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Playing and Making Poetic Videogames


As a videogame creator who has long thought of the games I make as akin to poems, I believe our vocabulary for discussing meaning in videogames is too limited. The last few years have seen an outpouring of fruitful scholarship around games, much of which operates outside of traditional dichotomies, but the question of how one might fruitfully apply a poetry lens to videogames has remained largely unexplored. In this paper, I consider some tensions that have come out of my own creative practice and lay some groundwork for the discussion and creation of poetic videogames. I start by laying the basis for a poetics of the lyric for videogames because I believe that any discussion of the poetic potential of videogames requires a framework for considering the nature and mechanism of poetic effect in games. I call it a poetics of the lyric because it is a poetics rooted in an examination of lyric poetry. Drawing from my own practice, I also attempt to answer the question of what poetic intervention in videogames is all about in the first place, and propose a poetic praxis founded on the idea of intervening in the established language of videogames—a vast tangled web of visual, auditory, and procedural signifiers—to recast, enliven, and make that language new. The goal of my project is not to propose a monolithic framework, or to separate videogame poems and poets from their nonpoetic counterparts, but rather to see if I can find some language that might help us notice and appreciate certain aspects of videogames that other approaches might dismiss or minimize, as well as to provide a possible starting place for those desiring to approach videogame creation as an intentional poetic practice.

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