Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds
Author: Jesper Juul
Publisher: Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005
Review Published: December 2006
Thanks to Curt Carbonell and Randy Nichols for two insightful reviews.
I will offer a concrete and a general response.
Part of my interest in video games is that they never quite seem to fit our categories or the history we have written, critical or popular. For example, many of the features sometimes ascribed to the "newness" of new media or the "digital" of digital culture have been part of game history for thousands of years: A literally interactive relation between the reader and the text; algorithmic or ergodic form; works that can be manifested in many different ways. And this was not played out as little-known experiments, but as major components of human game culture as far back as we can trace.
In the book, I briefly discuss video games in relation to the "high" and the "low." As Carbonell points out, these are problematic categories, but they nevertheless continue to play a role in public discourse.
I hope that the concept of the Half-Real can serve to counter what the game designer Frank Lantz describes as the mistaken idea that video games are destined to become ever-more perfect transparent illusions. The Half-Real is also about the existence and emergence of genre conventions, shorthands, accepted inconsistencies, and well-known stylistic devices.
My current interests are in delving deeper into the game-player relation, and in how video games change beyond what I have described in the book: The emergence of open-ended games as a major game form; the appearance of casual games; the wider range of playing experiences that video games afford us today.
Half-Real is meant as a starting point. Writing it, it was obvious how many stones are still to be turned, how many paths are still to explore. I believe this is a good thing.
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