[-empyre-] Systems - Videogames of the oppressed / oppressive games

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sat Mar 9 08:50:33 EST 2013

dear all

very interesting discussion this month, thanks to all of you, and I particularly began to ponder  Paolo's postings, and Claudia's, then  Ana's replies [i did enjoy Renate's story about the "two cultures"],  as I think in the beginning the conversation was perhaps rather more invested in discussing games in relation to art or art institutions and art history, but with all due respect (i mean to those latter things),  I  don't think we have to worry so much about art / museum institutions and whether they can manage to appropriate or incorporate or legitimize gaming & game culture, or as Isabelle proposes, "create more and more encounters between these two worlds" .......   After reading Renate and Ana, my only interest really was roused by the political gender critique or the class critique implied, and also Ana took us into looking at games from a non western, arabic perspective which i think is a very crucial intervention here -- would love to see more of this, and what other understandings there might be of "game" or "play"  or action or rehearsal, or retro-engineering or hacking or machinima.... (and what would a 'subaltern' context mean and where and how do you use such reference systems to a subaltern if you, at the same time  posit a hegemonic global 'protocol'). 

I wanted to ask what Paolo meant, more comprehensively, by - "thinking in systems", or beyond them,  and how we have to understand the provocative reference to Boal's theatre --  and Freire's pedagogy - of the oppressed  (via Frasca)? 
and how this connects back to the thesis on total consumption (as game?).. I am not a gamer, and do not know the term "gamification" and the resonances it might have for all of you here. 

[Paolo schreibt]

Everybody is lying to everybody else on multiple levels, intra- and extra-corporate. 
But as a whole the advertising system works because it succeeds at 
pervading every corner of the mindscape with the discourse of consumption.

To me it is not too crucial to find out whether or not you can control people through game-like systems. What's more intriguing is that the fantasy is out there, strong and loud. Governments and corporations are investing lots of money in this idea. Feasible or not, this is the object of desire of contemporary capitalism and as such it's worth investigating.

Is the fantasy of gamification a testament to the decline of money as  the general, all-encompassing incentive to regulate human relations?
Could it be a premonition of the next power paradigm? We went from a  disciplinary society (the stick) to a society of control (mass  surveillance). Is the society of the incentive (the customized carrot) next? Is gamification a tension toward the measurement of the unmeasurable  (lifestyle, affects, activism, reputation, self esteem…), being  measurement the precondition of commodification?


You also then argue: " I find persuasive games an intriguing idea, in particular as a way of thinking about how the player/user is constructed" -

and would you care to suggest how Boal's theatre rehearsals  (with workers, I assume, on the street or in the factory or community centers etc, what now is the precariat?) 
might be associated with playing a game - do you mean in terms of a potential rehearsal (acting out via avatar) an alternate narrative or plot? an occopying stratagy?
how can you, as Boal, following Brecht's Lehrstücke,  would insist, change the plot of a game that is designed? how can you change its (variable?) predictable endings?  are all games predictable or
has the indie sector created open games?  again, please forgive my near ignorance of what might be possible in a design that is not design (a "system of rules" and algorithms, steps to play, levels to go up to?, medicine to take, POV's to adhere to?)  but something else (I think Tim spoke of the collaborative and the social)
- social choreographies of undesigning mainstream games and ironically gothically steampunking them?  Now i am not even sure whether there can be such a thing as a steampunk game... but most likely
there are?

How is the player constructed and how, in Boal's rehearsals, can she step out or not step in? 

Johannes Birringer

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