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

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Thu Mar 14 09:38:30 EST 2013

dear all

hopefully it is not distracting (after the long and semi biographical post by Joseph Delappe which took me by surprise  - the way the narrative progressed in its turns and outcomes, and i wondered of course how narratively creative it was?)
to come back to the reference to Augusto Boal and the somewhat misleading, i suggest, heading of "videogames of the orppressed"  -

perhaps the earlier discussion on video/games (Paolo, with all others involved, and thanks for your reply Ana!) was far from exhaustive, and once you introduced the correlation between a theatre of the oppressed and what you call video of the oppressed, i could not help asking myself whom you mean by the game-oppressed?  and why would you posit a desire, on the part of the gamers, to have their games changed ("God of War" out soon in Playstation 3, ready to be changed in the outcomes?) and have them changed, as Boal and Freire would argue, so the political conditions of oppression can be discussed, then resistances or alternates be rehearsed and experienced as possible within the context of the rehearsal with others --- ("After one representation, anybody in the audience can take over the role of the protagonist and suggest, through her acting, a solution that she thinks would break the oppression. Since the problems are complex, the solutions are generally incomplete. This is why the process is repeated several times, always offering a new perspective on the subject. In Boal's (1992) own words: "It is more important to achieve a good debate than a good solution." It is central to stress that Boal uses theater as a tool......." 

 This is from Gonzalo Frasca, i tried to go back and read his texts and also found it interesting –– and here i will come back at later point perhaps to Joseph's fascinating narrative–  that Frasca distinguishes between "Aristotelian" plot design for games, and the notion he prefer, of simulation,  and then mentions the Boalian approach suggesting that for him "simulation" is "imaginary dynamic system (the Mario world), understood as the modeling of a dynamic system through another system..."

Gonzalo Frasca / Videogames of the Oppressed   (2004)

>>Is it possible to design videogames that deal with social and political issues? 
Could videogames be used as a tool for encouraging critical thinking? 
Do videogames offer an alternative way of understanding reality?
<<  (opening lines of Frasca)

Brecht's techniques, however, were not exclusively targeted at the audience. He also encouraged performers to be completely aware of their actions. Instead of being "inside the skin" of the character, he encouraged having a critical distance that would let them understand their role.

Brazilian dramatist Augusto Boal (1971) took Brecht's ideas even further by creating a set of techniques, known as the "Theater of the Oppressed" (TO), that tear down the stage's "fourth wall." Boal's main goal is to foster critical thinking and break the actor/spectator dichotomy by creating the "spect-actor," a new category that integrates both by giving them active participation in the play. The repertoire of techniques of TO is extremely large and includes, among others, the "invisible theater" -- where actors work "undercover" in public spaces -- and the "Forum Theater." >>
(from further inside the Frasca text).

Thus, i am not sure, do you wish to correlate something like hacking or machinima'ing to the theatrical rehearsal for political participation?  Frasca's idealism is to be appreciated, his wish to give the user the power to add/modify behaviors in a game character in order to and take on and discuss/critique/rehearse/change and affect human relationships,political and social issues......

But as we tend to know, the process of changing behaviors is not an easy task.. and I am not talking about hacking. 

How do other feel about games and revolt?   games of the revolution, games of rebellion?


Johannes Birringer

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