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

Claudia Pederson ccp9 at cornell.edu
Fri Mar 15 03:38:57 EST 2013

Dear all, thank you for your thoughtful comments and questions. I am
especially enjoying the thread emerging in relation to videogames,
activism, and learning. The link between constructivist views of learning
and videogames is fascinating in and of itself and in addition to the games
you mentioned I'm also thinking of Bucky Fuller and his "World Game" which
implicitly in my mind was based on the same ideas of mental models of
problem based learning. In some instances, Augusto Boal's games were also
based on problem solving but like some of you mention this was a very
open-ended performance which nevertheless can be favorably compared to what
Sherry Turkle described in "Life on the Screen," which argues for the
possibilities of videogame spaces as spaces that could facilitate awareness
about identity and reality as constructs (as you may now Turkle was
Papert's partner). I think that this was what Frasca was going for with
theater of the oppressed. I asked him how he never actually implemented his
proposal to make such a game and he said that he might someday.  In the
end, I think that one of the questions that would be interesting to explore
if a virtual game of the oppressed gets to be made is embodiment, and
perhaps Anna could speak a bit about this. Since Boal's theater is so
firmly rooted in convivial traditions how would that play out in the
discursive space of videogames?

I too I'm interested in the work of Anna Anthropy and I just spoke about
her project with Occupy Oakland, the OakUtron, a mobile arcade game made
for the move in day in January 2012, which is a good example of the
intersections between the movement here and the indie gaming world, which
is really exciting precisely because of its account of the situation at
hand, the occupation of the Kaiser building with the aim of transforming
the abandoned building into an occupy center.

See: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/oakutron/



On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 10:54 AM, Johannes Birringer <
Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> dear all
> interesting response from James, I'd like to pick up where he ends,
> [James Morgan schreibt]
> >>The rules and coded culture of the game create a powerful level of
> control
> over the player, and perhaps it is the manipulation of that through some
> manner of live coding or game modding that creates a useful dialog within
> games of the oppressed, I do not know. I have not encountered this before
> but am anxious to learn more. On the other hand a sense of game playing is
> at the heart of Theater of the Oppressed too, isn't it?
> Games cultivate motivation and teach, but they teach best how to play the
> game.
> >>
> and offer disagreement, as to this correlation. I believe the Theatre of
> the Oppressed
> has nothing to do with games at all, if we are referring to computer games
> and action
> games, and even more compositional games modeled/simulated like SIMS, and I
> am trying here to make sense as i do not play games, but on occasion have
> walked
> around Second Life and watched students "perform" (mimic or parody) scenes
> of contortionist violence from First Person Shooter games.
> I would also have assumed from readings (in games studies) that games
> involve
> elements that are named under the heading of ludology, no? game
> structures, plots
> and narrative, rule-based systems and their syntax, role playing, and so
> on,
> and that a primary investment into gaming is the action of the gamer, the
> direct immersion
> into the game system or simulated world; you don't watch other play games
> ( as in an art
> gallery or theatre), you are a first person.
> Following Brecht's street theatre scene in the Lehrstücke (learning
> plays), the actor or
> as Boal later calls her, the "spect-actor," is involved in a rehearsal,
> not or a syntax design or
> game rules, but precisely in critical discussion on how an oppressive
> grammar can be
> changed, thus chancing outcomes otherwise considered predictable or
> inevitable.
> As Frasca points out, in the Brazilian context, Boal and Freire worked on
> raising sociopolitical
> awareness and action behavior, thus I also see them in a larger spectrum
> of revolution (Cuba in 1959)
> and Marxist & socialist politics in América Lartina, and literacy
> campaigns (educating working classed
> so they could speak for themselves).
> >> (Frasca schreibt]
> Certainly, the idea of using simulation and videogames for educational
> purposes is far from new and was already extensively explored by
> constructionism. The idea was developed by Seymour Papert through
> Mindstorms (1985) and Logo, and it was continued by such authors as Yasmin
> Kafai (Kafai 1995), whose students learned mathematics through videogame
> design. The main problem with constructionism is that it was not designed
> for dealing with social and humanities education. This can be easily
> explained by many factors, including Papert's own background as a
> mathematician and the election of the computer as their main tool.
> Certainly, Kafai's students had to research Greek mythology to create their
> videogames, but this was mainly a side effect, because their focus was on
> mathematics. In fact constructionism's main success stories are in the
> field of science education, and it does not seem to be the ideal
> environment for critically discussing human and social matters.
> Paulo Freire's pedagogy was developed about the same time as
> constructionism. In fact, they share many characteristics. However, Freire
> had different goals (mainly adult literacy and the development of critical
> attitudes towards reality in order to attain social change) and settings
> (the Brazilian Nordeste, one of the poorest places of the world). Unlike
> constructionism, his pedagogy offers great tools for critical discussion
> and social awareness -- but it is not as well suited for science education.
> What I am proposing here is to use Boalian techniques to develop a
> complementary approach to constructionism that would allow the use of
> videogames as tools for education and sociopolitical awareness.
> >>
> I suppose we could debate James's suggestion that games can teach or are a
> tool for possible education,
> In the sense in which Paolo had critiqued the systemic,  arguing that
> "games, simulations and interactive media are systems of rules, and these
> rules produce meaning  as well: they define the relationships between the
> purely  representational bits (images, sounds, text…) and the agency of the
>  players within the system,"  it seems then that any rehearsals we are
> disussing under this political lens would be
> regarding critical awarenesses, changes in behavior or action patterns an
> consciousness of over-determinations and resistances to oppression, and
>  "challenging the language of power, the infrastructures, the  modes,
> genres and tropes of the dominant discourse which was omnipresent  in
> videogame culture" [Paulo]
> quite so, Paulo, yes, and now it would interest me to hear where such
> rehearsals are happening in the consumer sector?  or in the educational
> sphere.  Some of you have already mentioned examples, but my concern here
> is the much larger market of game consumption and how games also tie into
> the movie and entertainment industries.
> As to Joseph DeLappe's narrative, I actually enjoyed it as a narrative but
> it had some fictional elements, no? unlikely plot twists, biblical
> allusions, and a Manichaean strand,  I thought (game narrative?)? would you
> agree?   and
> in a sense the positive "outcome" and survival reminded me of Paolo's
> earlier claim that games helped him to develop anti-colonial politics?
>  This mixing of virtual games and factual politics - can you address this
> please, along the lines
> in which Claudia, i think, also asked: "how does the anti-industry stance
> of videogame activists intersect with other movements in the awake of
> Occupy and the Arab Spring?"
> with regards
> Johannes Birringer
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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