo and Parikka (2011, p. 1), many of these studies tend to disregard the past that led to the current manifestation of gaming and the new media. One reason for this is the complexities and challenges offered to researchers looking for opportunities to study the new media. Hence, the past has been considered as somewhat irrelevant in untangling the inherent intricacies of the new media today. For many researchers therefore, the new media have been considered as a phenomenon that is somewhat "timeless" and can be explained and resolved from within itself.

The authors point out, however, that there has begun to appear in the research a new regard for the importance of the past in the new media. More historically oriented research has appeared with increasing fequency; something the authors are inclined to greet "with a cheer." This phenomenon is what has become known as "media archaeology," in which the past of media and its technology has been used to inform the study of its current manifestations.

Parikka and Ernst (2012) further implicate that media archaeology is not so much about old forms of media recordings, such as silent film or black and white television, but is more focused on the devices used to record these ancient images. It is aboutu "how stories are recorded" rather than about "telling stories" or "counterhistories. Theh physicla media and the processes and durations used are at issue. In other words, the focus of such study is object-centered.

The Role of the New Media

Kittler, writing in 1999, focuses on the general digitization of all media channels, which would result in something "coming to an end." Instead of varied media, there would be an erasing process of differences among individual media forms. All sound and image would become a singular surface effect, or interface. Perhaps the best example of this when it comes to video games is films based on video games or vice versa. The film "Resident Evil" serves as a good example. Various versions of the game have appeared, while the movie also followed its own parallel evolution. Today, there are even films that concern video gaming worlds, of which "Wreck-It Ralph" serves as a good example. Indeed, this film concerns the ability of video games to continue entertaining its audiences on the strength of its upgrades and new developments. The old is discarded in favor of the new. In the film, the old interacts with the new in a desperate bid to save its gaming world, which is in danger of being shut down.

As Kittler (1999, p. 1) points out, the digitization of media offers the opportunity and the ability to translate any medium into any other. Today, this can be done in a matter of seconds. Things that would have taken hours or days in the past can now be done much faster thanks to digitization and the relative uniformity that is possible as a result. On the other hand, Kittler (1999, p. 2) also points out that today's entertainment is deeply rooted within the entertainment forms of the past. It should be seen as a streamlined development of media and formats that started with the electronic tube courtesy of Germany's von Lieban and De Forest in California.

Like Kittler, Hayles (2012, p. 2) also points towards the gradual evolution of the media away from print towards new forms of creating and disseminating information. The author points towards the new forms of information that are possible today, including e-mail web searching, and text messaging. She also positions the computer as a sort of prosthetic extension of the human limb, used to connect the individual to the world and those in it via communication, information searches, and so on. She points out that, should a computer break down or the Internet fail, the user tends to feel helpless, disoriented, and unable to work.

In this way, the new media has become an ven greater part of how a human being thinks and lives. Indeed, the increased ability to access information and connect with people across the globe has changed the individual's relationship with the media that offers this ability.

For video gaming, today's player can connect with others across the world to play a given game on a PS3 or similar device. This is a great leap forward from old arcade games, where partners in a game had to be physically present at the same game console.

According to Hayles (2012), this ability to connect worldwide has decreased the sense of isolation for those living in small towns or those who are housebound by physical disability or old age.

Another interesting field of research is the way in which computer technology and the new media have strongly influenced the way in which the individual physically interacts with such media. Typing, using a mouse, and moving a cursor, for example, have created a platform for retraining the neural circuitry. This means that the influence of the new media extends not only to the human psyche, but also to the physical aspect. Indeed, even very basic functions such as learning to read has been influenced and changed by the new media. Hence, the new media has become both a physical and cognitive extension of human action and interaction.

The same can be said for a game console, in which the player uses controls to manipulate his or her alter ego in the game world. One good example of this is games such as "Spiderman" or "Hulk," in which the superhero in question moves in certain ways in response to buttons and levers on the game remote.

The Human Aspect of Media Archaeology

Addording ot Parikka (2013), there has been a tendency among critics to regard media archaeology as a kind of "boys' club," when the predominantly male authorship in the field is considered. She points out, however, that there are numerous female authors who have made a significant contribution to the field. Zoe Beloff, for example, has worked to unearth alternative media…

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