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Frontiers Of New Media: Reconstructing Our Ideas Of Culture And Society

The understanding of player involvement is inextricably linked to the way the game interacts with the player and the player interacts with the game through the ludic interface. Video games as situated cultures have become an intrinsic part of the way the digital universe is permeating the real world, thereby influencing and reconstructing our ideas of culture and society.

Roger Caillois’ defines mimicry as ‘becoming an illusory character oneself, and of so behaving. One is thus confronted with a series of manifestations, of which the common element is that the subject makes believe that he is someone other than himself’.  The idea of make believe is etymologically linked to the idea of play. The word illusion is derived from Latin illusio, meaning deceit. Illusio comes from the Latin phrase illudere, meaning 'in play'. Play and illusion are units of différance, operating from within the centre of the structure and deferring meaning and ‘truth’ forever. Immersion is rendered a problematic term since it refers to a complete identification, to a union of consciousnesses whereas the player can only form supplements in play. The ludic interface operates as a tool of creating différance. And it is the combination of the ludic interface and the narrative element in play which creates illusion in the game world. Neither, on its own, can create a powerful magic circle, creating kairos out of chronos.

The Indian classical idea of the Sutradhar binds the concepts of interface and narrative. It looks at how the physical interface between the puppets and the puppeteer becomes, literally, the strings which hold the narrative together. The literal sutradhar is said to have preceded the symbolic sutradhar.

The sutradhar is also a performer. Each rendition of a story, be it an oral narrative or an authored text, is different at the hands of the sutradhar, who becomes part author of the narrative. The use of the interface is particular to each sutradhar, thereby making each performance different from the previous one.

The videogame player as a participant in the game with AI, is a performer. In multiplayer environments, the gamer is an interacting performer, improvising and rendering the game differently as both participant and audience.

The present project on “New Media” is a new area of research in society and communication that will examine the changing nature of player involvement in videogames with respect to existing and emerging technologies of gameplay and the synergies which exist between the ludic interface and narrative structure of videogames. The element of performativity in gaming is also crucial to our understanding of how a game unfolds, both in terms of its ludic specificities and narrative qualities. The idea of the puppeteer is all the more relevant now, with video game consoles of the eighth generation introducing gameplay where the player herself becomes the ludic interface. Games like these demand a new understanding of interfaces, narratives and player involvement. The 3D environment moulds the player's action and thereby makes the player's choices a crucial part of the game narrative itself. The gamer is both a puppeteer and a narrator, wielding the joystick and controlling the narrative in a bid to finish the game.

Center’s newly appointed Visiting Scholar Ms Nandita Roy who is a PhD Scholar at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Leuphana, Germany is conducting this research in an attempt to better understand human interactions with virtual space and the cultural exchanges between the digital and the real. It tries to answer the question: How does human interaction with ludic interface and narrative impact player involvement?