Group Title: Game Studies : the International Journal of Computer Game Research
Title: When Seams Fall Apart : Video Game Space and the Player
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Title: When Seams Fall Apart : Video Game Space and the Player
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Taylor, Laurie N.
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Publisher: Game Studies : the International Journal of Computer Game Research
Publication Date: 2003
General Note: From Game Studies: the international journal of computer game research, volume 3, issue 2, December 2003
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Source Institution: University of Florida
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Game Studies When Seams Fall Apart Video Game Space and the Player

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Laurie Taylor is a PhD
student at the
University of Florida and
is primarily researching
interface issues and
survival horror games.
She holds an M.A. in
English with a master's
thesis on perspective in
video games. She also
writes about video
games and digital
media for the radio
program "Recess!"

Author's homepage


the international journal of
computer game research


volume 3, issue 2
december 2003

When Seams Fall Apart

Video Game Space and the Player
by Laurie Taylor

Much of the current critical and theoretical literature on new media,
including video and computer games, assumes both the conceptual
transparency of the video or computer screen and the absolute
authority of a rational scientific order.[1 In keeping with these
cultural prejudices, descriptions of the optical space of video games
presume an uncomplicated optical scheme, founded on traditions of
linear perspective. This can be seen with game designers, and game
critics, treatment of video game perspective and point-of-view: video
game spaces are understood to be the procedural outcomes of
geometrically articulated orders derived from using program code and
the physics of game engines.[2] But, video game spaces are more
than simply the sum of their code they are experiential spaces
generated through code and the player's interaction with the
execution of that code through the medium of the screen. Given this
multifaceted experiential component of games, an uncritical
conception of spatial phenomenology and the verisimilitude of linear
perspective fails to explain how video games operate. Critical theory,
theory which explains how the player operates both on the game
space and within the game space, is needed. In this paper, I propose
that the models of subjectivity and agency offered by psychoanalysis
provide a way to investigate the relationship of the player, player-
character and the screen. For this investigation, I specifically examine
how perspective shapes the field of the gaze and the implications of
that shaping.

The video game player must perform at multiple levels while playing
a video game. In this regard, the player in play is present in more
than one spatial domain. Lev Manovich and Sherry Turkle have
argued that this multiple presence is typical of new media
interactions. One might argue that the video game player, because

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she generally accesses information stored on her local computer
(online games with remote servers are an important exception) she
does not experience multiple presence as she does with other new
media objects which are housed remotely. But, this observation
neglects that the telepresent state is based on existing in multiple
conceptual spatial domains, not on existing in separate physical
areas. The telepresent state means that the subject exists in multiple
areas in such a way as to be able to effect change in that (or those)
other areas while also being able to effect change in the subject's
physical space. 3] Thus, telepresence is based on the subject's
presence in separate simultaneous areas that are based on differing
spatial domains, but not necessarily differing geographical areas.

Because users interact with the video games as media objects, they
are afforded a place or function within the space of the new media
object while continuing to occupy their own physical spaces. Video
game players must also simultaneously function on differing spatial
planes. Thus telepresence is particularly pertinent to the player's
presence outside, within, and as formulated through the medium of
the screen, which Sherry Turkle explored in the non-graphical spaces
of MUDs and MOOs.

It is in this context that concepts of Lacanian psychoanalysis are
applicable to the experiences of game play. Of this phenomenon,
Sheila Kunkle writes that:[4]

While he [Lacan] could not have foreseen the
introduction of the computer and technologies allowing
for virtual realities, Lacan could indeed see how the
logic of the machine age meant that human beings
would have to negotiate their fantasies and fears in
different coordinates of space and time.

Connecting Lacan to telepresence is valuable because theories of
Human Computer Interaction (HCI), film, performance and theatre
based on purely cognitive psychological models are inadequate to
explain the psychic complexity of telepresent relationship as
articulated by means of the screen. Psychoanalysis provides a
vocabulary and theory to discuss the complex operations of the visual
and haptic with the multiple existences or presence in telepresent
spaces. Critically, the player exists as the subject in one field and

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then projects into the field of the game space. Thus, the subject
exists in simultaneous multiple spaces, further complicating the
relationship of the subject to her created representations. This paper
serves as a preliminary investigation into the complex relationship of
the player, both within and outside the game space, and the screen
in terms of the player perspective, narcissism and the Lacanian

Given the tangled relationship of the player's presence outside the
screen to the player's presence within the space of the screen, and as
formulated through the screen, it may be easiest to begin with an
example. Just as Freud worked from the cases of neurotic patients to
illustrate the structures of the normal psyche, so we begin a
"troubled" game, The X-Files Game, to illustrate problems of game
structure. The X-Files Game is a first-person point-of-view game
where the player plays through the character of FBI Agent Craig
Wilmore. It is a first-person game, but not a prime mover first-person
game. [6 The term prime mover provides a distinction between works
where the user acts on the screen itself, as with computer
applications and games like in Myst, and games and applications
where the user has a diegetic place, even if it is without a clearly
defined spatial presence, as with games like The Last Express and
with most first-person shooter (FPS) games. The first-person game
space of The X-Files Game is visually articulated through a series of
digitized video and photographic stills stitched together to create the
appearance of continuity from one area to the next. As in most first-
person games, the cinematic sequences are shown through the eyes
of Agent Wilmore: other characters respond directly to the screen;
the camera seems to perform as Agent Wilmore. [7

But, unlike most images from other video games, including other
first-person games, is the image shown in Figure 1. Agent Wilmore is
in his apartment bathroom. The entire apartment is shown from the
first-person perspective, including Agent Wilmore looking in the
mirror and seeing himself. For the player, this produces an uncanny,
disruptive effect: ripping apart the seams of the game space.

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Figure 1. Lack of Space and Place with the Disembodied and
Unidentified First-Person Point-of-View. Agent Craig Wilmore's
disembodied reflection staring out from the bathroom mirror. (Image
from: Hyperbole Studios. The X-Files Game. Beverly Hills, CA: Fox
Interactive, 1998.)

Under the normal conditions of the physics of this game world,
Wilmore cannot look back at the player. Here, however, he seems to
be doing just that. This looking back by Wilmore, who is more of a
ghost haunting the game experience than a character, is troubling
because it reveals the uncertainty and ambiguity of the positions and
relationship of both the player (player-as-character) and the in-game
character, Agent Wilmore. At this stage in gameplay, the player will
have seen Wilmore in prior cinematic sequences, but only through
the eyes of Agent Wilmore's coworker. In all other respects, the
player has operated as Agent Wilmore. Thus, Agent Wilmore's place
is within the space of the screen, as witnessed by others who are also
within the space of the screen. But, the player is outside of the space
of the screen and Wilmore is performatively aligned with the player,
so Wilmore's place should also be outside of the screen.

Yet, Wilmore stares back at the player from the bathroom mirror.
Wilmore's staring face disrupts the consistency of the game space
because it throws into question the player's relationship to the role
(Wilmore) that she is playing and it problematizes the spatial place of
the player in relation to the game space. It shows the character's
(Wilmore's) consistent lack of place, and thus the player's consistent
lack of place. This confusion of space and place in The X-Files Game
foregrounds aspects of the tripartite structure of the relationship of
the player outside the screen, the player within the screen and the

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screen as a medium of passage between these domains.

Most games stitch together their varied points-of-view to avoid
moments like the possibility of Wilmore's voided position and thus
disembodied and haunting image. Games stitch their seams together
by combining different points-of-view for different acts within the
game. The Last Express uses primarily first-person point-of-view.
But, it relies on third-person for the fight sequences and for the
frequent cinematic sequences which, when added to the constrained
space of the train, allow the player an embodied perception of the
game space.[8] The Last Express also constrains the first-person view
so that the character, Robert Cath, is never able to look into a mirror.
In many third-person games, the characters look into mirrors or see
their reflections, but their shown reflections are not problematic
because their player-characters have a place within their game
spaces and because their reflections are not a looking back, unlike
Wilmore's looking.

Figure 2. The Last Express switching from first to third person for the
knife sequence to avoid the odd breakage that occurs when players
cannot function properly within the game space. (Image from:
Smoking Car Productions. The Last Express. Novato, CA: Broderbund,

In effect, Wilmore's looking is the looking back of the gaming subject
on itself, yet Wilmore is clearly not the subject because the player is
never shown to embrace Wilmore as part of the structural relationship
of the game space or as part of the player herself. Lacan writes of the

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relationship that Wilmore's mirror reflection assumes:

I apprehend the world in a perception that seems to
concern the immanence of the I see myself seeing
myself. The privilege of the subject seems to be
established here from the bipolar reflexive relation by
which, as soon as I perceive, my representations belong
to me. (The Four Fundamental Concepts 81)

Lacan here addresses how, while the subject has an embodied
identity, the field of visual perception is outside of the subject and is
then embraced by the subject as being internal when the subject
perceives itself within that field. Thus, the gaze (visual perception) is
outside of the subject and the subject reclaims the gaze and makes it
a part of herself, and this includes her perception of her own
representation. The uncanny effect of the gaze is that in it, one
makes of oneself the object of perception, not the agent of
perception, which is outside.

Wilmore's looking at himself in the mirror assumes that the player
(subject) has embraced Wilmore in such a way that Wilmore's
looking, while outside the player herself, could be internalized by the
player in terms of her representation of Wilmore as herself. Oddly,
the player is fundamentally separated from Wilmore specifically
because of the first-person point-of-view that the game uses
primarily and in this episode in an attempt to more fully align the
player with Wilmore.

Part of the problem of Wilmore's looking is that the player could not
have identified with Wilmore because of the game design. A player
performs in response to the game, controlling an agent-position
within or on the game and responding to new in-game data, be it
information or action, from this position. Because the player acts as
and from this position, the player must in some way identify with
this, or the possibility of this, position at least enough to function in
response to the game space. This does not mean that the player
must understand how it feels to be an FBI agent caught up in a
conspiracy involving aliens and nuclear weapons, all while sulking
over his recent divorce. But, it does mean that the player must
function well enough to avoid whatever function ends the game and
that she must in some way desire to continue the game.

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This connection between the player and the player's position in the
game space implies a type of identification, in that the player
identifies sufficiently with objects or characters of the game space to
function in response to that game space through a self-image that is
inserted into the constructs of the game space and then internalized
by the player (subject).[9] Lacan explains identification in these

We have only to understand the mirror stage as an
identification, in the full sense that analysis gives the
term: namely, the transformation that takes place in
the subject when he assumes an image whose
predestination to this phase-effect is sufficiently
indicated by the use, in analytic theory, of the ancient
term imago. (Ecrits 2)

Lacan's definition of projective identification relates more closely to
the psychic development of real subjects, but identification also
includes the adaptation by a subject of an image. Developmentally,
this operates within the mirror stage for the subject to adopt a
socially acceptable (as such it is prompted and provided by the
primary caretaker and the others that the subject encounters), and
thus unified, image of self. Identification also functions after the
initial development of the subject when the subject sees herself in
another image and then incorporates this into her imaginary
integrity. J.el Dor explains the latter type of identification through
Freud's story of the butcher's wife, where the butcher's wife identified
with her friend because she felt they had something in common:
"This identification takes place in the manner Freud describes as the
perception of 'a common quality shared with some other person who
is not an object of the sexual instinct' (p. 108)" (233). In video
games, identification as the perception of a common quality with an
other, subject or object, occurs with relation to the player and the
player's position to the game space as the player incorporates the
player-character, which is her image in that game space, into her
identity so as to become immersed in the game space. In her article
on the apparatus of first-person shooters, Sue Morris explains how
first-person shooters create a sense of primary identification through
player agency by allowing the players to act directly on the game
space as though they were a part of that space. Morris correctly

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identifies that players have more direct agency in first-person
shooters, due in large part because FPS games are identified by their
predication on action and control, and that this sense of agency
creates a sense of primary identification with the player as being
within the game (89). Yet, FPS games also disrupt the gaze by
removing the player from the field of the gaze. This disruption allows
for the odd broken moments that occur with Wilmore in the
bathroom, and that occur in FPS games like System Shock 2, where
the player will be attacked by monkeys, and will not be able to see or
fight the monkeys without first manually changing view to look down.

In different terms, Manovich discusses a similar relationship of the
user or player to the image that relates to the user/ player within the

An image acquires the new role of an interface (for
instance, imagemaps on the Web, or the image of a
desktop as a whole in GUI). Thus, image becomes
image-interface. In this role it functions as a portal into
another world, like an icon in the Middle Ages or a
mirror in modern literature and cinema. Rather than
staying on its surface, we expect to go 'into' the image.
In effect, every computer user becomes Carroll's Alice.

Manovich is describing the process by which the user enters into a
telepresent relationship as a precondition to enter into the other
virtual space. While Manovich is speaking more generally of human-
computer interaction, this can also be applied directly to the process
by which the player enters into the game space. The player or user
needs some sort of metaphoric transition to account for the multiple
presence within the telepresent situation and the discontinuity
experienced across these multiple telepresent spaces. In video
games, a "cut scene" is often used to bridge the space of the screen,
which separates the player from the player's position within the game
space. But, the cinematic sequences alone do not connect the player
to the space within the game. Identification can occur as the
extension of ability to access objects within the screen, as occurs with
the cursor and the computer user, or it can occur as identification
with the role and position within the other space this allows the
player to connect to the space as more than an operator on that

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space. Identification with the player's position in the game space,
experienced as both a simple extension or duplication of the player
and as the narcissistic incorporation of the image of the in-game
position into the player's specular image, allows the player to enter
into the game space as a valid and verisimilar agent of the game

Identification by the player with the player's position within the game
space obviously functions differently based on the in-game point-
of-view (as first-person, third-person and god-view games are
perceptually different gaming experiences) and as based on the
player's incorporation of the player-character into her imagined
integral self. While identification allows the process to begin by
allowing the player to see the shared traits with the player-character,
the player's narcissism cements the relationship of the player to the
player-character. Lacan emphasizes two dimensions to narcissism,
one of which is erotic and drives the subject to perceive her own
unity within herself and her corporeal image, and another which is
aggressive in that the break between the subject's perception of
unity in her image and the disunity that she is faced with are
contradictory and thus cause tension and threaten the subject's
image of unity. Narcissism is thus always founded on a
misunderstanding of the structural integrity of the subject.

In video game play, a similar misprision or mis-understanding must
occur. In video games, the player-character or player-position in the
game responds based on the player's input through the interface. The
player plays seeking the goals of the player-character and plays from
the player-character's vantage point and so the player begins play
based on shared traits with the player-character. These shared traits
allow for identification. The player's narcissistic connection to the
player-character occurs when the player embraces the player-
character not just as having some traits in common with the player,
but as being part of the player. [10] This narcissistic acceptance is
necessary for the player to enter into the game space as a part of the
game space and for the player to traverse the medium of the screen.
Without narcissistic projection, the player remains outside of the
screen and can operate on the screen, but not from within the screen.
Manovich describes narcissistic performance with other new media
objects like CAVEs thus:

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The user of such an installation is presented with her
own image; the user is given the possibility to play with
this image and also to observe how her movements
trigger various effects. In a different sense, most new
media, regardless of whether it represents to the user
her image or not, can be said to activate the narcissistic
condition because they represent to the user her
actions and their results. In other words, it functions as
a new kind of mirror that reflects not only the human
image but human activities. (235)

Manovich is speaking of new media in general and how narcissism
operates with all, but for the particularities of a character-driven
video game, this relation of identification-projection-introjection is
absolutely necessary. Though narcissism may reflect one's activities
on the game space without an image, for narcissism to reflect one's
presence within the game space an image is necessary. While the
image can be represented in a video game as just a positionality, the
player needs an image to accept the game position as a game
character, a verisimilar agent of the game space.

Lacan states that identification is "namely, the transformation that
takes place in the subject when he assumes an image" (Ecrits 2). In
a video game with a position alone and no image component, the
player can assume the position into herself, but the position becomes
merely one more part of herself, without being a part of herself with
certain characteristics. If I play as me in Medal of Honor, anything
that happens is my doing; if I play from the third-person perspective
of Alice in American McGee's Alice, then I am functioning, in a sense,
as Alice. Alice is a part of me, but she is a determined part of me.
Meaning that I can play as Alice and enter into her world through her.
Thus, I can enter the space of Alice's world, Wonderland, by passing
through the screen through my identification with and then psychic
incorporation of Alice. In essence, Alice becomes my looking glass as
any player-character can in a third-person point-of-view game.
Playing first-person in Medal of Honor, I play as me so I never pass
through the medium of screen; acting on the screen rather than
within the screen because I have identified with and taken in only my
own actions instead of a character's, as I do with Alice. Taking in my
own actions does not allow me to pass through the screen, but only

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to act on the screen because the screen acts as a divider until I can
find a way into the game space a way which an active image
provides for and which an icon in a control panel does not.
Essentially, from a position alone the player cannot enter into the
game space as part of that game space because of the lack of context
which embodiment, in third-person point-of-view games,
provides."11 The very attempt to bring a player into the game space
through the screen by means of a first-person point-of-view is,
ironically, inconsistent because the first-person point-of-view
assumes that the player herself can be caught into the structure of
the game and can then be incorporated into the game space. In this
way first-person perspective assumes that by enveloping the player
as the player into the game space, the player becomes part of the
structure of the game space.[12]

The structural design of first-person point-of-view games like The
X-Files Game dictates that the first-person agent, Agent Wilmore,
should be within the space of the screen, but only as reflected
through the other characters and not as discernable by the player.
This is because Agent Wilmore, like other disembodied first-person
characters, exists outside of the player's perceptual space. Also, first-
person games posit that the player can assume the perceptions of the
player-character and then merge with the player-character through
the limited perceptual apparatus afforded by first-person games.
Wilmore can be seen through the eyes of other characters, and thus
in cinematic sequences, but Wilmore himself, in effect, cannot see
because the player is performing as Wilmore. The player's
performance as Wilmore removes Wilmore from being within the
virtual image of the game space and it removes the player from
projecting into Wilmore (because Wilmore does not exist within the
game space) so the player also cannot enter into the virtual image of
the game space.

Thus, both the player and Wilmore are removed from the game
space. This is how most first-person point-of-view games operate, by
allowing the player to function on the space, but not within the
space.[133 In first-person point-of-view games, the game space may
seem to be cohesive, as basing itself on the authority of the objective
scientific order, but Wilmore's looking in the bathroom mirror shows
the break. In terms of the game space construction, Wilmore cannot
look at the player because Wilmore does not exist as a part of the

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viewable game space. Instead, Wilmore exists as an unidentifiable
factor in the game space construction. Yet, Wilmore looks at himself
in the mirror which shows Wilmore to have a place within the game
space from which to look, even though he cannot, based on the game
space construction.

The rupture effected by Wilmore's looking indicates the highly
structured nature of video game point-of-view and perspective and
how video games attempt to replicate, through their perspectival
construction, the intentional looking of the subject. Wilmore's looking
also shows how, often, the attempt at creating the intentional looking
(with first-person games and other games that equate a geometral
showing with looking) fails because it assumes a subject for whom
looking and showing are analogous. In an attempt to seem natural
and intuitive, many video games have avoided these pitfalls of sight
by removing the subject from the structured relationship of
gameplay. In most first-person games, the player operates on the
game world, but never within, which allows the world to be
constructed from an imagined viewpoint one that is completely
ordered, understandable and without complexity. First-person video
games seek to remove not just the subject, but all the ambiguous
mis-identifications that accompany the subject which include
questions of embodiment, the gaze and the paradox of the subject's
own perception of self.

The paradox that first-person games attempt to cover or remove are,
however, signalled in operations of third-person point-of-view games.
Because third-person point-of-view games allow for the complexities
of the embodied and complicated act of seeing, third-person games
more easily avoid breaking the game space than first-person games.
But, by the same token, third-person games are also more difficult to
program because: they require a character model be designed; they
require that the model operate correctly in terms of the game space
design; and they must be programmed to deal with perspectives
incompatible with the game's optics or physics (like seeing nothing
but a wall for the screen when the player-character backs into a
corner) or risk the destruction of the game space. The difficulty in
programming third-person games signals the difficulty in
representing consistent game worlds where the gaze functions
without declaring its limitations. Because of their more complete
representation of space and spatial presence, third-person games do

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allow for a sense of embodiment and accept the ever-presence of the
gaze to a greater degree than first person games. Lacan explains the
gaze in terms of a situating within the field of seeing. Lacan uses an
anecdote to explain the reduction of the subject to object in the field
of the gaze, "It [a sardine can floating in the ocean] was looking at
me at the level of the point of light, the point at which everything
that looks at me is situated and I am not speaking metaphorically"
(The Four Fundamental Concepts 95). Being within the field of seeing
means being within a continuous field. But first-person games
respond to the player as the third-person character, which places
both the player-character and the player into the same encompassing
field of seeing, the gaze, even though the player is not inserted into
that field in addition to the performative orders in which the player-
subject already exists. A subject looking out into the world requires
that the subject is inserted into the perceptual field and is situated at
some point within that field. Thus to embrace the complexities of
experiential space, the player must somehow be inserted into both
fields of seeing.

Yet the insertion into this field is never a control over the gaze itself
as some critics have claimed, "This is something," observes Lacan,
"that introduces what was elided in geometral relation the depth of
field, with all its ambiguity and variability, which is in no way
mastered by me. It is rather it that grasps me, solicits me at every
moment" (Four Fundamental 96). Thus, the third-person point-
of-view in a game does not clarify or ease the player into controlling
the player-character; the player is able to identify and narcissistically
embrace the player-character, but this embrace is not a clarifying or
simplistically controlling embrace. The player does operate the
player-character's movements, but the player does not master the
player-character because the player is also caught in the mastering
field of the gaze. The player does not become the gaze by being the
player or the player-character; both are contained within the gaze
and the gaze presumed by the game dominates the relationship
because it is the structure of the relationship. Craig Saper writes of
the relationship between subject and object and the gaze, "We forget
our signifying dependence, and we forget that eyes function as
markers of that dependence. We live not merely as part of a
structure, but in relation to an Other" (48). In a video game setting,
where the player is the subject and the player-character is the other,
the player operates in the game in relation to the player-character

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and to the game space, not as a fully external controlling agent. Thus
the gaze is not simple or singular, the gaze is the dynamic oddity
that pervades the perception of and the perceptual field of the
subject. First-person point-of-view video games attempt to reduce
this disruptive effect of the gaze. But, in doing so, first-person games
allow for structural ruptures like Wilmore's staring out from the
mirror, at the player, who sees herself in him.

Wilmore's mirrored/ mirroring image indicates a larger structural
problem in the creation of video game spaces and the assumed
relationship between the player and the player's presence in the
game space, as articulated through the screen. While this essay has
been a brief introduction to the problem of translation for the
telepresence of the player outside and within the game space, more
work is certainly needed on how the player enters the game space
and the further complications of the screen. Also important to note is
that the moment with Wilmore is especially awkward because it
shows Wilmore in a mirror. Because video games must bring the
player through the medium of the screen and into a new space,
certain objects are afforded as transitions and as markers for the
game space. These transition objects are most often mirrors, doors
and windows. So to have a mirror as a ripped seam serves to disrupt
the particular game and to disrupt the spatial construction of video
games as a medium. As Manovich noted with the image object, the
player is taught to expect certain objects to operate in a certain
manner and when they do not, the artifice of the video game world
becomes glaringly apparent. The player also expects the player-
character to function in a certain manner as based on the player's
own experience as a subject of the gaze, inside or outside the visual
field of the game. Through narcissism, the player can use the third-
person character image to enter the game space. While the use of
third-person perspectives may seem logically counter-intuitive, they
are often more intuitive for the actual game play experience because
they allow the player to exist within the gaze as the object rather
than the agent of perception and, for this, psychoanalysis affords a
method of further investigation.

[1] See, for example: Janet Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck: The
Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
1997); Steven Poole, Trigger Happy: Videogames and the

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Entertainment Revolution (New York: Arcade Press, 2000); and
Richard Rouse III, "Whatas Your Perspective?" Computer Graphics
33.3 (1999): 9-12.

[2] Note also that this confidence, in a geometral visual order is to
some degree an extension of the optical presuppositions of the tools
with which games are mapped out and constructed the rendering
applications and techniques used to create the on-screen images are
almost exclusively founded on the linear perspectival paradigm.

[3] Indeed, the spectre of "videogame additiction," in which the
player is transfixed to the screen, ignoring bodily needs (sleep, food,
etc.) depends on this.

[4] Kunkle overstates her case Lacan did forsee the emergence of
computing technologies with relevance to the fantasies of the
subject, though he did not know of virtual reality. See, for example,
his discussions of cybernetics in Lacanas SeminarI.

[5]The player here is referred to as being within or outside of the
screen. Often the player position within the screen is referred to as
the player-character, but the player presentation in game space is
not always a player-character in the sense of being a character that
has a position within the created game space. Sometimes the player
may control a group of figures (as with games like Final Fantasy) or
may act as a God (with games like SIMCITY).

[6]I take the term "prime mover" from Chapter 7 in J. Yellowlees
Douglas, The End of Books or Books Without End? (Ann Arbor, MI:
University of Michigan Press, 2000).

[7] First-person games, like first-person cinematic shots, are
generally created by having the camera perform as the character's
eyes-this translates into the camera being shoulder height and
having to pan up-and-down and side-to-side to look. A few cinematic
sequences do show Agent Wilmore from an unidentified third-person

[8] While it is outside the scope of this paper, embodiment in video
game spaces needs to be specifically and fully addressed. For an
excellent discussion of embodiment in relation to film, see Vivian
Sobchack, The Address of the Eye (Princeton NJ: Princeton UP, 1992.)

[9] This identification with the game space comes after the player
has naturalized the game interface because otherwise the interface

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would prove to be a barrier to her insertion into the game space.E

[10] Hence the awkward game play moments when new players, still
unclear of their position in the game space, lift their arms while
holding the controller to get the player to jump higher and lean
side-to-side for a better view of the in-game space, despite the fact
that the in-game space has no relation to their external game
positionality except in terms of their actions on the game interface.
These moments illustrate how the player has narcissistically
internalized the player-character position such that the player
physically acts as the player-character. They also help illustrate how
narcissism is founded on a misunderstanding, the misunderstanding
of an-other (be it a subject or object) as part of the subject. Sue
Morris' work with FPS games also shows how players can conflate
agency, through control of the player-character position, and
identification, see Sue Morris, "First-Person Shooters A Game
Appartus," Screenplay: Cinema/Videogames/Interfaces, Eds. Geoff
King and Tanya Krzywinska (London: Wallflower Press, 2002) 81-97.

[11] For a lengthy discussion of the odd, and critical, relationship of
point of view to game play, see my thesis, "Video Games:
Perspective, Point of View, and Immersion" (Masteras Thesis,
University of Florida, 2002:

[12] Player experience dictates the way in which point-of-view
influences game play and game space immersion, but the actual
game construction is still pivotal to the game play relationship.
Lacan's optical schema described in Seminar II proves extremely
useful in further delimiting the relationship of the player to the
player's position in the game space as based on the game technical
design, and particularly to the problems that Wilmore presents. While
this paper lacks space for such a discussion, such a discussion is

[13] The Last Express is a notable exception.

2015. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. (PC). Redwood City, CA: EA
Games, 2002.

Cyan Interactive. MYST. (PC). Redwood City, CA: Braderbund, 1993.

Dor, Jsel. An Introduction to the Reading of Lacan: The Unconscious

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Game Studies When Seams Fall Apart Video Game Space and the Player

Structured Like a Language. Trans. Susan Fairfield. New York: The
Other Press, 1997.

Douglas, J. Yellowlees. The End of Books Or Books without End? Ann
Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

Hyperbole Studios. The X-Files Game. (PC). Beverly Hills, CA: Fox
Interactive, 1998.

Irrational Games. System Shock 2. (PC). Redwood City, CA:
Electronic Arts (Looking Glass Studios), 1999.

Kunkle, Sheila. "Psychosis in a Cyberspace Age." Other Voices: The
(e)Journal of Cultural Criticism 1.3 (1999). 15 April 2002

Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York:
Norton, 1977.

---.The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. Trans. Alan
Sheridan. New York: Norton, 1981.

---. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book I: Freudas Papers on
Technique (1953D-1954). Trans. John Forrester. New York: Norton,

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press,

Morris, Sue. "First-Person Shooters A Game Appartus." Screenplay:
Cinema/Videogames/Interfaces. Eds. Geoff King and Tanya
Krzywinska. London: Wallflower Press, 2002. 81-97.

Murray, Janet. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in
Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997.

Poole, Steven. Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment
Revolution. New York: Arcade Press, 2000.

Rogue Entertainment. American McGeeds Alice. (PC). Redwood City,
CA: Electronic Arts, 2000.

Rouse, Richard III. "Whatas Your Perspective?" Computer Graphics
33.3 (1999): 9-12.

Saper, Craig. "A Nervous Theory: The Troubling Gaze of
Psychoanalysis in Media Studies." Diacritics 21.4 (1991): 33-52.

Smoking Car Productions. The Last Express. (PC). Novato, CA:
Braderbund, 1997.

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Taylor, Laurie. "Video Games: Perspective, Point-of-View, and
Immersion." Masteras Thesis, University of Florida, 2002:

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen. New York: Touchstone Books,

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