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Open Access (free)
The computer game as fictional form
Author: Barry Atkins

This book is dedicated to the study of computer games in terms of the stories they tell and the manner of their telling. It applies practices of reading texts from literary and cultural studies to consider the computer game as an emerging mode of contemporary storytelling. The book contains detailed discussion of narrative and realism in four of the most significant games of the last decade: ‘Tomb Raider’, ‘Half-Life’, ‘Close Combat’, and ‘Sim City’. It recognises the excitement and pleasure that has made the computer game such a massive global phenomenon.

Open Access (free)
Reading Tomb Raider
Barry Atkins

2 Fantastically real: reading Tomb Raider Tomb Raider [inc. Tomb Raider (1996), Tomb Raider II: The Dagger of Xian (1997), Tomb Raider III: The Adventures of Lara Croft (1998), Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999), Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2000)] Third-person action/adventure. The player controls the actions (running, jumping, walking, climbing, crawling, shooting etc.) of Lara Croft, usually from a third-person perspective. Progress through the game involves frequent jumping of the protagonist from platform to platform. Jump distances are often precise, and

in More than a game
Open Access (free)
Reading Half-Life
Barry Atkins

evasion theme, with protagonists attempting escape from both human and alien opponents after a scientific experiment goes badly wrong. Occasional excursions are made into an alien dimension. The three versions of Half-Life offer three varying perspectives on events: those of Gordon Freeman, a scientist involved in the experiment, Adrian Shepherd, a member of a military team sent in response to events, and Barney Calhoun, a security guard. Any notion that game-fictions such as Half-Life and Tomb Raider might point, however vaguely, towards the eventual development of an

in More than a game
Open Access (free)
Reading SimCity
Barry Atkins

game-fictions driven forwards by their move from moment to moment of extreme violence might chap5.p65 111 13/02/03, 14:23 112 More than a game also come as something of a surprise. Forms of conflict and confrontation have always played a major part in the structuring of both games and popular fictions, after all. We know where we are, in story terms, where there is a loaded gun available and a slavering alien or shambling zombie in front of us. How we ‘should’, or how we ‘can’, read such a plot fragment is obvious. Where Tomb Raider and Half-Life had obvious

in More than a game
Open Access (free)
Barry Atkins

Matters of structural organisation inevitably contribute to meaning, and what might appear to have been an odd or even eccentric ordering of the chapters of this volume would probably benefit from some belated explanation. Faced with the task of looking in detail at four specific examples, the simple question of the order in which to place the individual readings comes to the fore. To fall chap6.p65 147 13/02/03, 14:24 148 More than a game back on the standard of chronological sequence (sequels aside, something like SimCity, Tomb Raider, Close Combat, Half

in More than a game
Open Access (free)
Reading Close Combat
Barry Atkins

, of conflict. Of all the game-fictions selected as primary examples in this study, Close Combat is the least likely to be an instantly recognisable brand name even to those who spend their leisure time staring at a computer monitor. Its relative popularity as a games franchise might be indicated by the longevity of a series that had seen five episodes released by the year 2000, but it has hardly become a household name in the same way that Half-Life, Tomb Raider, or SimCity have. Its profile even among other real-time strategy games, itself an extremely popular sub

in More than a game
Barry Atkins

might become, rather than address the mundanity of the object we actually have access to. This is not that potentially oxymoronic thing, an ‘untheorised reading’. Rather, it is a reading that draws on narratological and structuralist thinking and criticism for the most part, and tries to leave its more speculative digressions until the closing chapter. Those who wish to read chap1.p65 10 13/02/03, 14:00 The computer game as fictional form 11 about Tomb Raider, Half-Life, Close Combat, or SimCity are advised to skip ahead to the beginning of Chapter 2 and read on

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