The Typology of Representations in Computer Games
The aim of this paper is to explore how Peirce’s trichotomy of symbolic, indexical and iconic representations can be applied to computer games. I argue that if we use this classification, we gain the ability to make distinctions that game studies often ignore, or do not adequately grasp. To increase the descriptive power of Peirce’s trichotomy, I suggest two additional distinctions: the difference between external and internal representations, and the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic representations. I combine all of these distinctions to construct a typology of representations in computer games. I argue that the application of this typology to particular elements of games (instead of games understood as a whole) enables us to solve some of the problems caused by the relationship of games to the external world. A case study I use to illustrate how my typology helps to improve game studies discourse, is LocoRoco—an abstract game accused of containing racist imagery. I argue that the game publisher’s response to the controversy was inadequate, since the game content, due to the application of representational mechanisms, can be seen as racist even if its developers had no intention of creating such a racist content.
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