Is feeling good an aesthetic? We might say that feeling a kind of subjective pride is a commodified politics—an affiliation of progressive sentiment with market forces that we have seen in such ad campaigns as Oreo’s LGBTQ-positive viral advertising, a way to align politics with preferences. This preferential politics is mobilized, at least in part, by Gone Home as form and content marry to create a limited political efficacy, a reaffirmation of the player’s good politics regarding sexuality (or, conversely, a negative pleasure for the player in experiencing politics that they do not find agreeable). But while preference can produce a politics, it is difficult to imagine that “feeling good” can count as an aesthetic.
Trevor Strunk’s “Alone in a World of Objects” is a welcome and persuasive addition to the sparse literature on the aesthetics of video games. Generally, as Strunk has elsewhere argued, scholarly attempts to legitimize videogames as an object of study have appealed to the medium’s obvious connections to novels, as in the case of Anastasia Salter’s What is Your Quest? (2014), or art history, per Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell’s Videogames and Art (2007, 2014). Yet in part because of these texts’ limited artistic horizons, neither offered a clear sense of what a “videogame aesthetic” might be. Strunk’s primary contribution, here, is to lay out the foundations for asking such questions in ways that take seriously the distinctiveness of the medium.