Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game

By Graeme Kirkpatrick

Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7718-0
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: August 2011
  • BIC Category: Media studies: TV & society, ART / Film & Video, ART / Criticism & Theory, Electronic, Holographic & Video Art, The arts / Theory of art, Society & social sciences / TV & society, Film and Media


This book draws on aesthetic theory, including ideas from the history of painting, music and dance, to offer a fresh perspective on the video game as a popular cultural form. It argues that games like Grand Theft Auto and Elektroplankton are aesthetic objects that appeal to players because they offer an experience of form, as this idea was understood by philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Theodor Adorno.

Video games are awkward objects that have defied efforts to categorise them within established academic disciplines and intellectual frameworks. Yet no one can deny their importance in re-configuring contemporary culture and their influence can be seen in contemporary film, television, literature, music, dance and advertising. This book argues that their very awkwardness should form the starting point for a proper analysis of what games are and the reasons for their popularity. This book will appeal to anyone with a serious interest in the increasingly playful character of contemporary capitalist culture.


"An established scholar of the sociology of gaming and computers, Kirkpatrick (Univ. of Manchester, UK) argues video games are autonomous cultural forms that should be considered art."

"Kirkpatrick positions the aesthetics of video games in interactivity, outside the traditional realm of formal or literary representation."

"......adds a distinct, if rather conservative, perspective on video game play to the burgeoning field of game studies."

I have yet to encounter a book as extensive and thought-provoking as Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game.

...Kirkpatrick's book is an illuminating exploration of how a players body and a game intertwine, or how, "a generation of young men have grown up dancing with their hands."

There is no doubt that this book is important: for the academic theorization of gameplay, aesthetic theory, and cultural studies in its broadest, interdisciplinary or 'indisiciplined' manifestations. Rancière is one of a plethora of writers with whom Kirkpatrick artfully weaves propositions and readings of games to accumulate a coherently mapped theory of gaming as an aesthetic cultural practice... I have yet to encounter a book as extensive and thought provoking as Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game.

You'll never look at a controller the same way again after Kirkpatrick explains how we've been conditioned to use carefully designed blobs of plastic to influence an image.


1. The Aesthetic Approach
Why an aesthetic approach?
Play and form
Form, taste and society
Art and politics
Culture industry revisited
2. Ludology, Space and Time
From ergodicity to ludology
Gameness and its limits
Abstraction, virtual space and simulacra
The rhythm of suspended time
Ludology, narratology and aesthetics
3. Controller, Hand, Screen
Form, vision and matter
Hands and touch
The controller
Video game image
Embodied activity and culture
4. Games, Dance and Gender
Dance and art
Habitus and embodied play
Choreography in 'Mirror's Edge'
A dance aesthetic
Choreography and discourse
Aesthetics and gender
5. Meaning and Virtual Worlds
Fictional worldness
Neo-baroque entertainment culture
Form and fictional content
Death and allegory
Play and mourning
6. Political Aesthetics
Unit operations
Rhetoric and persuasion
Badiou's inaesthetics
The ludological truth-event
Dancing our way to where?


Graeme Kirkpatrick is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Manchester.

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