Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies: Critical Approaches to Researching Video Game Play

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9780739147009: Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies: Critical Approaches to Researching Video Game Play
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Few books have attempted to contextualize the importance of video game play with a critical social, cultural and political perspective that raises the question of the significance of work, pleasure, fantasy and play in the modern world. The study of why video game play is "fun" has often been relegated to psychology, or the disciplines of cultural anthropology, literary and media studies, communications and other assorted humanistic and social science disciplines. In Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies, Talmadge Wright, David Embrick and Andras Lukacs invites us to move further and consider questions on appropriate methods of researching games, understanding the carnival quality of modern life, the role of marketing in altering game narratives, and the role of fantasy and desire in modern video game play. Embracing an approach that combines a cultural and/or critical studies approach with a sociological understanding of this new media moves the debate beyond simple media effects, moral panics, and industry boosterism to one of asking critical questions, what does modern video game play "mean," what questions should we be asking, and what can sociological research contribute to answering these questions. This collection includes works which use textual analysis, audience based research, symbolic interactionism, as well as political economic and psychoanalytic perspectives to illuminate areas of inquiry that preserves the pleasure of modern play while asking tough questions about what such pleasure means in a world divided by political, economic, cultural and social inequalities.

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About the Author:

J. Talmadge Wright is associate professor of sociology at Loyola University–Chicago.

David Embrick is assistant professor of sociology at Loyola University–Chicago.

Andras Lukacs is a PhD candidate in sociology at Loyola University–Chicago.

Review:

As tabletop wargames and fantasy role-playing games have morphed into video-games, scholars have recognized that these new game forms demand attention. With their economic impact and social consequences, they are far from trivial child's play, but are central to how we conceive ourselves. Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies demonstrates conclusively that to understand our values and our lives, the appreciation of video games are central. But more than just describing the content of the games and the techniques of play, these authors go much deeper, demonstrating the theoretical underpinnings of contemporary leisure: sometimes joyful, sometimes troubling, sometimes transgressive, sometimes filled with sex and violence, and occasionally suggesting the budding of a new age of social justice. (Gary Alan Fine, Northwestern University)

This collection enchants the intellect and lifts the spirit as it explores the transformative potential of play, urging us to reimagine ourselves through playing and researching video games. The superb essays, grounded in fresh readings of Marx, Freud, Durkheim, Huizinga, Turner, and others, are pure pleasure to read, and add striking new depth and interest to games scholarship. (Bonnie Nardi, University of California, Irvine and author of My Life as Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft)

The essays in this volume together accomplish a rare feat in Game Studies. They exhibit a sustained and nuanced treatment of games and play embedded in their historical and cultural contexts while also grappling with the most intricate of current conceptual issues in the field. (Thomas Malaby, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies is a fascinating collection that critically interrogates video game play from a wide range of perspectives. From questions of method to questions of marketing, from issues of localization to issues of embodiment, this volume will be invaluable to scholars and designers from a range of disciplines. (Tom Boellstorff, University of California, Irvine and author of Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human)

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