Monday, October 7, 2013

Midterm 1: I'll Do This

In the non-narrative chapters of Moby Dick, Melville's essentially pulling in the reader further into the world of whaling, building connections that will increase the power of the plot in the reader's heart and mind. By relating everyday objects to large philosophical questions and symbols, Melville builds a collage of meaning over the final scenes of man versus whale in the novel. Through Melville's connective efforts, by the end of the novel we're not just watching a one-legged man chase a white whale, we're watching Satan tempt Jesus, and the world turn more secular, and Peter deny Christ, and America be forged, and several other metaphorical and allegorical applications Melville has built into the story--and infinitely more that he did not build in, but which we can build over the structure he has laid before us.

I want to study in my paper how meaning is established in Moby Dick, and in what ways these techniques can be used to create meaning in the new digital form of video games. I also want to explore how video games can't follow Moby Dick's example, and what video games can do to create meaning that a book could not.

We're very good at finding meaning in books, and pretty good at finding it in movies, because these forms have been around awhile and we have learned how to "read" them for meaning. We don't know how to "read" video games for meaning. Many would argue that this is because video games simply don't have meaning, but I don't believe that for a second. Every English major can attest to having defended a novel as meaningful when someone told them it really "didn't mean anything." I believe this is the same situation. It is true that games have only recently had the economic stability to consider more traditionally artistic themes and tropes--but at the same time, early games might be even more meaningful because they were made despite all the economic difficulty, meaning the creators really had something they wanted to accomplish with it enough to make it happen despite the difficulty.

So, here's a go at a working thesis statement:

Moby Dick is an excellent case study in how novels can create meaning through connecting with readers personally and with larger human themes and ideas. Using this case study, I argue that video games can create meaning in many of the same ways as novels (and in many ways unique to the medium). The only reason we do not find as much meaning in video games as we do in novels is because we have not learned how to find and understanding the meanings games could produce.

Please comment below if you have any questions or insights you think I should consider. Also, if you are on reddit, you can join a similar discussion I started over there.