The cultural contradictions of early video games: a medium for family fun (but mainly for middle-class boys), an improvement over pinball and television (but possibly harmful) Beginning with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey and Pong in 1972, video games, whether played in arcades and taverns or in family rec rooms, became part of popular culture, like television. In fact, video games were sometimes seen as an improvement on television because they spurred participation rather than passivity. These “space-age pinball machines” gave coin-operated games a high-tech and more respectable profile. In Atari Age, Michael Newman charts the emergence of video games in America from ball-and-paddle games to hits like Space Invaders and Pac-Man, describing their relationship to other amusements and technologies and showing how they came to be identified with the middle class, youth, and masculinity. Newman shows that the “new media” of video games were understood in varied, even contradictory ways. They were family fun (but mainly for boys), better than television (but possibly harmful), and educational (but a waste of computer time). Drawing on a range of sources—including the games and their packaging; coverage in the popular, trade, and fan press; social science research of the time; advertising and store catalogs; and representations in movies and television—Newman describes the series of cultural contradictions through which the identity of the emerging medium worked itself out. Would video games embody middle-class respectability or suffer from the arcade's unsavory reputation? Would they foster family togetherness or allow boys to escape from domesticity? Would they make the new home computer a tool for education or just a glorified toy? Then, as now, many worried about the impact of video games on players, while others celebrated video games for familiarizing kids with technology essential for the information age.
In 1975, design engineer Dave Nutting completed work on a new arcade machine. A version of Taito's Western Gun, a recent Japanese arcade machine, Nutting's Gun Fight depicted a classic showdown between gunfighters. Rich in Western folklore, the game seemed perfect for the American market; players easily adapted to the new technology, becoming pistol-wielding pixel cowboys. One of the first successful early arcade titles, Gun Fight helped introduce an entire nation to video-gaming and sold more than 8,000 units. In Gamer Nation, John Wills examines how video games co-opt national landscapes, livelihoods, and legends. Arguing that video games toy with Americans' mass cultural and historical understanding, Wills show how games reprogram the American experience as a simulated reality. Blockbuster games such as Civilization, Call of Duty, and Red Dead Redemption repackage the past, refashioning history into novel and immersive digital states of America. Controversial titles such as Custer's Revenge and 08.46 recode past tragedies. Meanwhile, online worlds such as Second Life cater to a desire to inhabit alternate versions of America, while Paperboy and The Sims transform the mundane tasks of everyday suburbia into fun and addictive challenges. Working with a range of popular and influential games, from Pong, Civilization, and The Oregon Trail to Grand Theft Auto, Silent Hill, and Fortnite, Wills critically explores these gamic depictions of America. Touching on organized crime, nuclear fallout, environmental degradation, and the War on Terror, Wills uncovers a world where players casually massacre Native Americans and Cold War soldiers alike, a world where neo-colonialism, naive patriotism, disassociated violence, and racial conflict abound, and a world where the boundaries of fantasy and reality are increasingly blurred. Ultimately, Gamer Nation reveals not only how video games are a key aspect of contemporary American culture, but also how games affect how people relate to America itself.
In Respawn Colin Milburn examines the connections between video games, hacking, and science fiction that galvanize technological activism and technological communities. Discussing a wide range of games, from Portal and Final Fantasy VII to Super Mario Sunshine and Shadow of the Colossus, Milburn illustrates how they impact the lives of gamers and non-gamers alike. They also serve as resources for critique, resistance, and insurgency, offering a space for players and hacktivist groups such as Anonymous to challenge obstinate systems and experiment with alternative futures. Providing an essential walkthrough guide to our digital culture and its high-tech controversies, Milburn shows how games and playable media spawn new modes of engagement in a computerized world.
Francesco Casetti believes new media technologies are producing an exciting new era in cinema aesthetics. Whether we experience film in the theater, on our hand-held devices, in galleries and museums, onboard and in flight, or up in the clouds in the bits we download, cinema continues to alter our habits and excite our imaginations. Casetti travels from the remote corners of film history and theory to the most surprising sites on the internet and in our cities to prove the ongoing relevance of cinema. He does away with traditional notions of canon, repetition, apparatus, and spectatorship in favor of new keywords, including expansion, relocation, assemblage, and performance. The result is an innovative understanding of cinema's place in our lives and culture, along with a critical sea-change in the study of the art. The more the nature of cinema transforms, the more it discovers its own identity, and Casetti helps readers realize the galaxy of possibilities embedded in the medium.
The six titles that make up "The American Family" offer a revitalized new take on U.S. History, surveying current culture from the perspective of the family and incorporating insights from psychology, sociaology and medicine.