December 3, 2006

Announcing Platform Studies

by Nick Montfort · , 10:32 pm

Ian Bogost & Nick Montfort are pleased to announce a new MIT Press series,

Platform Studies

Investigating the relationships between the hardware and software design of computing systems and the creative works produced on those systems.

The first book in the series is forthcoming in 2008:

Video Computer System: The Atari 2600 Platform
by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost

For more about computing platforms and their relationship to new media, the new approaches which we hope this series will foster, examples of platforms, and answers to questions about the series concept, see our site:

14 Responses to “Announcing Platform Studies”

  1. andrew Says:

    Very exciting. I very much like this approach to game/media studies, because I’m guessing it will put the reader in the (pole) position of the practitioner, e.g. designer/programmer. Constraint-based design, a very interesting topic.

    I’m hoping the Commodore 64 will be part of the series — that’s my home computer. I was opening some old boxes of books last night and came across my C-64 and 6502 programming manuals and thought, hey, someone should write a book about this; little did I know.

  2. mark Says:

    I’m also looking forward to seeing what comes out of this. One thing that immediately came to mind, though, was how well it works on more recent stuff. The constraints on the Atari 2600 shine through very strongly in game design in identifiable ways mainly because they’re pretty severe. If you change the platform to “average PC circa 2006”, though, things seem like they’d get a lot more murky. My guess is that the constraints would be a more vague collection of things, ranging from affordances of the programming languages used (most games are made in C++), to the social and economic dynamics of the industry, rather than more literal silicon-related things like the machine architecture and number of registers.

  3. Tanner Says:

    I find this to be particularly encouraging as a developing media scholar with some familiarity with software and hardware design but not nearly enough as I would like. I think this series could have a lot of usefulness in terms of assisting the research of less techno-savvy scholars, allowing them to discover new insights and connections within the web of the medium and the object of study.

  4. Jimmy Maher Says:

    I was thinking of the Commodore 64 (and Amiga) as well. I grew up with these machines, and they still hold a special place in my heart.

    There was a very a good book recently published covering the history of Commodore: It’s on a small press and available only through mailorder I believe, but thoroughly researched and generally well-done. The author spoke to virtually all of the former Commodore movers and shakers he could locate. I received my copy recently and have been enjoying it very much.

  5. Ian Bogost Says:

    Nick and I both think a Commodore 64 book would be great! It’s really up to the community to write one… although it’s on our list of solicitations. We’re hopeful that this series will provide a publishing outlet for such books, where previously there might not have been one…

  6. noah Says:

    I’ll be curious to see if someone sends you a good proposal based on a particular game engine (or lineage of them). That’s something I’d very much like to put in front of some of my students.

  7. Dennis G. Jerz Says:

    Z-machine, anyone?

  8. michael Says:

    I think Noah’s comment addresses Mark’s comment. Analyzing the hardware affordances of current generation hardware does indeed seem challenging and not nearly as clear a project as classic architectures. But games aren’t just implemented on top of silicon – they’re implemented within specific engines/architectures. And, in contemporary game design, the affordances and constratins of the engines/architectures are probably more salient than those of the hardware.

  9. Adamr Says:

    I’d be interested in a study of the early CD platforms (Turbografx 16 and Sega’s little sidecar thingy) and why they never really caught on. In fact, that whole era of pre-Playstation flare up was pretty wild esp. in regard to bizarro handhelds… anyone remember the Atari Lynx? Very cool endeavor.

  10. mark Says:

    Yeah, in retrospect I missed a pretty obvious line of analysis. I agree that analyzing how, say, using the Doom 3 engine affects a game is in many ways the modern-day analog, and I’d personally find a study of all games in a particular engine fascinating. There does seem to be some point at which games are written more or less directly, though—for example, how would you analyze the platform of Doom 3 itself? As far as I can tell, it isn’t really written in any other engine, but is itself a from-scratch engine, so its platform constraints are basically C++, OpenGL, and the memory/CPU limits of circa-2004 household PCs. One might say the same of a game like Spore, where it looks like they’re writing most (all?) of their own tools from scratch,.

  11. Matt Kirschenbaum Says:

    This is so excellent.

  12. Matthew G. Kirschenbaum Says:

    Platform Studies

    In my preface to Mechanisms (now in press at MIT) I write: In what follows then, I have tried to write a different kind of book about electronic textuality, one that eschews top-heavy formalist or theoretical approaches to the medium

  13. josemanuel Says:

    Great idea. Also, I like the classification of New Media studies in different levels that´s in the site. I have always missed (or just failed to find) books dealing with the Platform and Code levels. This fills an important gap. Thanks for that.

  14. Andrew Fisher Says:

    I’m currently writing a book about Commodore 64 games – check out the website for more information

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