Transcoding Action: Embodying the game


Session Title:

  • Sensory Body (Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • Transcoding Action: Embodying the game



  • While playing a video game, the player‑machine interaction is not solely characterized by constraints determined by which sensors and actuators are embedded in both parties, but also by how their actions are transcoded. This paper is focused on that transcoding, on understanding the nuances in the articulation between the player’s and the system’s actions, that enable a communication feedback loop to be established through acts of gameplay. This process is established by player actions directed at the system and by system actions aimed at the player. Taking these into account, we propose four modes of transcoding in which the first three consist of intangible articulations while the fourth explores tangible ones, portraying how the player becomes increasingly embodied in the system, up to the moment    when the player’s representation in the system is substituted by her own actual body. These modes can be summarized as arbitrary articulations – moments when there is no correlation between player and     system actions, and that are established through proper instruction and learning, in which many are supported by conventions; symbolic articulations – moments where the articulation is partial, where performativity is analogous but not the same, where the actuations of one suggest or resemble the actuations of the other; mimetic articulations – when there is a direct mapping between the player’s physical performance and her virtual representation, where the actuations of one consist in a reproduction of the other’s actuations; and tangible articulations – when virtual representations of the player’s body are dismissed and substituted by her actual body, either in direct contact and/or operating in the same space as the system. The relationship between the first three can be seen as a progression towards verisimilitude, regarding the actuations being performed by both parties. The fourth represents the moment when that verisimilitude stops being applicable, because both player and system are actually operating within the same space; when the player doesn’t require a representation of herself within the game, because her body directly acts on the game world, or is even enveloped in it. Here, the relationship between space and the body assumes a defining role.

    This ongoing study aims at an understanding of the relationship between the interactant and the system’s operations, raising the awareness on how the former’s organic body and the latter’s hardware are entangled in a communication process that allows the system as a whole to develop. This cybernetic relationship shapes our interactions and its relevance goes beyond the scope of video games, being found in all sorts of interactive media.