Video game culture
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Video game culture (more accurately: a subculture) is a worldwide new media subculture formed by video games. As computer and video games have exponentially increased in popularity over time, they have had a significant influence on popular culture. Video game culture has also evolved over time hand in hand with internet culture as well as the increasing popularity of mobile games. Many people who play video games identify as gamers, which can mean anything from someone who enjoys games to someone who is passionate about it. As video games become more social with multiplayer and online capability, gamers find themselves in growing social networks. Gaming can both be entertainment as well as competition, as a new trend known as electronic sports is becoming more widely accepted. Today, the impact of computer and video games can be seen in social media, politics, television, film and music.
- 1 Demographics
- 2 LAN gaming
- 3 Online gaming
- 4 Social implications of video games
- 5 Gaming and popular culture
- 6 Video game and traditional media forms
- 7 Interactive engagement between players and digital games
- 8 See also
- 9 References
As of 2014[update], the average age for a video game player is 30, a number slowly increasing as people who were children playing the first arcade, console and home computer games continue playing now on current systems. The gender distribution of gamers is reaching equilibrium, according to a 2011 study showing that 58% of gamers are male and 42% female.,As of 2011[update] ESA reported that 71% of people age six to forty-nine in the U.S. played video games, with 55% of gamers playing on their phones or mobile devices. The average age of players across the globe is mid to late 20s, and is increasing as older players grow in numbers.
One possible reason for the growing increase in players could be attributed to the growing number of genres that require less of a specific audience. For example, the Wii console has widened its audience with games such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Both require more activity from the user and provide more reasons to play including family competition or exercise. It could also be because people who played video games when they were young are now growing older and still have that interest in video games. Currently, the largest entertainment industry for children is gaming. According to a 2008 telephone survey with a sample size of 1,102 respondents, 97% of children living in the United States and between the ages of 12 and 17 play video games.
Video games are played in a variety of social ways, which often involve domestic gatherings or even in public places. A popular method of accomplishing this is a LAN (Local Area Network) party, which if hosted at a home involves family and friends, creating a social event for people friendly with each other. LAN parties are often held in large scale events conducted in public spaces and have a great number of participants who might not usually socialise.
The Everquest Fan Faires for instance, provide weekends of socializing and playing, at a large gathering (an event of several thousands) of dedicated game fans. Terry Flew in his book Games: Technology, Industry, Culture also emphasises the Online Gaming Communities – "where players aren't physically located in the same space, but still socializing together". This raises the notion of McLuhan's "Global Village", as people are able to transcend their physical limitations and communicate with people, possessing a similar interest, from all around the world. Shapiro also stresses the possibility of "Using technology to enhance one's social life", as friendships no longer have to be structured by physical proximity (e.g. neighbours, colleagues). Shapiro states that "the net (Online Gaming Communities) gives individuals the opportunity to extend their social network in a novel way, to communicate and share life experiences with people regardless of where they live and form online relationships". Thus, such online communities satisfy a genuine need for affiliation with like-minded others.
Online gaming has drastically increased the scope and size of gaming culture. Online gaming grew out of games on bulletin board systems and on college mainframes from the 1970s and 1980s. MUDs offered multiplayer competition and cooperation but on a scope more geographically limited than on the internet. The internet allowed gamers from all over the world – not just within one country or state – to play games together with ease. With the advent of Cloud Gaming high-performance games can now be played from low-end client systems and even TVs.
One of the most groundbreaking titles in the history of online gaming is Quake, which offered the ability to play with sixteen, and eventually up to thirty-two players simultaneously in a 3D world. Gamers quickly began to establish their own organized groups, called clans. Clans established their own identities, their own marketing, their own form of internal organization, and even their own looks. Some clans had friendly or hostile rivalries, and there were often clans who were allied with other clans. Clan interaction took place on both professionally set competition events, and during normal casual playing where several members of one clan would play on a public server. Clans would often do their recruiting this way; by noticing the best players on a particular server, they would send invitations for that player to either try out or accept membership in the clan.
Gamers from the ages of 10 to 60 play online games, with the average being 28 years old for online games both co-operative and competitive.
'Clan'- or 'guild'-based play has since become an accepted (and expected) aspect of multiplayer gaming, with several games offering cash-prize tournament-style competition to their players. Many clans and guilds also have active fan-bases, which, when combined with the 'tournament' aspect, contribute in turning clan-based gaming into a semi-professional sport.
Clans also allow players to assist each other in simulated combat and quests in game advancement, as well as providing an online family for friendly socialising.
From Quake, gaming grew beyond first-person shooters and has impacted every genre. Real-time strategy, racing games, card games, sports games can all be played online. Online gaming has spread from its initial computer roots to console gaming as well. Today, every major video game console available offers degrees of online gaming, some limited by particular titles, some even offer up entire virtual communities.
Slang and Terminology
As in other cultures, the community has developed a gamut of slang words or phrases that can be used for communication in or outside of games. Due to their growing online nature, modern video game slang overlaps heavily with internet slang, as well as Leetspeak, with many words such "pwn", as well as "noob", being direct carry-overs from Leetspeak. There are terms to describe gaming events, games genres, gamer demographics, strategies, specific events, situations, and more. It is especially common among online games to encourage the use of neologisms for convenience in communication.
While most games have specific terms that the dedicated player bases use, some of the most prevalent phrases across all communities include abbreviations such as "lol," meaning "laughing out loud" as well as "noob," which is a derogatory term for a new or unskillful player. Another popular term that stemmed from the gaming community is the abbreviation "AFK," meaning "away from keyboard," to refer to people who are not at the computer or paying attention. Another common abbreviations include "GL HF," which stands for "good luck, have fun," which is often said at the beginning of a match to show good sportmanship. Likewise, at the end of a game, "GG" or "GG WP" may be said to congratulate the opponent, win or loss, on a "good game, well played."
While much of gaming lingo uses abbreviations for convenience, a large variety of jargon is abused for cyberbullying. In cases of online games with text or voice chat channels, it is not uncommon for players to blame or insult one another using such jargon. Some additional examples of slang and terminology include "rekt" (slang for 'wrecked') is often used to point out the obvious when a player or entity is destroyed. Less commonly, "own", "ownage", "owned" or "pwned" is used in a similar fashion.
The shift from console-based or "shrink-wrap" gaming to online games has allowed online games and massively-multiplayer online gaming today to develop highly advanced and comprehensive communication networks. With the freedom of the Internet's architecture, users can become producers of the technology and shapers of the growing networks. Compared to past eras where consumers had little means of communication with game developers and other communities beyond their geographical location, the internet has created many methods of communication such as through the online bulletin board website, Reddit. Gamers can often develop sub communities in game clans and may use third party VOIP programs to communicate while playing games such as Skype, Ventrillo or Teamspeak. These gaming communities may have nothing in common, or instead designed for dedicated, skilled players, or even clans made for those with shared commonalities such as personality, ethnicity, heritage, language or gender.
Another key component of many gaming networks is the connection between the player base and the game developers. Many game developers have outlets either through official website forums or social media where gamers can communicate with and provide feedback to the game developers. Likewise, these same places become key locations for game developers to communicate with their fans, where often dedicated employees act as liaisons as a bridge between the company and the community.
Some of the most advanced networks take place with massively-multiplayer online gaming where servers of tens of thousands can be present simultaneously in the same instance or environment. In major titles such as World of Warcraft and League of Legends, the player base is in the millions. With so many people, many of these communities may develop virtual economies that may use a barter system or currency system. In some games, the interest in the virtual economies may be so great players will spend real money through auction sites like Ebay for virtual property and items, commonly known as RMT (Real Market Trading). Some game developers may ban RMT in their games, especially when it interferes with the equity of the game. That being said, other game developers embrace it with one game, Second Life, with its entire focus on the usage of real-life currency for everything in the game world.
There has been much debate among media theorists as to whether video gaming is an inherently social or anti-social activity. Terry Flew argues that digital games are "increasingly social, a trend that works against the mainstream media's portrayal of players as isolated, usually adolescent boys hidden away in darkened bedrooms, failing to engage with the social world". He asserts that games are played in very social and public settings; for example computers and consoles are often played in living areas of domestic homes, where people play with family or friends.
David Marshall argues against the rich source of "effects" based research, finding that games are "deliberating and anti-social forms of behaviour". Rather suggesting that "the reality of most games is that they are dynamically social – the elaborate social conversations that emerge from playing games online in massive multi-player formats" (MMOG). Exemplifying 'The Sims Online', he states "has built up entire political and social structures in given communities' that provide an elaborate game life for participants". Gamers in these online worlds participate in many-to-many forms of communication and one-to-one correspondence. The games are not only massive; they are also "intimate and social".
Gosney argues that Alternate Reality Gaming is also inherently social, drawing upon Pierre Levy's (Levy 1998) notion of Collective Intelligence. He states that the game relied upon an "unprecedented level of corroboration and collective intelligence to solve the game". The issue of collective and corroborative team play is essential to ARG, thus are anything but a solitary activity.
Hans Geser further rejects the mainstream media view that video gaming is an anti-social activity, asserting "there is considerable empirical evidence that Second Life serves mainly to widen the life experience of individuals who have already a rich 'First Life', not as a compensating device for marginal loners." Thus highlighting the "fantastic social possibilities of Second Life", as the intangible reward of social belongingness is of paramount importance. Bray and Konsynski also argue the ability of the technology "to enrich their lives", as most Millennials report: "No difference between friendships developed in the real world vs. friendships developed online, and most use the internet to maintain their social networks and plan their social activities".
Social implications of video games
The advent of video games gave an innovative media technology, that allowed consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate and recirculate media content. Consumers can use this media source as an alternative tool to gain access to information of their interest. The community aspect to videogaming has also had implications for the social interactions and collective behaviours of consumers involved in the activity.
Rise of subcultures
Contemporary investigations have found that there is a prevailing social framework in place during gatherings of gaming enthusiasts or 'gamers'. Mäyrä (2008, p. 25) suggests that gamers who gather together to play possess a shared language, engage in collective rituals and are often interested in cultural artifacts such as gaming paraphernalia. Cronin and McCarthy (2011) have also explored a liminal, hedonic food culture to be present among these socially connected actors. The commensal consumption of energy dense low nutrient foods is considered to be appropriated during long stretches of gameplay to contribute to the community and hedonistic aspects of social gaming. In response to the central importance that food plays in the collective enjoyment of social gaming, various websites have been created which allow gamers to rate their favourite foods to accompany play.
The presence of rituals, shared discourse, collective action and even a liminal food culture among gaming communities gives credence to the concept of these cohorts existing as self defining sub-units within mainstream culture. However, due to the ephemeral and transient nature of their rituals, and also the possibility of virtual interaction through online participation, these cohorts should be considered 'postmodern subcultures'. Gaming communities have social elements beyond physical interaction and have come to a stage where online and offline spaces can be seen as 'merged' rather than separate.
MMORPG and identity tourism
Terry Flew (2005)(p. 264) suggests that the appeal of the "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" lie in the idea of escapism, and the ability to assume the role of someone or something that is a fantasy in real life. He notes that '…for some women, [they] enjoy adopting what they feel to be an image of femininity more acceptable or desirable than their real world body…'
This is what he calls "identity tourism", a form of hopping from one person to another, for which there usually is a stereotypical discourse associated with the protagonist. This is seen in the case of males who assume the personas of the female gender, and the character's representation of her gender being overly sexualized and/or passive, '…this tends to perpetuate and accentuate existing stereotypes of… women…' (Nakamura).
Ownership of video game entities is a major issue in video game culture. On one side, players, especially who played with avatars for several years, have treated the avatars as their own property. On the other hand, publishers claim ownership of all in-game items and characters through the EULA (End User License Agreements). Terry Flew recognised this problem: "Intellectual property is much better suited to conventional 'texts' that are fixed or finished, rather than ongoing collaborative creations like games". He also highlights that these issues will only worsen; as more interactive games emerging, issues of regulation, ownership, and service will only get more problematic.
Violent content in video game are often a source of criticism, which according to Terry Flew is related to the subject of 'moral panic'. Terry Flew writes that the 'effects-based' research which gives rise to the 'computer games cause violence' discourse is mostly psychology-based research, influenced particularly after horrific events such as the shooting of schoolchildren at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999. He says that the assumption behind such research, cause-effect behaviorist models of communication, is a flawed one. Several studies show a correlation between violent content conveyed through media (including videogames) and violent or aggressive behavior, while others (Vastag 2004) consider that the evidence for such conclusions is thin and highly contestable.
Fox News reported that Montreal shooting case in Canada was carried out by the criminal Kimveer Gill, who is a player of Super Columbine Massacre, whose narrative attaches with strong violence sense. On the other hand, some people who hold social determinism theory assert technology is neutral, but it is the way that humans manipulate technology which brings about its social impact.
In conjunction with the changing demographics of video game creators and players, issues related to women and video games, including sexism in video gaming and gender representation in video games, have received increased attention by academia, the media, the games industry and by gamers themselves. The Gamergate controversy of 2014, which involves issues of sexism, misogyny, and journalistic ethics, is an example of this.
Gaming and popular culture
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Games are also advertised on different TV channels, depending on the age demographic they are targeting. Games targeted toward kids and young teenagers are advertised on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, while games targeted toward older teenagers and adults are advertised on MTV, G4, Comedy Central and in NFL Network.
Gaming as portrayed by the media
From the 1970s through even the 1990s, video game playing was mostly seen as sub-culture hobby activity and as a substitute for physical sports. However, in its early history video gaming had occasionally caught the attention of the mainstream news outlets. In 1972, Pong became the first video game pop-culture phenomenon. This was followed by Pac-Man in 1980. Other video games labeled as pop-culture phenomena include Final Fantasy, Halo, Metal Gear, The Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Pokémon, Guitar Hero, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the Mario games.
As games became more realistic, issues of questionable content arose. The most notable early example is NARC, which through its use of digitized graphics and sound and its adult-oriented theme quickly became a target of the press. These same issues arose again when Mortal Kombat debuted, particularly with its home video game console release on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo systems; due to Nintendo's strict content-control guidelines, that system's version of Mortal Kombat was substantially re-worked to remove any 'extreme' violence. In response to these issues (and in parallel to similar demands made upon the music and movie industries), the ESRB was established to help guide parents in their purchasing decisions. 1993's Doom caused quite a stir, with its detailed 3D graphics and copious amounts of blood and gore. The 1996 game, Duke Nukem 3D, was accused of promoting pornography and violence; as a result of the criticism, censored versions of the game were released in certain countries. In the 1999 Columbine shootings, violent video games were for a time directly blamed by some for the incident, and labeled as "murder simulators".
In 2001, Grand Theft Auto III was released, which started the controversy over again. The main issue was that the graphics had advanced much, which made the game seem to have a greater potential impact.
Today, video gaming is treated similarly to the movie and music industries, with news outlets covering video game releases in much the same manner as they do the release of a highly anticipated movie or album.
The first video game TV show was GamePro TV.
The first television channel dedicated to video gaming and culture, G4, was launched in 2002. However, over the years, the channel has moved away from video game shows, and more towards male-oriented programs. X-Play, one of the channel's most popular shows and the highest rated video game review show, is still produced at G4. Until G4 was bought by Esquire Magazine, who decided to cease X-Play and focus less on the nerd oriented audience of G4 and go with their traditional male audience of their magazine.
In Germany, there is one digital cable and satellite channel fully dedicated to video games: GIGA Television. It is also seen via internet stream by a lot of viewers.
In Australia, there is one TV show that is based on gaming and games. Good Game on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) which broadcasts on channel ABC2. The show is also available as a podcast on iTunes.
In Russia, there are one satellite, the "Perviy Igrovoy" (Gaming First) and one cable, "Gameplay TV", gaming TV channels. Channels have internet streams.
AVGN is a show about a fictional character created by James Rolfe. The character is portrayed as a foul mouthed, short tempered retro gamer who reviews old nintendo games usually in a sarcastic and negative manner with frequent use of profanity for comical effect.
Pure Pwnage, was a fictional series chronicling the life and adventures of Jeremy, a self-proclaimed "pro gamer".
Red vs. Blue (made by Rooster Teeth), is a machinima (machine-cinema) filmed with many different video games. The series consist of hundreds of short episodes with characters acting out comedic sections of their lives in their own video game universes.
Button Mashers, an original gaming news show for website Gamezombie.tv, was shot at a $1 million HDTV studio and has millions of viewers all across the internet.
Game Grumps, a show on YouTube in which the cast plays games sent in by viewers. It has a related show called Steam Train where the cast plays games either on Steam or sent in by independent developers.
Influences on music
Video game music has been utilized by popular musicians in many ways. The earliest example was the electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra's self-titled album, released in 1978, which utilized Space Invaders samples as instrumentation. In turn, the band would have a major influence on much of the video game music produced during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. During the golden age of arcade video games in the early 1980s, it became common for arcade game sounds and bleeps to be utilized, particularly in early hip hop music, synthpop, and electro music. Buckner & Garcia's Pac-Man Fever, released in 1982, featured songs that were both about famous arcade games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Berzerk, and also used the sound samples from the games themselves as instrumentation. In 1984, former Yellow Magic Orchestra member Harry Hosono produced an album entirely from Namco arcade game samples, entitled Video Game Music.
Aphex Twin, an experimental electronic artist, under the name "PowerPill" released the Pacman EP in 1992 that featured a heavy use of Pac-Man sound effects. An entire music genre called chiptunes, or sometimes gamewave, have artists dedicated to using the synthesizer sets that came with past video game consoles and computers, particularly the Commodore 64 and the Nintendo Entertainment System. These bands include Mr. Pacman, 8 Bit Weapon, Goto 80, 50 Hertz and Puss. The influence of retro video games on contemporary music can also be seen in the work of less purist "Bitpop" artists, such as Solemn Camel Crew and Anamanaguchi. Moreover, many gamers collect and listen to video game music, ripped from the games themselves. This music is known by its file extension and includes such formats as: SID (Commodore 64), NSF (NES) and SPC (SNES). Cover bands like Minibosses perform their own instrumentations, and groups like The Protomen have written rock operas inspired by the Mega Man video games, while communities like OverClocked ReMix have released thousands of game music arrangements in a variety of genres and have influenced the careers of several game composers.
A comedy subgenre has developed increasing the popularity of several musicians including Jonathan Coulton, famous for the song Still Alive featured in the credits of Valve Software's Portal, and Jonathan Lewis, songwriter and composer credited with the Half-Life-themed parody album Combine Road.
Full orchestras, such as the Symphonic Game Music Concert tour North America, the United States, and Asia performing symphonic versions of video game songs, particularly the Final Fantasy series, the Metal Gear series, and Nintendo themed music, such as the Mario & Zelda Big Band Live Concert. In Japan, Dragon Quest symphonic concerts are performed yearly, ever since their debut in 1987.
Video game and film crossovers
Films based on video games
As video games often have settings, characters, and plots, they have often become the basis for Hollywood movies. The first movie based upon a video game was consistently denounced by critics. It was 1993's Super Mario Bros., which featured John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper. Most film adaptions of other video games have been rated unfavorably as well, and the adaptions often fail at the box office too. 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was successful at the box office, despite poor reviews ($274,703,340 USD gross revenue). Director Uwe Boll has become well known for his film adaptions of video games, notorious for being poorly reviewed box office flops. This was the case with BloodRayne which was reviewed terribly by critics and only grossed $3,650,275 USD, a fraction of its $25 million budget. The contributing factors to the unsuccessful transition from home television to theatre screens are attributed to: a dramatic re-envisioning of the video game that provides a disconnect from the game's plot, the game itself lacking a plot rich enough to provide a decent script (particularly with versus fighting games), a substantially altered plot to make the movie more "mainstream" (Doom), and an emphasis on using celebrity actors over actors that would fit the part.
Movies about video games
Hollywood has also created films that are about video games themselves. In the 1982 film WarGames, a computer mistakes a fictional computer game called Global ThermoNuclear War for reality. Also in 1982, Tron featured a programmer who was transported into a computer and had to directly take part in the games he had created. In the 1984 film, The Last Starfighter, a stand-up arcade video game is used as a test to find those "with the gift", who are recruited to pilot actual Starfighter spacecraft in the conflict between the Rylan Star League and the Ko-Dan Empire. 1989's The Wizard, starring Fred Savage is the first film about a real video game. The plot revolves around about adolescents who compete at games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The film was also a first look at the mega-hit Super Mario Bros. 3. The main character from 2006's Grandma's Boy was a game tester who developed his own game on the side. The film made multiple references to video game culture and featured the game Demonik, which was cancelled by its publisher shortly after the film's release. The most current[when?] example of a film of this type is 2006's Stay Alive, a horror film about a next-generation video game that is so realistic that it kills its players in the same way their avatars were killed. Released in 2012, Wreck-It Ralph is also about the gaming world inside an arcade.
Interactive movies as a computer and video game genre was the result of the multimedia expansion of computers and video game consoles in the mid-1990s, primarily because of the increased capacity offered by the laserdisc format. Interactive movies started out on arcade machines in 1983, but quickly expanded to computers and video game consoles such as the Sega CD, the Phillips CD-i and the Panasonic 3DO. The games are characterized by more emphasis on cinematic sequences, using full-motion video and voice acting. Interactive movie games have been made in a number of genres, including adventure games, rail shooters, and role-playing games.
The first interactive movie game was Dragon's Lair, originally released in the arcades in 1983, making it the first game to use a laserdisc and animation by Don Bluth, a man who worked for Disney on features like Robin Hood, The Rescuers, and Pete's Dragon, but later worked for other film companies like United Artists (All Dogs Go to Heaven) and Universal Studios (The Land Before Time). In Dragon's Lair, you control the actions of a daring knight named Dirk, to save a princess from an evil dragon, hence the name of the game. Since the dawn of this exact game, more and more companies were influenced by the technology used, and decided to make their own interactive movie games for arcades and consoles.
The birth of the 'interactive movie' genre was studded with unimpressive flops, though the genre later came into its own; at the time, video-capture technology was still in its infancy, with short (and often grainy and low-quality) video segments being the norm for games of any length.
Video game and traditional media forms
With the rapid convergence of all media types into a digital form, video games are also beginning to affect, and be affected by traditional media forms.
In the history, the Television engineer Ralph Baer, who conceived the idea of an interactive television while building a television set from scratch created the first video game. Video games are now also being exploited by pay-TV companies which allow you to simply attach your computer or console to the television cable system and you can simply download the latest game.
Games act in television, with the player choosing to enter the artificial world. The constructed meanings in video games are more influential than those of traditional media forms. The reason is that 'games interact with the audience in a dialogue of emotion, action, and reaction'. The interactivity means this occurs to a depth that is not possible in the traditional media forms.
Computer games have developed in parallel to both the video game and the arcade video game. The personal computer and console machines such as the Dreamcast, Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox offered a new dimension to game playing. The consoles have now largely been replaced by the Xbox 360, Wii and, the PlayStation 4, and the personal computer is still a leading gaming machine..
Games are the first new computer-based media form to socialize a generation of youth in a way that traditional media forms have in the past. Therefore, the 'MTV generation' has been overtaken by the 'Nintendo generation'; however, some refer to the current generation as the 'iPod Generation'.
Because they straddle the technologies of television and computers, electronic games are a channel through which we can investigate the various impacts of new media and the technologies of convergence.
Interactive engagement between players and digital games
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Digital game is a new form of media where users interact and highly engage with. Terry Flew said that unlike "lean-back" types of media such as television, film and books, digital games place users into a productive relationship. In other words, a player has a relationship where he or she serves to create their own text every time when engaged.[clarification needed] Digital games are normally lacking in narrative. Rather than focusing on its character development or plot, usually, the setting is the important aspect of the narrative. For example, Despite the fact that games such as Tetris and Pong lack a plot or characters, thet manage to keep players engaged for hours.
Furthermore, digital games place players into a position where they have power to control. Players have power because they are the actor in the game. Again, Flew wrote that "the engagement comes because the player is the performer, and the game evaluates the performance and adapts to it." Emergent games are becoming a popular type of video games as they offer environments and sets of rules where players' story can branch in various unexpected directions, depending on the players' own decisions. Players as users of these new forms of media, not only ingest narrative but also can more freely interact and engage in ways where they can actually create their own text.(2005)
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