A Week in Review: Playing with Fear


I must admit I am a latecomer to F.E.A.R ... I had promised myself a few months ago that I had shot my last zombie and never again would I lift my shotgun to get a heads-up kill on a moaning undead creature. Consequently, F.E.A.R lay on the shelf and even its sequel passed me by. Till lately, that is. And I am passing glad that i am still tailing Paxton Fettel and being given the shivers (the game does a splendid job of it) by the apparition of Alma. The dark passages and the frantic moments when I've wasted bullets on my own shadow or a harmless see through zombie are quite unforgettable. Anyway, this is old stuff for any gamer worth his or her salt ... I should be talking about GTA IV (when i've played it, though... i'm still waiting for the pc version).

The reason why i can't resist talking about F.E.A.R is the sheer joy of returning to FPS games through such a great one. I'd better switch the lights off and enjoy my fear!


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Ludus ex is up and playing

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Finally, a blog. This blog has been on the cards for quite a while now- at least, since the last GameCity festival in Nottingham. The objective is to spread the word (and the play, which as I argue, cannot be kept separate) of my research amongst the wider game studies research community and to get the ever so valuable feedback. I've been thinking critically about computer games for a while now, having published my first paper on the Alice books and computer games in 2000. I travelled from Calcutta to Nottingham in 2005 to do my PhD on computer games at Trent uni. And I've moved on a lot from all those early papers. That's because Game Studies itself has moved on much further and much faster in the last three years. So instead of the brick wall of steadily held opinions, my research has become more fluid. Three words define my research and this blog :Work in Progress.

Ludo ex: Indian version of ludo painted on a handkerchief (Chamba, Rajasthan)

A few words about the title ... Ludus ex Machina/Game in the Machine: not the best translation because there seems to be a confusion of prepositions. However, this isn't any confusion - this is play. It is apt that for a site on playing, the title itself is in play. 'Ex Machina' translates as 'from the machine' but in case of the computer game, the game that 'emerges from' the computer (machine) is also originarily always 'in the machine' because the ludic and the machinic are originarily interrelated. The diminutive 'Ludus ex' is another kind of play: the more common meanings of 'ex' are 'former' or in case of the letter 'x', a variable in an equation. Both of these come into play in this context. The game (ludus) is always a thing of the past or an 'ex ludus'; it is always a deferral since it is already over by the time we conceive of it as ludic. This act of differance also indicates the variability of the letter 'x'. Always, the game in its instant-to instant conception is experienced as different - 'a ludus x'. Finally, the obvious link: 'Ludus ex' is a borrowing from the Greek concept of 'Deus ex Machina', defined by the OED as 'A power, event, or person arriving in the nick of time to solve a difficulty; a providential (often rather contrived) interposition, esp. in a novel or play'. Literally, this was done in Greek plays by swinging a character, usually a god, onto the stage using some machinery. Ludus ex speaks about how the machinic is involved in the narrative and has been so since the very beginning of art, whether it is by actually throwing a troubleshooting character into the plot or by some other device. It says that art (and the narrative) is machinic ... always was. In the computer game (albeit it must be said, in some more than others), a person (player) is always arriving to solve a difficulty and always creating a narrative within the machine.

Jesus Christ Denton! I've forgotten the main source of the title. Deus Ex, of course! The game, I mean, in case there is anybody who didn't guess already. Why have that for the main source ? You'll need to play it to know.

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