The Uncanny Violence of Video Games, Part IIb, “The META of Video Gaming.”

As the model suggests, the formation of a META for any video game, or game for that matter, depends on the resilience of the rewards methodologies as a consistent motivation for META development, and an ever-increasing familiarity with the rules, which define how rewards are achieved. For some games, like “Flower”, rewards are tightly linked to single, static, visual media events. But for others, like the first-person-shooter, Battlefield 4, the rewards structure is far more complex, requiring a much greater level of ongoing engagement to achieve[3].

This suggests the importance of the graphical aspects of a game, (the “video” of video games), to the creation of its META, may differ considerably from franchise to franchise. Some video games, like Minecraft, de-emphasize their visual aesthetics in deference to a highly complex rewards methodology that includes differentiated single- and multiplayer experiences (see Video below). But even in games like Flower, in which the programmatic rewards are expressed in terms of visual events, there is clearly a correlation between the level of complexity of the rewards system and the level of complexity of the META knowledge structure, and that neither of these need depend on the game’s visual aesthetics (see Video below).

It is evident, therefore, that while media content serves an obvious function in video games, it is not necessarily motivational, nor significant to the formulation of the META that determines the level of ongoing engagement. For games, like Battlefield 4, the use of visual content is integral to achieving the Primary Objective of the game, but only as an aesthetic. In other words, the relationship between the visual media and the achievement of awards is cosmetic. It is, therefore, integral but inconsequential.

This final aspect of the META and its formulation as a methodology to achieving rewards, affords the most compelling distinction between video games and passive media types, like TV and film, especially in the level and type of engagement. Traditional film and TV programming (not so called “experimental”), must emphasize visual aesthetics to engage their audience, video games do not. In addition, all film and television programming eventually becomes a static, predictable experience. By this we mean, after seeing a film repeatedly, the experience of reviewing its content again and again makes it more predictable. This is clearly not the case with video games, especially those that feature online, multiplayer experiences.

Since the advent of high-broadband home networks, the META of video games must frequently account for two strikingly dissimilar experiences, the programmatic, “single-player” (also known as “campaign” mode), and “multiplayer” which links both visually and audibly, two or more players together in real time. In these highly unpredictable environments, the META is reliant not only on the rewards systems, but also on the invasive activities of other human players (see Video below).

For video games like Minecraft and Battlefield 4, the successful achievement of rewards is, therefore, directly influenced by the META of another player. This phenomenon only exists in the context of gaming in general, and has no equivalent in either film or TV. Thus, the META of video games is indicative of the underlying competitive knowledge structures, which are reflective of its gaming origins. As such, it distinguishes video gaming from other forms of related visual media, such as film and TV, by recognizing an obvious distinction in the kind and “degree of engagement,” related to an often highly complex system of rewards, for which there is no equivalent or corresponding function or mode in the consumption of either film or TV[4].

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