The Reader as Author and the Ontological Divide : Rome Total WarTM and the Semiotic Process

Part of : Γράμμα : περιοδικό θεωρίας και κριτικής ; Vol.20, 2012, pages 145-167

The aim of this paper is to focus on some crucial problems concerning the understanding of the new cultural form called “computer games”. There are affinities between most computer games (at least the most popularones) and the literary or cinematic text in that a story of some sort is involvedin all of them. In the comparison between cinema texts and computergames there is even the shared modality of an audiovisual mode ofrepresentation.However, there is a great deal of difference in the way the reader / viewerin literature and cinema and the player in computer games interacts withthe respective text in question: modes of identification with characters,immersion in the fictional and game world, passive or more active degreesof interaction, etc. The question is whether semiotics as a viable methodologycan assist in the explication of such textual relationships where theplayer (as reader of her text) assumes authorial characteristics and to whatextent such activity affects the ontological status of player (as reader-cumauthor)vis-a-vis the real / fictive gameworld. To limit my scope I elect toexamine simulation and strategy games, also called “god-games”, whichoffer an omniscient third-person point of view and a flat grid-like gameworld; in particular I focus on a strategy, turn based, simulation game, Rome Total WarTM, which offers an additional research parameter, that of History.
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