Category Archives: Portfolio

Visual Analysis Toolkit (Short Version)


There is an earlier draft of this analysis as well that goes a little deeper into the theory, though it has changed since I originally wrote it. I’m also working on a longer, revised version that fleshes out my thinking based on all the feedback I’ve received. This version is what will appear in the GLS 9.0 proceedings. In short, there are many versions of this theory and the joy of digital media is that you can watch me draft and revise publicly. I love the future.

This paper provides a methodology for analyzing the visual elements of videogames, and in particular how those elements can help players understand the contexts of the game and prepare them to act within it. Visual elements help orient players to the mechanics of the game (what they do) and to the stories they enact (why they are doing it and how). There is a risk in isolating visual elements from other modes of meaning-making in games, as gameplay is about how these modes work together to make the meaning of the game possible. However, this analysis considers how the visual elements point towards these other modes, how the game cues players in how to interpret and act, and how to use the visual features to “do” the game. Building on a framework developed by Serafini (2010), this methodology for visual analysislooks across several interrelated features: the representational and orientational elements within the game screen; structures and conventions called upon; and ideological choices and frames used by the designers in creating the game and by players when interpreting and enacting that design. If, as Serafini suggests, we think of these as nested layers within a sphere, then the outermost level is the ideological frame, the middle is the structural and conventional frame, and the innermost is the representational elements or “noticings”; we look inward through ideologies, through conventions, at the “noticings,” which reflect back to us those other features. It is important to understand that the boundaries between layers is porous; conventions are certainly ideologically motivated; color is both a semiotic structure (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2002) as well as a noticeable element. These features blend into each other and isolating them is useful only in the most abstract deconstruction. In the everyday world players experience these things simultaneously and as compound meaning-potentials.

The work of meaning: Orientation and Preparation

Gameplay is about the mechanics of play, about  Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

How to Look at Videogames: Three Perspectives

WoW - Visual - Crop - 600

What we need is a grammar of understanding, a way of describing how meaning making occurs in and around videogames. We’ve already made some progress across various disciplines and discourses, from design and art theory to cultural studies and educational applications. Often these approach games by examining what they mean. I care less about what videogames mean than how they mean it. I’ll leave meanings to critics; I care about the ways they mean, the perceptual features, the structures that support the creation of meaning. These are questions which inform both the making and playing of games. Indeed, I feel strongly that questions of meaning serve as a unifying space for both ends of videogames, design and play. Often it’s easy to treat these as wholly separate dimensions, where play is simply an emergent property of the design of the game, or where players interact with a “text” that comes pre-packaged and is simply decoded. I think this stems not from ignorance of the interdependent nature of design and play but in issues of access: critics from either dimension often lack effective ways to interact with and interrogate what the “other side” is doing, from the actual process of design and development to the multitudes of ways to play. Instead, it is far more productive to conceive of games as both designed and enacted.

This is why I feel how meaning happens (or doesn’t) is so important: it provides a more robust vocabulary across the practices of making games and enacting them. Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

Pimping ASU Humanities Interview with a certain videogame hack

I hate to use this stupid site only to pimp the stuff I do, but….well, I guess I don’t hate it that much.

Alright, with that cleared up, check out an interview I did as part of ASU’s Project Humanities. The guiding question is “Are we losing our humanity?” I was asked to talk about videogames and digital media specifically. Also starring my good friend and cool interweb scholar Alice Daer. Woot.

Tagged , ,

EdGamer Podcast with Yours Truly

I recorded a podcast for EdGamer yesterday. Hosts Zack Gilbert and Gerry James were fantastic – accommodating and entertaining. Thanks for inviting me guys!

Here’s a link to the show: http://edreach.us/2012/06/23/edgamer-57-jeff-holmes-asu/

We talk about some news, a bit about the visual analysis talk I gave at GLS, a lot about education and gaming, and some about the Center for Games and Impact. An action-packed hour and some change.

Tagged , ,