Ludic Serialities @ CUNY

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On April 23-24, 2015, I will be participating in the conference “Thinking Serially: Repetition, Continuation, Adaptation,” hosted by the Department of Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY. You can find the full program here, and here is the abstract for the talk I’ll be giving:

Ludic Serialities: Levels of Serialization in Digital Games and Gaming Communities

Shane Denson (Duke University, Program in Literature)

In this paper, I outline several layers of seriality that are operative in and around the medium of digital games. Some of these resemble pre-digital forms of popular seriality, as they have been articulated in commercial entertainments since the nineteenth century; others would seem to be unique to digital formats and the ludic forms of interactivity they facilitate. Thus, the “inter-ludic” seriality of sequels, remakes, and spinoffs that constitute popular game franchises are recognizable in terms of the (predominantly narrative) seriality that has characterized serialized novels, films serials, television series, cinematic remakes and blockbuster trilogies. But these franchises also give rise to “para-ludic” forms of seriality that are more squarely at home in the digital age: games form parts of larger transmedia franchises, which depend in many ways on the infrastructure of the Internet to support exchanges among fans. On the other hand, games also articulate low-level “intra-ludic” serialities through the patterns of repetition and variation that characterize game “levels” and game engines. These serialized patterns are often non-narrative in nature, manifesting themselves in the embodied rhythms instantiated as players interface with games; they therefore challenge the traction of pre-digital conceptions and point to what would appear an unprecedented form of “infra-ludic” serialization at the level of code and hardware. Interestingly, however, such ultra-low-level serialities remain imbricated with the high-level seriality of socio-cultural exchange; levels of code and community cross, for example, in highly serialized modding communities.

This presentation takes a comparative approach in order to identify historical, cultural, and medial specificities and overlaps between digital and pre-digital forms of seriality. Besides outlining the levels of seriality described above, I will also look at methodological challenges for studying these new forms, as well as several approaches (including both close and “distant” forms of reading) designed to meet these challenges.

Bibliography:

Boluk, Stephanie, and Patrick LeMieux. “Hundred Thousand Billion Fingers: Seriality and Critical Game Practices.” Leonardo Electronic Almanac 17.2 (2012): 10-31. http://www.leoalmanac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/LEAVol17No2- BolukLemieux.pdf

Denson, Shane, and Andreas Jahn-Sudmann. “Digital Seriality: On the Serial Aesthetics and Practice of Digital Games.” Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture 7.1 (2013): 1-32. http://www.eludamos.org/index.php/eludamos/article/view/vol7no1-1/7-1-1- pdf

Denson, Shane, and Andreas Jahn-Sudmann, eds. Digital Seriality. Special issue. Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture 8.1 (2014). http://www.eludamos.org/index.php/eludamos/issue/view/vol8no1

Kelleter, Frank, ed. Populäre Serialität: Narration – Evolution – Distinktion. Zum seriellen Erzählen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2012.

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