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Nathan Altice

I Am Error

The Nintendo Family Computer-Entertainment System Platform

MIT Press 2015

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The genre of “platform studies” offers both researchers and readers more than an examination of the technical machinations of a computing system. Instead, the...

The genre of “platform studies” offers both researchers and readers more than an examination of the technical machinations of a computing system. Instead, the family of methodologies presents a humanist exploration of digital media from the perspective of the platform itself. That is, this approach contemplates the social, economic and cultural influence and significance of the technology. Although more formally identified by Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort in 2007 at the Digital Arts and Cultures Conference, the decades old platform studies discipline affords an understanding of the material manifestations of culture and creative work produced by computing systems.

In his new book, I Am Error: The Nintendo Family Computer Entertainment System Platform (MIT Press, 2015), Nathan Altice, a digital media creator and scholar, studies the NES system and the Family Computer, it’s precursor. More than considering the NES as a single entity, the author investigates the platform as a “network of objects and texts,” that go beyond a “stable configuration of hardware and software.” In this way, Altice dives deep to unearth the code and design decisions that shape the creative affordances of the NES, how users choose to play using the platform, and how the system was received outside of Japan.

The NES’s cultural reception is foundational for grasping a key theme throughout the book, that of “translation.” For Altice, translation produces errors – “new meanings, new expressions, new bodies, and new objects.” That is, the flaws in hardware and software, including the translation of language from Japanese to English, are not necessarily negative objects to be overcome. Instead, these bugs in the machine add to the performance of the games and the platform, and have very real social, economic, and cultural consequences.

I Am Error is one book in the Platform Studies series from MIT Press.