Realism in play: the uses of realism in computer game discourse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


There is no school of realism in game development, but the term ‘realism’ is used extensively by game developers, players, critics and journalists. This chapter analyzes 1,039 documents written by these groups to investigate how the term ‘realism’ is deployed in gaming discourse. Within this corpus, the term realism is used to describe two kinds of formal characteristics of games. The first – functional realism – relates to how a game behaves as a simulation; the second – perceptual realism – relates to how a game looks and sounds as a set of moving sound-images. In both of these forms, realism discursively constructs gaming in two contradictory ways. On the one hand, authors use the term realism to align gaming with other media forms in a way that elevates gaming to the status of cinema, art and literature, on the other, they use the term to distinguish gaming from other art forms and media to establish gaming within its own autonomous cultural space. Drawing on Roger Caillois’s categorization of play, the chapter argues that the discursive construction of games through the term realism is a form of boundary work that seeks to establish what counts as a game and who counts as a ‘gamer.’
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandscapes of realism: rethinking literary realism in comparative perspectives
Subtitle of host publicationVolume I: mapping realism
EditorsGöttsche Dirk, Robert Weninger, Mucignat Rosa
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9789027260369
ISBN (Print)9789027208064
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

Name A comparative history of literatures in European languages


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