Polygonal Modeling: The Aestheticization of Identity

Kerich Chris
2019 DiGRA '19 - Proceedings of the 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo-Mix

Starting from the assumption that the skin is a complex organ that carries with it a depth and cultural history that cannot be easily understood, it follows that one must also come to reckon with the technologies that are used to represent skin in digital formats. By far, the dominant computational paradigm for representing 3D objects of any kind is “polygonal modeling”, a system which represents 3D objects as the combination of two things: a mesh and a texture, also known as a “skin”. You can also read articles which may contain 3d rendering meaning to deepen your knowledge about 3D. This seemingly innocuous technological paradigm carries with it important ideological, political messages about identity and visual representation. I approach the analysis of these messages in three ways. First, I briefly examine the history of computer graphics, and polygonal modeling in particular, to show how the engineering values of efficiency and functionality ultimately drove and determined the development of polygonal modeling, and emphasize the cultural and critical reflection absent from that development. Next, I examine cultural practices surrounding 3D models in video games, specifically players skinning characters and the economy of skins, to show how the affordances of polygonal modeling as a paradigm lend themselves to the aestheticization and commodification of identity in digital spheres, advancing a neoliberal ideology that holds identity as an aesthetic commodity to be bought and sold. While it’s unlikely that this technology will radically transform in the near future, it’s important to identify, and reflect on, the assumptions that underlie it and the ideological effects it has. In doing so one can start to imagine new ways of interacting with it, or even start to imagine new technologies with new paradigms that govern them.


Gran Stylissimo: The Audiovisual Elements and Styles in Computer and Video Games

Järvinen Aki
2002 Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings

The audiovisual appearance of computer and video games is varied. Still, the interplay of sounds and images in games has not been studied in any rigorous way. In this paper the concept of audiovisual style is introduced to grasp these variations, and categorize existing games into three styles. They are called photorealism, caricaturism, and abstractionism. Moreover, elements that make up the audiovisual appearance of an individual game are defined: dimensionality, point of perception, visual outlook and soundscape. Naming and analysing different styles and elements helps us to understand both what kind of audiovisual techniques persist and what has changed in the developing fi eld of computer and video games. A continuum is sketched that ranges from the caricaturistic Pongs and Space Invaders of the 1970s to 'the year of Doom' (1993). The rise of three-dimensionality and photorealism during the 1990s is explored, up to recent developments where new stylistic directions have began to emerge.