Peril-sensitive sunglasses, superheroes in miniature, and pink polka-dot boxers: Artifact and collectible video game feelies, play, and the paratextual gaming experience
Material artifacts included in video game packaging, referred to in the industry as feelies, operate as media paratexts that are both extensions of and separate from the video games that inspired them. Although most discourses on video game feelies are centered on 1980s text-based adventure games, feelies have continually been included in contemporary games, albeit primarily in collector's or special editions. To explore the diversity of feelies and how they are able to generate their own texts away from the digital game itself, I identify two specific types of feelies: artifact feelies, which are life-size reproductions of objects from within the game space, and collectible feelies, which serve as extensions of the game space into the physical realm but tend to include objects more frequently associated with fan collecting activities. Taking an interdisciplinary approach that includes material culture studies and media studies, I show how feelies allow scholars to gain further insight into how screen media operate away from the screens themselves, how the accumulation of material objects in the digital age encourages us to reevaluate our notions of the material and the immaterial, and how the concept of play is crucial to understanding how these objects are reappropriated in ways that move beyond their originally intended use.
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