I have a basic assumption after a rather broad reading of texts. There seems to be an invisible rift between the research image of the video game and its material base, a border between the visuality and technology. A lot of the texts I looked at concentrate on either side. A few foundational works recognize the algorithmic nature of the image in video games, without going into technological details. I believe that this is happening because the researchers usually just bring one half of the needed skill sets.

It could also be a possibility, that these two halves are fundamentally different and that this rift exists, because there is no connection. But I doubt that.

Working through this assumption would foremost include a proper literature review, having a look at the focus as well as methodology of research on the image in video games. If this assumption turns out to be true, I would then set out to bring these two areas together. My thesis is, that there is an unacknowledged interplay between the techno-historic limits of video game development and the reception of the image, respectfully, the generation of meaning for the player. This goes the other way as well: Certain targeted modes of reception inform the modes of production, such as coding in Assembler on PICO-8. Retro is not only a visual approach, but also shapes programming practices.

Sidethought: Bridging this divide could possibly enable readings of intention on the developers side and inform practices of conservation. The code, software and hardware needed to run video games could be read as paratexts.

The four papers needed for the cumulative dissertation could look something like the following very, very rough draft.

  1. Techno-historic Limits of our corpus, detailed analysis of the systems that were used to see the games.
  2. Close reading of code and development practices regarding their visual output
  3. Visual rethoric, semiology: Close Reading of our corpus with case studies
  4. Distant Reading of our corpus to look for patterns in games in relation to their hardware or emulation

The four papers would be supportive of the general argument of the interplay between material basis and meaning arising from the image, and should come together in the final dissertation.

Working title for now: On code, visuality and meaning: Interdisciplinary perspectivest on the image in Swiss video games pre-2000