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Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction

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From Pong to PlayStation 3 and beyond, Understanding Video Gamesis the first general introduction to the exciting new field of video game studies. This textbook traces the history of video games, introduces the major theories used to analyze games such as ludology and narratology, reviews the economics of the game industry, examines the aesthetics of game design, surveys the broad range of game genres, explores player culture, and addresses the major debates surrounding the medium, from educational benefits to the effects of violence. Throughout the book, the authors ask readers to consider larger questions about the medium: what defines a video game? who plays games? why do we play games? how do games affect the player? Extensively illustrated, Understanding Video Gamesis an indispensable and comprehensive resource for those interested in the ways video games are reshaping entertainment and society. A Companion Website ( features student resources including discussion questions for each chapter, a glossary of key terms, a video game timeline, and links to other video game studies resources for further study.

Author Biography

Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen is CEO of Serious Games Interactive and has worked as an assistant professor at the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen. Jonas Heide Smith has taught computer-mediated communication at the University of Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Business School, the IT University of Copenhagen, and Roskilde University. Susana Pajares Tosca is an associate professor at the IT University of Copenhagen and is a founding editor of the journal Game Studies.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
About the Reader
Structure of the Book
The Larger Questions
Studying Video Gamesp. 7
Who Studies Video Games?
How do you Study Video Games?
Types of Analysis
Schools of Thought?
The Game Industryp. 15
The Size of the Game Industry
The Structure of the Game Industry
The Development Process
Roles in Game Development
What is a Game?p. 27
General Models for Understanding Games
The Issue of Genre
Historyp. 53
A Brief Pre-history of Video Games
Does History Matter?
A History of Video Games
The 1970s
The 1980s
The 1990s
The 2000s
The 2010s and Beyond
Video Game Aestheticsp. 117
Geography and Representation
Number of Players
Games without Boundaries
Video Games in Culturep. 157
The Cultural Position of Video Games
Narrativep. 193
Reception-The Player's Experience of a Story
A Brief History of Literary Theory and Video Games
Serious Games-When Entertainment is Not Enoughp. 229
Traditional Games for Serious Purposes
Categorizing Educational Computer Games
The Rationale Behind Edutainment
The Instructional Approach to Edutainment
The Modern Approach to the Educational Use of Computer Games
The Educational Effectiveness of Video Games
Political Games and Newsgames
Gamification-Plug'n'Play Games for Real?
Games-for-change-Revolutionaries Rise
Final Remarks
Video Games and Risksp. 255
Two Research Perspectives
The Active Media Perspective
The Active User Perspective
Other Questions
Final Remarks
Video Game Timelinep. 281
Glossaryp. 285
Games Citedp. 289
Bibliographyp. 295
Indexp. 315
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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