Speculations on the emergence of a cultural practice

Johnson, Laurie (2007) Speculations on the emergence of a cultural practice. In: Playing the universe: games and gaming in science fiction. Maria Curie-Sklodowska University Press, Lublin, pp. 177-193. ISBN 978-83-227-2656-3

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Since the beginnings of computer and video games, the evolution of the form was heavily influenced by themes, motifs and narratives inspired by science fiction and fantasy. Space War started the ball rolling, Asteroids enjoyed some success as an advanced Space War clone, but it was Space Invaders that launched the cultural phenomenon associated with the arcade game and its domestic counterpart, the video entertainment cartridge system marketed most successfully by Atari. This paper will argue the importance of science fiction and fantasy to this history is not incidental – no use wondering what the history of games might be like if Steve Russell and his MIT colleagues were fans of westerns rather than science fiction addicts, for example. Instead, this paper will present a picture that tends more toward the holistic than the aleatory. One part of this picture is formed by the cultural map of the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the commitment by national leaders to the “space race” made the stuff of science fiction into national policy (it is worth noting that science fiction begins to gain increased recognition as serious literature at around this same time). Another part of the picture is devoted to core generic features of science fiction such as a heightened perspective on the social function of technology (whether utopian or dystopian, for better or worse). Coupled with this is the speculative nature of science fiction and fantasy: the early developers of computer technology were participants in a speculative enterprise, redefining the social map of the future. Thus, we need to trace convergent histories for the post 1960s science fiction and fantasy and the rise of the computer or video game as a predominant cultural practice, a project to which this paper will provide significant headway.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Please note that the original published source should be cited, not this pre-publication version. No reply to request for copyright permission, so taken live.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Arts - No Department (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Arts - No Department (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 01:04
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2016 01:49
Uncontrolled Keywords: science fiction, computer games, video games, culture, science fantasy, speculative fiction, space race
Fields of Research (2008): 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2099 Other Language, Communication and Culture > 209999 Language, Communication and Culture not elsewhere classified
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200204 Cultural Theory
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200525 Literary Theory
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/2372

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