Volume 13, 2008

Games and Metamateriality

Guest Editors: Christian McCrea, Darshana Jayemanne, Tom Apperley


1. Deviant Materials: Reflecting Surfaces and Hollow Bodies in CSI
– Zach Whalen

2. Rez: An Evolving Analysis –
Douglas Brown

3. Meaningless Play: The Psychological Experience of Shame in Computer Gameplay
Glen Spoors

4. The Paradigmatic Shift of Interactive Theatre into Aleatory, Tribal Playspaces
Lori Shyba

5. Notes On SuperFlat and Its Expression in Videogames
David Surman

6. The Eighth Wonder of the World Meets the Eighth Art: Some Thoughts on Medium Specificity and Experience in King Kong and Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
Terence McSweeney

7. Conceptual Vertigo
Holly Willis

8. Narrative Production and Interactive Storytelling
Alex Mitchell

9. Authorship, Environment and Mediation in Role-Playing Games
Mike Skolnik

10. Digital Games and the Anamorphic Subject
Eugénie Shinkle

11. Rape and the Memex
Laurie Johnson

12. Affective Game Topologies: Any-Space-Whatevers
Felicity Colman

13. Playing for Keeps: A Game of Marbles and the Materiality of Gameplay
Peter Eric Bayliss

Editorial Statement

Refraction occurs when light travels from one medium to another, changing speed and bending relative to its original angle – it’s why the straw in your glass looked kinked. Each material through which light can travel has a refractive index, and it is this which determines how much the light bends at the interface. In 2002 researchers synthesised ‘metamaterials’: artificial substances with negative refractive indices. In 2007 a version was developed for the optical spectrum. Such a metamaterial causes light to bend in the opposite direction from natural materials, reversing the phenomenon of refraction. If the positive index of a natural material and the negative index of a metamaterial are matched, there is the possibility of total refraction – the straw ends up looking straight.

The Refractory journal’s title calls attention to the transformations that take place when a work is adapted or remediated. If we take a lead from Walter Benjamin and consider a medium as a certain organisation of perception, however, it is possible to further ask in what ways a given medium represents not just the content of a given work, but another medium as such – that is, how the organisation of perception by one medium is adapted to another. In such a process, some comment on the material underpinnings of the refracted medium may be made, or perhaps an attempt to modify those materialities to suit the codes, histories and effects of the new form. In a sense, a negative refraction. What is revealed in such crossings is a ‘metamateriality’ of media – the material as an event, as both limit to and facilitator of remediation.

The metaphors of metamateriality and negative refraction are particularly salient for digital media, which is often viewed as having the potential to represent all media forms and in so doing to gather disparate temporal schemes under one overarching framework. Such desires are a dream of total refraction. Sometimes material effects from other media will be incorporated to add a sense of contemporaneity, such as when lens flare or cinematic interludes are used in a videogame. On other occasions the embedded medium will appear as an archaism, an unrepresentable absence or a nostalgic super-presence. By appending the concept of metamateriality to the Refractory’s ongoing concerns, this issue invited writers to respond to some of the pressing cultural and critical issues raised by new media, games and the digital.