Tag Archives: culture as toolkit

Nideffer, R.F. (2011). Game Engines as Creative Frameworks. In _Context Providers_, M. Lovejoy, C. Paul, and V. Vesna, eds. Bristol and Chicago: intellect.

Robert F. Nideffer researches, teaches, and writes on virtual environments and behavior, interface theory and design, technology and culture, and contemporary social theory. He has an MFA in Computer Arts and PhD in Sociology, is a Full Professor in Studio Art and Informatics at UC Irvine.

Here Nideffer implores the reader to perceive the “engine” in “game engine” to mean more than software. Instead we should think of it in terms of the development community’s vitality, which is often at odds with the artistic community’s. First, we should recall the former has discrete economic imperatives–making money as quickly as possible translates to repeating genres, aesthetics, functionality. Second, we should interrogate how the values are encoded into the systems. Traditional gaming sells packages that do give users choices, but they aren’t deep, structural ones.

Anthony Giddens’ (1993) “structuration theory” relates the relationship between individual agency and social structure: the individual’s acts reaffirm the larger system, though it remains changeable. Nideffer stresses this relationship isn’t equally weighted, however, and tensions exist (e.g. ArtModJam panel). Ann Swidler’s (1986) “culture as toolkit” thesis holds people draw from their own cultural tools to resolve perceived issues and make sense of their personal milieus. Again, tensions exist. See the 1999 “Cracking the Maze” exhibition, which

“…provided a brilliant and thematically coherent framework for beginning to establish game hacking, patching, and level modification as not only a timely and relevant artistic practice, but as a strategy for calling into question some of the latent ideological premises behind a commercial product that was already having such widespread social impact” (182).

Why not apply to planning, too?


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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Media Arts, Minor Field, Research Fields