The Poetics of Videogames: The Logic of Sense and Meaning in the Videoludic Discourse

The Poetics of Videogames: The Logic of Sense and Meaning in the Videoludic Discourse

Luis Navarrete-Cardero (University of Seville, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3119-8.ch008


The poetic processes that underlie the production of narrative and literary works, film or television screenplays are adapted to transtextual and intertextual logic, which facilitates the transition of the text from its sense to its meaning. All narrative production generates its own sense in the act of linear reading by the reader and/or the spectator. However, the access to the sphere of meaning can only be found in the within the whole of the relationships that a given work maintains with other works that are absent. From this point of view, we propose to apply the logic of the poetics of sense and meaning to the realm of the videogame. Our goal is to prove that such a logic may exist. Yet, videogames have certain rules which regulate their lending and borrowing, thus a legal framework replaces a discursive influence.
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The origin of a work of art is no longer a secret. One of the most important principles of art criticism consists in underscoring that Rembrandt, Tchaikovsky, Hitchcock, etc., do not have their complete meaning alone. As Bloom (2009) suggests when broaching the subject of poetry, the meaning of a work of art is the appreciation of its relationship with traditions and artists of the past. As readers or spectators we never stop searching for the new, and as critics we strive to consider a new work in light of the existing corpus. We are incapable of evaluating it on its own and only its relationship with the ideal state of the rest of the works provides us with the necessary tools for incorporating it in that patchwork that should, in one way or another, rearrange itself in a new order to accommodate it. In this sense, what happens to the new work of an artist also occurs to all those preceding it. In other words, just as past symphonies, novels and films alter the physiognomy of current ones, so too do the latter affect the former in a limitless exchange of memories. Therefore, we could say that each work is a fragment of memory, a thread that, whether we be creators, critics or receivers, should link us invisibly to a hybrid state in which the past and present merge.

For Gérard Genette, the object of poetics – this being understood as the set of principles or rules characterizing an artistic genre, school or author – can never be the uniqueness of a text, but rather its significance, namely, “all that overtly or secretly relates the text to other ones” (Genette, 1989, p. 10). Riffaterre, influenced by the works of Batjin (1986) and Kristeva (1978), refers to intertextuality as a mechanism inherent to literary reading. He puts forward the essential argument on which this chapter is based when recalling that it is in the intertext, be it literary or non-literary, where the significance of any work resides: (Riffaterre, 1980, p. 10). To his mind, the significance of a work “l'intertext n'est alors qu'un postulat, mais le postulat suffit, à partir duquel il faut construire, deduire la signifiance”1 is a question that exists elsewhere, in a context that can be unprecedented or not for the reader, and differs from its meaning, a concept that inevitably stems from itself and which always occurs in the linear reading performed by the receiver: “Indeed, only intertextuality produces significance, while linear reading, inherent to literary and non-literary texts, produces merely meaning” (Genette, 1989, p. 11).

In view of this difference between meaning and significance,2 we can claim that the poietic process underlying the production of narrative, literary, film and television works adapts to the transtextual or intertextual logics that, in the words of Riffaterre, allow for the transition from the meaning to the significance of a text. All novels, films and TV series generate their own meaning when read/watched by the reader/spectator. However, access to the sphere of significance can only be gained through the set of relationships that all works have with other absent ones. By virtue of this nexus forged in absentia, the mechanisms of influence that regulate the construction of characters and their roles, the establishment of genres and their typologies and, at another level of interference, the different generations of artists whose creative works have felt the weight of tradition are determined in the fields of theory and critique. It is thus possible and necessary to speak of a poetics of meaning, enclosed in each and every work, and a poetics of significance, only plausible beyond its limits, in the narrative environments of literature, cinema and television. Would it be possible to understand the nature of Anna Karenina without Emma Bovary? On the other hand, would the character of Emma Bovary exist without the idealistic influence that Cervantes exerted on Flaubert? Moreover, could Joyce’s Ulysses exist without Homer’s Odyssey? As can be observed, the realms in which the meaning and significance of traditional narrative works dwell are boundless and characterized by a creative free will only limited by the artist’s imagination. But transtextual and intertextual procedures can occasionally clash with the laws governing the protection of intellectual property and copyrights.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Rules and mechanics: In the videoludic field, the rules and mechanics form the individual and exclusive semiotic system of a video game. Rules, which are obligatory, define the action of players in the fictional world of a game. Mechanics express an action, a verb, which can be performed by players in that same fictional framework.

Allusion: A type of intertextual relationship in which a text appears emotionally in an another. It is an evocation.

Poetics: A set of principles or rules characterizing a literary or artistic genre, a school or an author.

Intertextuality: A relationship of co-presence between two or more texts, namely, the effective presence of one text in another.

Videoludic: An adjective that defines something that has to do with or is related to the individual language of a video game.

Transtextual logic: A normal method for relating texts that enables the transition from a text’s meaning to its significance.

Citation: A type of intertextual relationship in which a text appears physically in an another. It is an invocation or effective appeal.

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