The Realist Video Game as Performative Text
The medium of the video game has emerged at the end of a long history of realist representation spanning various media types. The disciplines of literary theory, semiotics, and visual culture have all sought to demystify how reality is depicted and how the arbitrary relationship between signs and their referents seem natural. Video games portray the real world in a complex way that incorporates processes of meaning making developed in image production and literature, but ultimately creates new processes of representation in itself. In particular, contemporary realist video games represent spaces in a way that use techniques of visual perspective that stretch back to Renaissance painting. The realist mode of video game representation seeks to portray bodies as seamlessly inheriting their spaces through the scripting of performances through the game’s own framework of movement and action.
This thesis uses the theoretical frameworks of game studies scholars Daniel Golding and Darshana Jayemanne to understand the video game as as a performative text. The Last of Us is used as a case study for how the player character’s continuous movement is broken up into discrete states that frame a specific relation between body and space. This case study is contrasted with the works of video game designer Robert Yang to explore the unique way the procedural animation technology of the ragdoll simulates bodies to challenge and denature assumptions about conventional video game representations of bodies in spaces.