A Play of Bodies: How We Perceive Videogames


This is what my book looks like.

I’m really thrilled with this cover for a number of reasons. Largely because I really wanted to use something from Increpare’s Slave of God without it being immediately noticeable as just a screenshot. Slave of God is one of my favourite videogames, and also a videogame I spend a considerable chunk of the book talking about. I find something fascinatingly textural in its visuals. The way the overload of shaders and visual styles just bend and twist light itself until the ‘world’ you are looking through and the ‘images’ you are looking at just sort of collapse into each other in this real (literally) dizzying sort of way. It perfectly suits the book, and I am grateful to both Increpare and MIT Press’s designers for letting the cover go in this sort of wild direction.

The book is out in the next month-ish, apparently. You can pre-order it on MIT Press’s website, Book Depository, Amazon, and I imagine a bunch of other places. Fortunately it’s not absurdly expensive (relative to most academic books, anyway) so that’s exciting. If you’re Australian, I imagine Book Depository is your cheapest option. If I get access to some sort of discount code in the near future I’ll be sure to post about it.

Here’s a nice summary of what the book is about from MIT Press (I think I wrote a terrible first version of this and someone made it a lot better):

Our bodies engage with videogames in complex and fascinating ways. Through an entanglement of eyes-on-screens, ears-at-speakers, and muscles-against-interfaces, we experience games with our senses. But, as Brendan Keogh argues in A Play of Bodies, this corporal engagement goes both ways; as we touch the videogame, it touches back, augmenting the very senses with which we perceive. Keogh investigates this merging of actual and virtual bodies and worlds, asking how our embodied sense of perception constitutes, and becomes constituted by, the phenomenon of videogame play. In short, how do we perceive videogames?

Keogh works toward formulating a phenomenology of videogame experience, focusing on what happens in the embodied engagement between the playing body and the videogame, and anchoring his analysis in an eclectic series of games that range from mainstream to niche titles. Considering smartphone videogames, he proposes a notion of co-attentiveness to understand how players can feel present in a virtual world without forgetting that they are touching a screen in the actual world. He discusses the somatic basis of videogame play, whether games involve vigorous physical movement or quietly sitting on a couch with a controller; the sometimes overlooked visual and audible pleasures of videogame experience; and modes of temporality represented by character death, failure, and repetition. Finally, he considers two metaphorical characters: the “hacker,” representing the hegemonic, masculine gamers concerned with control and configuration; and the “cyborg,” less concerned with control than with embodiment and incorporation.

Here’s some really nice things some really smart people have said about it:

“This book challenges some of the dominant discourses of game studies in a way that is vital to the field right now. But it also adds a very specific focus on the body, which many people have referenced in game studies but not dealt with directly.”
Adrienne Shaw, Assistant Professor, Media Studies and Production, Temple

University; author of Gaming at the Edge and coeditor of Queer Game Studies

“Brendan Keogh’s A Play of Bodies is a map to the future of game studies. Thoughtful and provocative, Keogh brings the body back to play in all its crucial multiplicities, and gives us a vocabulary for bolder, more inclusive games research.”
Miguel Sicart, Associate Professor, Center for Computer Games Research, IT University of Copenhagen; author of Play Matters

Overall this book is the culmination of about seven years of research and writing, and is essentially the culmination of my thoughts on how videogames function culturally, how they express meaning, and how we as players experience them. My future research is moving into some pretty different directions (more towards the work of videogame creation, rather than play) and in many ways this book feels like the capstone on a particular body of work I’ve produced. Which is weird and exciting!

If you are looking for review copies or interviews or anything else about the book, feel free to get in touch with me.