Mary Flanagan’s response (excerpt)

Mary Flanagan’s response (excerpt)

Mary Flanagan

A recommendation for participatory, interdisciplinary articulations of action and perception from Mary Flanagan.

Gaming brings elements of other media forms into play, but to develop a cohesive study of computer gaming, scholars must look at a very wide range of disciplines and histories, some extremely popular and “lowbrow.” Cultural studies as a theoretical discipline has thankfully paved the way for the academic study of popular culture, so that activities from kitsch refrigerator magnets to Barbie collecting can be studied with intellectual ferocity. Those who look at games need to draw upon studies of communities in sociology and other areas, cognitive psychology, and studies of interaction and use patterns in fields such as industrial design and architecture…

Unfortunately, calling for new language and methodologies with which to consider computer games is not the same thing as writing them. Now we begin the “dirty work” to articulate exactly what types of intersections of theories we can use to explore games. Certainly questions concerning authorship, individual and collective action, game world time, perception, and positions in between audience and participant need to be better articulated – perhaps even new words invented to develop and enhance these sites and positions. Just to be troublesome, I’ll end this response with a quote from Barthes. “A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (Barthes 1988, 171). In other words, the best games are the ones tightly woven around the user’s desires, seamless, catering, which seem to be filled with options for those who need to break the levels. Participatory, skill-based, emotional, addictive, often competitive, instinctual, frequently violent, yet at the same time, immersive, creative, sharing, rewarding, empowering, and frequently community-building, gaming occupies a critical cultural niche. We must learn how to talk about it.


Barthes, Roland. (1988). “The Death of the Author.” Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. Ed. David Lodge. Trans. Steven Heath. London and New York: Longman, 1988, 167-172. First published as “La mort de l’auteur” in 1968, Manteia, vol. 5, France).

Celia Pearce responds