Published by Ian Bogost in , Unit Operations seeks to set out a critical theory which can be applied to any medium, whether it be literature, poetry, cinema or. Bogost explains that computational systems “rely on unit operations as their tag-ian-haydn-smith tag-university-of-texas-press tag-review tag-pmpick. Studies: Rewiring Media Studies for the Digital. Age, pp. 19– London: Arnold. Ian Bogost, Unit Operations: An Approach to. Videogame Criticism. Cambridge.

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This is a structured series of notes on the book to give an overview of its contents and its main arguments.

Unit Operations: An Approach to Video Game Criticism

Never before have I encountered any analysis of any kind with Grand Theft Auto: When we watch movies or television, read book and listen to radio we are not somehow disconnected from the world and vaulted into a virtual reality operationa out own, one which is less valuable serious and meaningful than the everyday world of our concern.

Using examining video games, movies and literature at the level of its unit operations, Bogost can illustrate the core meaningful units of expression these mediums demonstrate.

I believe this to be a valuable book, as it places disparate mediums onto an equal level of intellectual importance and thus undermines medium specific elitism. A unit is a building block, a materiel element that makes up a system or is autonomous as a system itself. Systems are still needed, but they are no longer rigid deterministic structures: Works of literature, economies and anatomies are all system assemblages of units, but are not held rigidly in place by a deterministic totalizing structure.


Systematization is an explanatory process that Bogost wants to banish from unit operational analysis. In contrast to this, Bogost asserts the important of complex systems over deterministic systems, as they open new possibilities and formations, rather than limiting them.

Rather than specializing or undermining in one area, he opens up credible and well thought analyses in the areas of movies, literature and gaming that cuts across each other to reveal the unit operations that sustain them as meaningful worldly mediums of engagement. To get to this stage, however, Bogost takes us through a mini history of the systems bias in literary theory, computation and media analysis, but one that is challenge by his ontology which is is influenced by Spinoza, Badiou, Deleuze and Harman.

The set is never a unity and thus underscores the problems of configuration at the heart of all kinds of structures.

It is this counting mechanism that configures the set as a distinct unit. The mathematical representation draws in computational as well as philosophical and cultural analysis together, springing the potentiality of a comparative procedural criticism. It is important to note that the unit operation is not just a critical tool we can wield in front of any text.

It is an intrinsic part of the texts themselves. Unit operations have a textual and critical existence. It is the job of the critical analyst to examine how these unit operations work with each text, whether computer game or literary classic. A unit operational analysis is based on the procedures that medium is demonstrating, not on any narrative structure.

Unit operation, as a procedure measure of meaning cuts across mediums and exhibits their main message, whereas narrative, as Bogost will later examine, is not quite so simple to define. Therefore, his film analysis succeeds, as he thinks the bogst does, not because of its aesthetic or narrative attractions, but on the importance and profundity of waiting as a procedure part of the viewers watching experience.


Bogost goes on to examine linguistics, post structuralism and the work of Iperations Zizek in order to show how the relationship between unit and structure cannot be determined entirely from above or below.

For instance, Levi-Strauss distinction between langue structure and parole content of language focused upon the systemic structure that gives shape and meaning to what is articulated through signs. The structuralism of Levi-Strauss examined myths at a structural level, grouping them through their units of meaning, rather than their contingent content.

Unit Operations: An Approach to Video Game Criticism – PopMatters

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