New Publication: Expressive Space: Embodying Meaning in Video Game Environments

New Publication:

Expressive Space: Embodying Meaning in Video Game Environments
Volume 4 in the series Video Games and the Humanities
By Greg Whistance-Smith

Publisher: De Gruyter Oldenbourg (January 2022)
ISBN-10:‎ 3110723573
ISBN-13:‎ 978-3110723571
265 pages

Hi everyone,

I’m excited to announce the release of my book, Expressive Space: Embodying Meaning in Video Game Environments.

It approaches video games as built environments, places constructed for particular activities. Since we experience space from the position of our body, the book develops a framework for analyzing meaning in video game spaces by synthesizing five theories from the field of embodied cognition. These theories suggest how embodied experiences can evoke more abstract discourses, providing a new lens for exploring how the mechanics, environment, and spatial interactions in a video game can reinforce its deeper themes.

After chapters discussing the spatiality of video games and developing the framework, the book analyzes 12 case studies across four types of designed space:

  1. Spaces designed as memorable places to inhabit and explore (e.g. houses, gardens): Knytt Stories, The Night Journey, and NaissanceE.
  2. Spaces designed for enjoyable movement (e.g. obstacle courses, tennis courts): Wii Sports, Taiko no Tatsujin, and WipEout HD (Zone Mode).
  3. Spaces designed to scaffold activities (e.g. kitchens, offices, schools): Shelter, Shadow of the Colossus, and Katamari Damacy.
  4. Spaces designed to enhance our perception (e.g. installation artworks): Thirteen Gates, SUPERHOT, and The Witness.

Most video games layer these types of space, but addressing them separately allows for a clearer look at their core concerns.

The case studies also let the book discuss a wide range of spatial issues in video games, including the meaningful structuring of their worlds, the presence of challenge within them, the ways they integrate narratives, and the significance of players becoming more skilled over time.

Finally, even though the book isn’t written as a guide for game designers, its framework is easily applicable to design. My professional background is in architecture, and the book reflects that perspective.

For anyone interested, a more detailed summary of what you’ll find in the book is available here. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions about it, or if the price is a barrier and you’d still like to read it.

All the best,

Greg Whistance-Smith
M.Arch, MA |

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