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  • Doctoral Thesis: The Rendered Arena

    [06.07.07]
    - Axel Stockburger
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    Abstract

    During the last 30 years computer and videogames have grown into a large entertainment industry of economical as well as cultural and social importance. As a distinctive field of academic inquiry begins to evolve in the form of game studies, the majority of approaches can be identified as emerging either from a background of literary theory which motivates a concentration on narrative structures or from a dedicated focus on the rules in video and computer games. However, one of the most evident properties of those games is their shared participation in a variety of spatial illusions. Although most researchers share the view that issues related to mediated space are among the most significant factors characterising the new medium, as of yet, no coherent conceptual exploration of space and spatial representation in video and computer games has been undertaken.

    This thesis focuses on the novel spatial paradigms emerging from computer and video games. It aims to develop an original theoretical framework that takes the hybrid nature of the medium into account. The goal of this work is to extend the present range of methodologies directed towards the analysis of digital games. In order to reveal the roots of the spatial apparatus at work an overview of the most significant conceptions of space in western thought is given. Henri Lefebvre’s reading of space as a triad of perceived, conceived and lived space is adopted. This serves to account for the multifaceted nature of the subject, enables the integration of divergent spatial conceptions as part of a coherent framework, and highlights the importance of experiential notions of spatiality. Starting from Michel Foucault’s notion of the heterotopia, game-space is posited as the dynamic interplay between different spatial modalities.

    As constitutive elements of the dynamic spatial system mobilized by digital games the following modalities are advanced: the physical space of the player, the space emerging from the narrative, the rules, the audiovisual representation and the kinaesthetic link between player and game. These different modalities are examined in detail in the light of a selected range of exemplary games. Based on a discussion of film theory in this context an original model that serves to distinguish between different visual representational strategies is presented. A chapter is dedicated to the analysis of the crucial and often overlooked role of sound for the generation of spatial illusions. It is argued that sound has to be regarded as the privileged element that enables the active use of representational space in three dimensions. Finally the proposed model is mobilised to explore how the work of contemporary artists relates to the spatial paradigms set forth by digital games. The critical dimension of artistic work in this context is outlined. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the impact of the prevalent modes of spatial practice in computer and video games on wider areas of everyday life.

    Axel Stockburger is an artist and theorist who lives and works in London and Vienna. He studied at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna with Peter Weibel and holds a PhD from the University of the Arts, London. His films and installations are shown internationally.

    Among other projects he has initiated the independent art television channel TIV in Vienna in 1998 and collaborated on international projects with the London based media art group D-Fuse (2000-2004). At present he works as scientific staff member at the Department for Visual Arts and Digital Media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

    "The Rendered Arena: Modalities of Space in Video and Computer Games" by Axel Stockburger, Doctorate, University of the Arts, London, Adobe Acrobat.

     

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