Screening Play: Rules, Wares, and Representations in “Realistic” Video Games


  • Ian Reyes The University of Rhode Island
  • Suellen Adams The University of Rhode Island



In highlighting the apparatus as the keystone for the magic circle of video gaming, we displace players—the subject of ludology—and “text”—the subject of narratology. This is not to deny the importance of players’ agency or the meanings of texts in video gaming; rather it is to reconsider these with regard to the screening of player from played inherent in the gaming apparatus. To better understand the situation of homo ludens in these more mediated play spaces, we turn to Jacques Lacan’s account of “split” subjectivity and retread it by explaining how it may well explain the operation of a magic circle spanning three dimensions of screen-play: rules (Symbolic dimension), representations (Imaginary dimension), and wares (Real dimension).

In the end, we come around to the other space of Huizinga’s theory—the connections with the non-game world—to show that the value of video game play is also found beyond the apparatus, that the experience and enjoyment of video games are affected in part by social reality and, in turn, social reality is being affected by the experience and enjoyment of video games. Arriving at this point by first theorizing the video game apparatus, however, highlights matters of video game design more so than issues of audience or textual analysis. To illustrate this perspective, we conclude by defining three ways to analyze video games in terms of “realism,” proposing three types of video game realism: representational, simulative, and inverse. 

Author Biography

Ian Reyes, The University of Rhode Island

Assistant Professor

Department of Communication Studies

Harrington School of Communication and Media




How to Cite

Reyes, I. and Adams, S. (2010) “Screening Play: Rules, Wares, and Representations in ‘Realistic’ Video Games”, Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, 4(2), pp. 149–166. doi: 10.7557/23.6041.