[T]he horizontal symmetry apparent in many Atari VCS games could be attributed to trends in the history of art or as a reference to the bilateral symmetry native to earthly animals. But such a response would fail to take into account the fact that the production of symmetry on the device is a convenience afforded by its hardware design, which provides memory-mapped registers capable of storing 20 bits of data for a screen-worth of low-res background graphics 40 bits wide. Doubling or mirroring the left half of the screen involves a single assembly instruction that flips a bit on another register. That convenience was further inspired by the way people conceived of videogames at the time. In this case, the relationship between design, material constraing, and individual expression is complex, irreducible to appeals to any one factor alone. The 20 bits of storage in registers PF0, PF1, and PF2 do not determine the aesthetics of a game like Combat, nor are they simple constructions of social practices.
Ian Bogost – Media Studies and Realism.