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(Note: I’m using the term “gaming” to describe electronic gaming specifically, not the playing of games in general.)

The topic of gaming is, in my opinion, a very interesting one, and it has caused me to think more deeply about my own feelings regarding gaming, and specifically videogaming.

In class, Professor Nieves introduced gaming as often being characterized in the general public consciousness as unproductive, childish, not real, addictive, etc. While I personally do not feel entirely this way about gaming, many of those words do resonate with me, and this week I’ve been trying to identify why that is. To that end, Galloway’s piece on algorithmic culture was particularly intriguing to me.

A key idea of Galloway’s is that gaming is an “action-based medium,” which only “[exists] when enacted”. As a result, gaming can be a very consuming pass-time in which its participants become so absorbed in the game that they no longer interact with each other. My partner, who is a much more avid gamer than I, notes that it can often feel isolating to be in a room of friends when everyone is at their own computer or console playing different games concurrently, and this idea contrasts with the way gaming is often sold as a social activity. Galloway’s idea of the game as demanding and requiring action and active attention, I think, explains this effect to some degree. While gaming is certainly often a social undertaking, the nature of an electronic game can demand each player’s attention to such a degree that the experience is more alienating than unifying.

Another qualm of mine with gaming culture is that it is often misogynist. Games are often sexist in their content, and gaming communities are exclusionary or even openly hostile towards women. I think that Galloway indirectly speaks to this point. He writes, “a video game is not simply a fun toy. It is also an algorithmic machine and like all machines functions through specific codified rules of operation”. Unlike many machines, however, games, as a function of their active relationship with the players, require the players to learn the rules of the game. The function of the game itself is codified, and players are then required to learn and follow that code in order to play the game. While there are exceptions to this rule (for example, parody videos of gamers playing games explicitly against the rules), many games force that code on the player (we’ve seen examples of both these types of games in class). This combination of Galloway’s ideas has helped me identify why I so strongly take issue with misogynist games: while many forms of media can be sexist in nature, gaming takes this problematic characteristic to another level by forcing its players to adhere to that code and actively play it out, in order to play the game.

Essentially, gaming’s active and algorithmic or codified nature puts it in a unique position to exacerbate problems I see in many forms of media. Galloway’s identification and analysis of algorithmic culture and the nature of gaming provides significant insight into the way games function in both small and large social settings.