Author: Ng, Carman
Title: War and will : a multisemiotic analysis of metal gear solid 4
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2017
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
War games -- Data processing
Video games -- Social aspects
Discourse analysis -- Psychological aspects
Discourse analysis -- Social aspects
Department: Department of English
Pages: xii, 401 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Videogames have emerged as a pivotal medium and concept-creating metaphor of the digital present. Proposing two analytical frameworks for multisemiotic and gameplay analyses, this research re-conceptualizes videogames as interfaces that afford player enactment to critically and ethically engage with posthumanism and the military-entertainment complex in the nonhuman turn. Blending critique and empirical analyses, this study investigates the globally recognized, war-themed Japanese action-adventure stealth videogame series Metal Gear Solid (Kojima 1998 ongoing) as an exemplary case study of (a) how videogames reflect and inspire contemporary sociopolitical and cultural issues; (b) ways that videogames create meaning and (pre)mediate discourses and realities of war; (c) how they (re)shape player subjectivity and agency, problematizing representations and materiality of the posthuman; and (d) the medium specificity of videogames as result and catalyst of intermedial interactions, innovating interface designs and forms of transmedial storytelling, with particular connections with such media as film. Game scholarship tends to involve two interacting paradigms without examining their interacting dynamics. Micro-analyses of form and content remains a focus over macro-accounts of transmedial worlding, within a broad context of networked transnational production, consumption, and policies. Building an empirical foundation to examine such under-theorized dynamics, this study combines socio-semiotic multimodality, digital annotations, procedural rhetoric, unit operations, and film analysis to investigate how motifs of war and posthumanism procedurally and semiotically manifest in gameplay and cinematic cutscenes. This counters flawed notions of videogames as moving images and justly theorizes the medium as enactment-driven ensembles that posthumanize player subjectivities and allegorize logics of contemporary societies of control, characterized by distributed modulation of information and subjectivities, while reflecting current trends of mixed-method qualitative inquiries in the digital humanities. I conduct close analyses of the narrative-concluding Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (MGS4, Kojima 2008), in contrast with its postmodern prequel MGS2: Sons of Liberty (2001), the Cold War-based MGS3: Snake Eater (2004), and the latest MGSV: The Phantom Pain (2015) centered on war economy. Analyses elaborate how the series uses distinct anti-nuclear rhetoric, self-reflexivity, subversive gameplay, and heterodox portrayal of the United States as a militarized global power to critique videogames as a cultural niche that perpetuates and potentially resists the military-entertainment complex. Specifically, I critique the series from perspectives on cloning and biopolitics, networks among human and nonhuman agents, and war economy; exposing how the postmodern military featured reflects movements of contemporary politics and warfare dynamics from Cold War through the war economy present/future. My work tackles posthumanism as bodily metamorphoses, allegories of control, and changing philosophical-ethical projects, tied to clusters of u/dystopian discourses and forms of player enactment. I urge for semiotic and procedural literacies to further a deeper ontological and epistemological understanding of videogames as a medium capable of tackling issues of aesthetic, sociocultural, and ideological importance. In contribution, my research contends that critical play as design crucially rethinks and resists prevalent discourses of capitalism and war. Such orientation draws strength from ambivalence as critical strategy to dehabituate wargaming and relevant media experiences, reveal our complicity, and nurture ethical questioning to advance progressive politics.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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