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The Unity game engine and the circuits of cultural software
Nicoll B., Keogh B., Palgrave Pivot, Cham, Switzerland, 2019. 123 pp.  Type: Book (978-3-030250-11-9)
Date Reviewed: Feb 9 2021

Unity is a game engine for building games; users can build 3D worlds run by a set of rules by importing assets such as sound effects, personas, and nature scenes. Initially developed in 2004, Unity has become an increasingly popular game engine and is used to build nearly half of all video games in the world [1].

The book summarizes two research projects, conducted independently in 2018, on the Unity game engine. Divided into six chapters, the book develops a framework for understanding “how cultural software produce and circulate meaning.” Cultural software are “multiple objects that carry different meanings for different people” [2]. How the latter circulate meaning is defined as the “circuits of cultural software.” The Unity game engine is used as a case study. The book provides game developers and educators with the historical background of a widely used engine, including analyses of its impact on cultural work.

Chapter 1 first explains what a game engine is and then introduces Unity. It also describes the “circuits of cultural software.” Chapter 2 discusses the Unity engine’s socio-historical context, including videogame-making practices and Unity’s platform ecology. Chapter 3 covers different Unity-related workflows. Chapter 4 examines the most popular design methodologies adopted by Unity users. Chapter 5 investigates what using the Unity engine means to three main groups: game developers, university students, and educators. Chapter 6 discusses the mechanisms through which users take part in Unity’s ecology.

This compilation covers the cultural factors that encourage the spread of video game production. The writing style is rather too condensed and sometimes confusing. Technical readers with little knowledge of social sciences may find it difficult. Readers should be aware that this is a specialized book; it is neither a tutorial nor general reference for the Unity game engine. It will be most useful to educators and researchers interested in the interleaving of game development and cultural impact. Despite the focus on Unity, the framework can be rebuilt using other engines (with probably different conclusions).

Reviewer:  Ghita Kouadri Review #: CR147183 (2106-0147)
1) Dillet, R. Unity CEO says half of all games are built on Unity. TechCrunch, Sep. 5, 2018, https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/05/unity-ceo-says-half-of-all-games-are-built-on-unity/.
2) Banks, J. Co-creating videogames. Bloomsbury Academic, New York, NY, 2013.
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