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Articles (refereed) Research

“The Long Tale of Downloadable Convergence”

Citation: Payne, Matthew Thomas. “The Long Tale of Downloadable Convergence.” The Velvet Light Trap, 81 (Spring 2018): 70-73.

Abstract: …

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Articles (refereed)

“Regulating the Desire Machine: Custer’s Revenge and 8-Bit Atari Porn Games”

NGaXSoFry7Bo1P2tkTWSTCJNFXd4lcOeK8E-LgP0SdECitation:

Payne, Matthew Thomas and Peter Alilunas. “Regulating the Desire Machine: Custer’s Revenge and 8-Bit Atari Porn Video Games,” Television and New Media, in press.

Abstract:
Exploring the short and largely forgotten history of adult-oriented 8-bit video games produced for the Atari 2600 home game console, this essay argues that the games represent an important attempt by media producers to bridge the adult film and interactive entertainment industries. Although American Multiple Industries, Playaround, and Universal Gamex failed to establish a market, their titles nevertheless demonstrate how adult games function as desire machines within an erotic economy that sells a host of anticipatory pleasures. Indeed, the resulting public outcry not only led to the game industry’s first sex-based controversy, but the antagonism signals the desire to regulate sexual expression on a new media technology as game producers—following the lead of adult video professionals—attempted to transport users’ joysticks from living rooms into bedrooms.

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Articles (refereed)

“Parody as Brand: The Case of [adult swim]’s Paracasual Advergames”

Citation:

Gurney, David & Matthew Thomas Payne. “Parody as Brand: The Case of [adult swim]’s Paracasual Advergames.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 2014.

Abstract:

Advergames – a neologism for video games designed to advertise a product or service – are marketing devices employed to impact consumers’ purchasing decisions and, more frequently, shape their impressions of a promoted brand. The online advergames of the programming block-turned-media brand [adult swim] present a clear case in which the games act as rich signifiers of brand aesthetics even if they are not directly connected to the content of the brand’s TV shows, live events, and other assorted merchandise. Although these “casual”-style titles have gameplay mechanics that are accessible to broad audiences, these advergames often exhibit a critical stance toward other games, which differentiates them from the vast majority of casual games on the market. But rather than being anti-casual, we argue that these games are best understood as being paracasual because they use parody to both trouble prevailing definitions of casual games and advergames, and deploy an aesthetic disposition that further helps define the brand. Furthermore, they are an increasingly visible and vital component of a constellation of texts and practices that function as what James Paul Gee calls an “affinity space” for a lucrative audience demographic. This article assesses how [adult swim] games use parody to deconstruct textually video gaming’s most popular genres, and how such parodic deconstruction, as evidenced by players’ online discussions, serves as an affinity space for a media-savvy taste culture.

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Articles (refereed)

“Policing the Sandbox in Grand Theft Auto Online”

Citation:

Payne, Matthew T. & Fleisch, Michael. “Policing the Sandbox in Grand Theft Auto Online,” Media Fields 8 (2014).

 

Abstract:

From the issue’s introduction: “The first essay in this issue, Matthew Thomas Payne and Michael Fleisch’s “Policing the Sandbox in Grand Theft Auto Online” explores the theme of the playground directly. Considering RockStar’s machinations in Grand Theft Auto Online against players’ attempts to manipulate the economic structure of the game’s open world, Payne and Fleisch highlight the fraught politics of policing a space that on its surface purports to offer players a world in which rules are made to be broken. In this sense, play takes on a para-ludic character as cunning players find ways to manipulate the game’s virtual marketplace while the developer moves to protect a vested interest in the game’s real economic potential, carefully curated micro-transactions.”

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Articles (refereed)

“War Bytes: The Critique of Militainment in Spec Ops: The Line

Citation:

Payne, Matthew T. “War Bytes: The Critique of Militainment in Spec Ops: The Line.Critical Studies in Media Communication 31(4) (2014): 265-282.

Abstract:

The vast majority of commercial military-themed video games produced after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks celebrate Americas War on Terror as a grave but necessary and patriotic undertaking. This essay argues that the multi-platform Spec Ops: The Line (2012) runs counter to this tradition in recent military entertainment (or militainment) by engendering a host of gameplay displeasures that critique the interactive attractions of mainstream first- and third-person shooters. In particular, the games brutal mise-en-scène, its intertextual references to popular war media, and its real and imagined opportunities for player choice create a discordant feeling that lays bare the problematic ease with which most video war games indulge in their nationalistic power fantasies. The result is a game that wields its affective distance as a critique of the necessary illusion that all military shooters trade in, but one that so few acknowledge.

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Articles (refereed)

“Gaming Art”

Citation:

Payne, Matthew T. and Michael Fleisch. “Gaming Art.” Journal for International Digital Media Arts Association 9.1 (Spring 2013).

 

Abstract:

This article makes the case that the “are video games art?” debate — recently reignited when famed film critic Roger Ebert declared that games can never achieve artistic standing — presents us with instructive insights about how popular commodities attain cultural worth. The true value of this public debate lies in the way that it showcases how the discourse itself functions as a kind of game. Furthermore, the debate highlights the need for recognizing video gaming’s power as an engine for creativity and innovation across the arts.

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Articles (refereed)

“Marketing Military Realism in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Citation:

Payne, Matthew T. “Marketing Military Realism in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,”Games & Culture 7.4 (July 2012): 305-327.

Abstract:

This essay investigates the challenges that video game marketing encounters when selling the pleasures of playing virtual war. While marketing paratexts are crucial to video games because of the vagaries of their industry, they are especially important for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, as it is the first of the franchise to be set in the 21st century and immerse players in contemporary theaters of war. These marketing paratexts not only generate hype for the game and work to drive sales, but as importantly, they also suggest particular textual readings over others with the goal of insulating Call of Duty’s virtual war play from interpretations and criticisms that might link the violent play on-screen to the worldly violence unfolding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Articles (refereed)

Super Meat Boy: A Love Letter”

Citation:

Payne, Matthew T. & Campbell, Stephen. “Super Meat Boy: A Love Letter.” Well Played: A Journal on Video Games, Value, and Meaning 2.1 (2012).

 

Abstract:

Super Meat Boy (2010) playfully draws on the representational tropes and narrative conventions popularized by classic video game platformers, while simultaneously improving on the core design principles found in this popular genre. In particular, this game invites players of different skill levels to best its tiered challenges, which scale elegantly in difficulty from one level to the next. With its tight controls and its non-punitive punishment system, Super Meat Boy demonstrates that an ostensibly “hardcore” platformer can nevertheless appeal to broader gaming audiences.

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Articles (refereed)

“Stories from the Seats of Power: Chopper versus Chopper as Dueling Travelogues”

Citation:

Payne, Matthew Thomas & Michael Fleisch. “Stories from the Seats of Power: Chopper versus Chopper as Dueling Travelogues.” Well Played: A Journal on Video Games, Value, and Meaning 2.1 (2012).

Abstract:

The “Chopper versus Chopper” multiplayer game mode included in Grand Theft Auto IV’s expansion pack, “The Lost and the Damned” (2009), pits one gamer on a motorcycle against another piloting an assault helicopter in alternating rounds where the pilot must eliminate the biker before the latter scores points by crossing a series of checkpoints. The design of this one-on-one game mode is notable for elegantly distilling a massive and complex synthetic environment into a singularly focused affair between two combatants that fosters competing ways of seeing and understanding their shared space, as well as inciting emergent narratives of narrow escapes and fantastic collisions that draw gamers back round after round.

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Articles (refereed)

“The Digital Divide and its Discontents”

Citation:

Payne, Matthew T. “The Digital Divide and its Discontents.” Currents in Electronic Literacy 9 (Fall 2005).

 

Abstract:

From the conclusion: “Video games have rarely, if ever, been framed as being of possible benefit to the ICT usage and skills divide. Yet, the three selected video game-related projects demonstrate a myriad of literacies that video games could be constituted to support. Moreover, these groups are all working towards ameliorating various ICT divides. The Education Arcade is addressing the gulf between popular and educational game titles. Flanagan’s RAPUNSEL project works to familiarize young girls with a programming language, thereby addressing the gender gap in the IT work force. And, the work of the Room 130 group addresses the gaping hole in video game scholarship. Seen this way, video games not only have something to say about learning a new language, they also have the potential to bridge existing techno-social inequities, and those still to come.”