My field of expertise are new media, in particular narrative computer games. But I’m also quite knowledgeable when it comes to websites (both as an information medium as well as an entertainment medium) and new forms of digital entertainment (ebooks, augmented reality, web 2.0). In 2011 I received my doctorate at the faculty of Arts, after successfully defending my dissertation entitled Computer Games as a Narrative Medium. I’m a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Arts, VU Amsterdam, at first as a specialist in Art and Information Science but since 1997 my lectures focus on (aspects of) the new media mentioned above.
Computer games have my special interest as they are one of the least understood media of today. This is not strange as computer game studies, contrary to literature and film studies, is still in its infancy. Yet, games have a profound impact on our society. Their ubiquitous nature makes them all present and therefore threatening to the non-initiated. As a society we are still struggling with this new medium. But this was not very different with film and television when these were new. Understanding the nature of the computer game and understanding where and how computer games as a medium differ from other media like books, comics, television and films holds the key to unravelling their real impact and potential. This calls for a systematic and critical analysis of the medium as a visual construct in comparison to other visual artefacts. If we understand the medium better we will be better able to judge its real impact on society.
Games are not that different when we look at them more closely. They still tell the same stories that have been told since the dawn of man. Yet at the moment their visual persuasiveness seems to blur our distinction between the virtual and the real (cf. the comments made by American soldiers when they erroneously killed a camera crew in Bagdad). But is this really due to the nature of the game as some researchers would have us believe?