New media has the interesting dynamic of audience and author interactions. Unlike traditional texts, author and audiences have a different relationship in new media: and it revolves around the way they engage with the work. Thinking about video games for our example in contrasting this binary, how do we define who has creative ownership of the video game?
Usually there isn’t a single name attached: we often tie the creative expression of the game to a studio, publisher or a group of creators but rarely ever is a single name responsible for a whole video game. Keywords for Media Studies talks about this idea of what authorship means in context of new media like video games.
“But in analyses of television, video games, social media, transmedia, and other forms, some media scholars have set aside the preoccupation with singular authors that is commonplace throughout literary and film studies. In doing so, we have regularly instead made visible the interplay of corporate imprimatur, creative and technical personnel, and active audiences. And yet other media scholars have engaged with author theories in a limited manner, adapting them to television’s mode of production, and focusing on a small set of individual auteurs. Why is the author so categorically emphasized in regard to some media texts and products—and not others? That is, why is an author?” (“Author”, Chris 23).
The role of authorship is tricky in relation to audience because of how the medium of video games interact. As Chris puts it, “Following Hall, scholars have found the authoring roles of the viewer/player/user particularly conspicuous in interactive and narratively open-ended forms such as video games and those dependent on user-generated content. In the former, the player makes narrative-twisting choices within a defined universe” (Chris 23). We are now presented with the binary that author and audience are not explicitly separated in other media such as novels or poetry, but instead they are simultaneous and engaging the other via the text. Going back to the previous quote, the idea of ‘active’ audiences is interesting because new media like video games requires more on the part of audiences to interact with what the ‘author’ has put forth, whereas one might argue novel readers are more ‘passive’ and cannot respond beyond the words on the page. Similarly, having an ‘author’ figure to point to means audiences can engage with them. Be it an actual auteur-creator or a PR head for a studio, there is a direct connection through social media and other outlets to be able to discuss the work and its mechanisms.
The interesting point of unpacking this binary is that it redefines what it means to engage with a creative expression where the author-audience relationship is changed. Media like video games rely on this dynamic to make it work as a form of entertainment because both participants are so closely linked they cannot engage with the work without engaging with the other. Video games are designed by anywhere from a singular individual to multiple people with a certain kind of player/audience in mind. The relationship would fall apart if the traditional presentation of creative expression was maintained. Instead, we get a new kind of expression that can only function with the willing consent of both author and audience’s active involvement.
Chris, Cynthia. “Author.” Keywords for Media Studies, New York University Press, New York, 2017, pp. 21–23.