The qualifications of games as media

Ida Kathrine Hammeleff Jørgensen

Research output: Contribution to conference - NOT published in proceeding or journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


This paper offers a discussion of the ways in which games interface with a variety of different media - in the broadest sense. The starting point of this discussion is the uneasy relationship between games and the concept of media, which has been treated in different ways in game studies. Some scholars argue that computer games make up a distinct medium with an expressive power that sets them of from other media (Bogost 2010). Other scholars seem to think of games as a form of ‘content’ that may be mediated by different technical media, such as the computer (Eskelinen 2001; Juul 2010). Finally, Aarseth (2004) argues, that in cybertext, the medium no longer simply transmits, but rather generates content, which make it questionable if it even makes sense to consider this an instance of mediation at all.

However, the concept of medium also comes with its own set of problems and highly different theoretical approaches. As such, it has been used to point to as different phenomena as modes of communication, technical channels, sets of expressive conventions or instructions, social practices or particular institutions or industries (Mitchell and Hansen 2010)In regards to games, this then leaves us with a number of questions such as if all or only some games essentially constitute a medium, and if the latter is so, which games may then be considered media and what sets them off from the rest, and finally in accordance with what sense(s) of the concept of medium.

This paper however, aims to bypass the question of whether games are essentially a medium or not, in favor of an approach which considers in a historical perspective, how games have been interfacing with other phenomena that has been associated with the concept of medium, but also how this affects the communicational conventions of games today. Ellestrom’s (2010) notion of qualified media will frame this discussion. Elleström (2017) considers qualified media as ‘abstract’ or even ‘ideal’ conceptualizations of particular groups of media products (which are in themselves multi-modal). In order to analyze what makes up these qualified media, Elleström suggests two aspects, namely the context in which a qualified medium emerged, and the aesthetic and communicative norms that is considered distinct for this qualified medium.

Similarly, this paper will explore the context in which games began to be associated with the media concept on one hand and on the other the contemporary ideas we may have about the expressive power of the so-called ‘medium/media of games.’ These two aspects, it will be argued, are closely linked, as the contemporary assumptions about the representational capacity of games, are in part a result of the ways in which games have been positioned vis a vis other forms of media.

This paper will focus on two historical moments, first, the industrialization of the nineteenth century, which brought with them not only so-called proprietary games, but also the emergence of the concept of communications media (Guillory 2010)), and second the appropriation of computer technology in the leisure industry in the second half of the 20th century. The paper will follow the influence of different gaming practices, such as public, domestic, hobby, and casual gaming, the influence of other qualified media, such as literature and cinema, and technical artifacts such as the computer, and the screen.
Translated title of the contributionKvalificeringen af spil som medier
Original languageEnglish
Publication date27 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2019
EventCentral and Eastern European Game Studies Conference 2019 - Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland
Duration: 26 Sept 201928 Sept 2019
Conference number: 6


ConferenceCentral and Eastern European Game Studies Conference 2019
LocationJagiellonian University
Internet address

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