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Distributed for DIAPHANES

Computer Game Worlds

Computer games have become ubiquitous in today’s society. Many scholars have speculated on the reasons for their massive success. Yet we haven’t considered the most basic questions: Why do computer games exist? What specific circumstances led to the creation of this entirely new type of game? What sorts of knowledge facilitated the requisite technological and institutional transformations?

With Computer Game Worlds, Claus Pias sets out to answer these questions. Tracing computer games from their earliest forms to the unstoppable commercial and cultural phenomena they have become today, Pias then provides a careful epistemological reconstruction of the process of playing games, both at computers and by computers themselves. The book makes a valuable theoretical contribution to the ongoing discussion about computer games.


350 pages | 180 halftones | 6 x 9 1/4 | © 2017

Media Studies


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“A brilliant, wide-ranging, and provocative analysis of the centrality of game worlds to modern computing: from Taylorism to the analytic challenges posed by the Vietnam War, from serial storytelling to Pong.  Finally—an English translation of the works of one of the most important German media theorists. This book is sure to change new media theory in the English-speaking world, as it has in Germany.”

Wendy Chun, Brown University

“Pias’s path-breaking book shows how computer games have neither been a deliberate invention nor a welcome innovation in the realm of our pastime. As the result of a complex web of conditions out of our control and agency, they came into our lives—and continue playing with us.”

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Stanford University

“A far-reaching and consistent historiography and epistemology of computer games.”

Friedrich Kittler

Table of Contents

Part I: Action

1 Kairos
2 Experimental Psychology
3 Army Mental Tests
4 Ergonomics
                First Digression: Instances of Notation
                Second Digression: Heroes of Work
                Third Digestion: Organic Constructs
5 Calculating Motion
                The Differential Analyzer
                Project Pigeon
6 Visibility and Commensurability
                Whirlwind and the Issue of Interruption
                Image Processing in the Williams Tube
                The TX-0 and the Techno-Logic of Hackers
7 A New Ergonomics
                Humans as Stopgaps
                Word Processing as a Shooter Game
                Xerox Star
8 Computer Games
Part II: Adventure
9 Caves
10 The Construction of the Artificial World
                Being (Das Sein)…
                … the Being (das Seinde)…
                …and “Technological Language”
                Soft Modernity
11 Narratives
                Nuclei and Catalyses
                Thinking “Red”
                Soap Operas
12 Programs, Labyrinths, Graphs
                Working through Labyrinths
                Graphs and Networks
                The Best World
Part III: Strategy
13 “That Naïve Concept of Utility”
14 Chess and Computers
15 Tactical Chess and War Games
                Hellwig’s “Tactical Game”
                Hoverbeck and Chamblanc
                Reisswitz’s Kriegsspiel…
                … and Its Successors
16 Operations Research and the Weather
                Lanchester’s Law
                Operations Research
                Vilhelm Bjerknes
                Richardson’s Theater of Computers
                John von Neumann
17 The 1950s
                Computer Games
                Cellular Automata
                Politics and Society
                Game Theory and the Cold War
18 The 1960s
                Criticism of Game Theory
                Object-Oriented Programming
19 The 1970s
                Computers for Everyone
                Pedagogical Postgame
Works Cited

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