While there is no shortage of interdisciplinary introductions to contemporary game studies (most notably, Egenfeldt-Nielsen/Smith/Tosca’s 2016 edition of Understanding Video Games, Sachs-Hombach/Thon’s 2015 German anthology Game Studies, or Wolf/Perron’s 2014 volume The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies), German media studies students – especially at undergraduate level – often lacked a low-threshold entry point into this multi-facetted and fast-growing field. Not anymore! With the newly published anthology Game Studies, Benjamin Beil, Thomas Hensel, and Andreas Rauscher have introduced the first text book for German game studies students with a strong focus on video games analysis from a media studies perspective – including my own chapter on video game characters.
The volume is conveniently structured in 3 sections („Games“, „Interface“, „Players“), each containing 7 short, thematically focused chapters. Addressing issues like space (Andreas Rauscher), time (Serjoscha Wiemer) or music (Melanie Fritsch), the first part covers many important formal elements of games and can thus be easily integrated into the game studies curriculum. The second section discusses high-level concepts like interface (Timo Schemer-Reinhard), platform (Willem Strank) or transmediality (Hanns Christian Schmidt) while the third section deals with the broader context of gaming as media practice. This includes topics like gaming communities (Judith Ackermann), Violence (Jochen Venus), and art (Thomas Hensel). My own chapter focuses on the theory and design of video game characters, presenting a cognitive approach to game character analysis which I exemplify by examining one of my favorite stealth/action games Alien: Isolation.
While there are certainly more theory-driven introductions (like Sachs-Hombach/Thon’s anthology) or more comprehensive ones (like Wolf/Perron’s Companion) this new book excels in providing brief and accessible spotlights on essential features of games and the tools to analytically dissect them. The fact that all chapters follow a similar structure and conclude with hands-on example analyses add additional value when using them in the seminar. It certainly also helps that the list of contributors reads like a Who is Who of German game studies – which will allow you to connect the discourses to various subdisciplines within contemporary media studies.
“So what can I do to get my hands on this gem?“ I hear you ask. First thing you should do is convince your favorite library to order 5 copies of this book. (They will only order 2 anyway, but you have to reach for the stars.) The second thing you should do is check this website. You can order the eBook version at the surprisingly affordable price of €22,99. That compares to 4 Cinnamon Latte at Starbucks – but it spares you the bad conscience and 4 different ways of your name getting misspelled on a cup. (I mean really, how can you misspell „Felix“?). The third thing you should do is finally realizing that a paperback version of that book would be even nicer and you can get that for just €29,99 on the very same webpage I linked above. I mean, how can this get any more convenient? (And now excuse me, please, my chai latte is getting cold…)
You can download the volume’s table of contents here (PDF).