By John Mair/reporter
In his presentation to TR students and staff, Andrew Latham addressed the idea of terministic screens and what they mean within the realm of video games.
As part of “River Speaks: Digital Humanities” March 28, Latham explained that an American literary critic, Kenneth Burke, originated the idea of terministic screens in 1965.
“The original intent behind Burke’s work was to explore how different photographs of the same image produced different visual rhetoric,” Latham said. “Later interpretations would expand the terministic screen to basically everything one is using to define any given experience.”
Although Burke’s theories didn’t originally encompass the budding video game industry, “video game scholars would appropriate this concept into what the screen gives us in terms of the game,” Latham said.
Latham said he has an interest in exploring what happens outside of the screen and how that affects the way we play and think about video games.
For example, Twitch streams are a perfect model for how many different ways we can look beyond the screen.
“If we don’t focus on what’s on the screen, we actually have a whole host of things we could include in our own personal terministic screen,” Latham said. “We could focus on the chat in the top left-hand corner or the facial expressions of the person playing the game or even the fact that they are conversing and collaborating with people in real time.”
Latham demonstrated the practicality of thinking outside the screen by inviting audience members to engage in a variety of mini-games on Nintendo Switch.
All of the games required the players to abandon the screen and instead pay attention to their real-life opponent and the Switch controllers, known as “Joy-Cons.”
By taking the players out of the screen, Latham was able to illustrate how popular definitions and preconceptions of how we experience video games could be incomplete.
“I thought it was interesting,” TR student Miles Lilly said. “It made me think about the way we relate to screens and the way games are tethered to screens.”
Meghan Self, a fellow presenter in the series, said Latham’s presentation was effective.
“I thought it was great how he talked about how viewers can impact the overall experience of a game, and also how he communicated this complicated information in a clear and direct way,” Self said.