Mixed Realism is about how we interact with media. Timothy J. Welsh shows how videogames, like novels, both promise and trouble experiences of “immersion.” His innovative methodology offers a new understanding of the expanding role of virtuality in contemporary life.
Today’s wired culture is a mixed reality, conducted as exchanges between virtual and material contexts. We make balance transfers at an ATM, update Facebook timelines, and squeeze in sessions of Angry Birds on the subway. However, the “virtual” is still frequently figured as imaginary, as opposed to “real.” The vision of 1990s writers of a future that would pit virtual reality against actual reality has never materialized, yet it continues to haunt cultural criticism. Our ongoing anxiety about immersive media now surrounds videogames, especially “shooter games,” and manifests as a fear that gamers might not know the difference between the virtual world and the real world.
As Welsh notes, this is the paradox of real virtuality. We understand that the media-generated virtualities that fill our lives are not what they represent. But what are they if they are not real? Do they have presence, significance, or influence exceeding their material presence and the user processes that invoke them? What relationships do they establish through and beyond our interactions with them?
Mixed Realism brims with fresh analyses of literary works such as Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, along with sustained readings of controversial videogames such as Super Columbine Massacre and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Continually connecting the dots between surprising groupings of texts and thinkers, from David Foster Wallace to the cult-classic videogame Eternal Darkness and from Cormac McCarthy to Grand Theft Auto, it offers a fresh perspective on both digital games and contemporary literature.