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Gesamtkunstwerk in Digital Games: the Palimpstine Aesthetics of Dead Space

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The paper argues that the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk is valuable for digital games because it allows to contextualize and channel the discussion of games and/as art in Wagnerian terms of totality, artistry, and immersion, partially sidestepping (in similar fashion as Wagner) traditional debates about the definition of art as such. The paper discusses the current state of the game/art discussion and proposes arguments for why digital games emerge naturally as belonging to the phenomenon envisioned by Wagner as the “art of the future.” It then moves to a case study of Dead Space (EA Redwood Shores 2008), which is not an art project or a piece of auteur-software, but a thoroughly commercial digital game, a Triple-A production (the games industry’s equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster) from Electronic Arts, one of the world’s biggest publishers of games. Despite the makings of a Science Fiction survival horror game, it is one of the most accomplished examples of self-referential, artful digital games, and an ideal case study for reconsidering the usefulness of Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk-concept for this cultural form. By outlining how the different dimensions of Dead Space come together in an orchestrated whole to strive for a deeper meaning and reflect upon the conventions of modern action games, the paper demonstrates that digital games can be directly contextualized within Wagner’s concept.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Gesamtkunstwerk as a Synergy of the Arts
EditorsFusillo Massimo, Grishakova Marina
Place of PublicationBruxelles
PublisherPeter Lang
Publication date2021
Pages197-215
ISBN (Print)978-2-8076-1617-2
ISBN (Electronic)978-2-8076-1619-6
Publication statusPublished - 2021

ID: 85531728