Wright, J. Talmadge, David G. Embrick, and Andras Lukacs, eds.: Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies: Critical Approaches to Researching Video Game Play.

Author:Luminais, Misty
Position:Book review
 
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Wright, J. Talmadge, David G. Embrick, and Andras Lukacs, eds. Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies: Critical Approaches to Researching Video Game Play. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010. xii + 274 pages. Cloth, $75.00.

In Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies, J. Talmadge Wright, David G. Embrick, and Andras Lukacs, all sociologists at Loyola University in Chicago, have collected original research that expands the realm of classical social science theory to address a medium that has only recently begun receiving scholarly attention. The various sections of this volume cover the definition of play and where video games fit into the larger literature of play studies, how the marketing of those games reveal cultural norms, and methodological considerations for virtual research. The most striking feature of this book is the way the various authors link video games to theory, eschewing the moral panic of the media and the romanticization of garners for a more nuanced evaluation of the world of video games as a field site, complete with its own set of philosophical and practical challenges. This analysis is foregrounded by the emphasis on video games as interactions, whether they are between players or corporations. The contributing authors explore the tensions inherent in any interaction through the lens of dialectics. This theme weaves in and out of their essays, usually arguing for a "both/and" approach to what appear to be oppositional forces rather than "either/or."

The book opens with a discussion of how Johan Huizinga, the Dutch historian who wrote Homo Ludens (1938), might view postmodern gaming. This offers a basic grounding in play studies, but is not nearly as interesting as the more theoretical essays that come later. Ken McAllister, a professor of rhetoric at the University of Arizona, and Judd Ethan Ruggill, a communication scholar at Arizona State University, call upon Ernst Bloch, the German Marxist philosopher and author of The Principle of Hope (1986), to elucidate the contrary nature of video games as both serious grounds of study and frivolous pleasure. Taken together, these qualities of games can potentially transform the...

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