Title: Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism

Author: Ian Bogost

Publication Date: January 25, 2008

Publisher: The MIT Press

A book about comparative videogame criticism: games, philosophy, literature, and art.

In Unit Operations, Ian Bogost offers a new methodology for videogame criticism as well as a model for potential collaboration between the humanities and computation. He argues that similar principles underlie both literary theory and computation, and suggests a literary-technical approach that can be used to analyze videogames and other software artifacts. Moreover, this approach can be applied beyond videogames: he suggests that any medium–from videogames to poetry, literature, cinema, or art–can be read as a configurative system of discrete, interlocking units of meaning (as unit operations), and illustrates this method of analysis with examples from all these fields. The marriage of literary theory and computation helps humanists take technology more seriously and help technologists better understand software and videogames as cultural artifacts.

Other themes covered include object technology, psychoanalysis, complex network theory, ludology and narratology, the question of “fun” in videogames, and the challenges of videogame study in the contemporary university.

Works discussed from philosophy include those by Plato, Badiou, Benjamin, Heidegger, Zizek, Derrida, Deleuze, Spinoza, Leibniz; from media theory including McLuhan, Bolter, Kittler, Landow, Manovich, Muray, Postman; from videogames including PONG, Half-Life, The Sims, Star Wars Galaxies, Grand Theft Auto, The Legend of Zelda, SimCity, Tetris; from literature including Baudelaire, Apollinaire, Artaud, Bukowski, Flaubert, Joyce; from film including Spielberg, Jeunet; from science including Wolfram, Barabasi, Dawkins, Gell-Man, Granovetter and many others in all these domains.