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

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Fri Mar 22 09:04:21 EST 2013

thanks for getting back into the debate, James, and your questions are sensible ones i think.
[James schreibt]
>.. I have so many questions for the hosts,
these start out to Johannes, but certainly anyone is welcome to reply:

Do you see Theater of the Oppressed as theater games?
I am particularly curious about the gamelike quality of the interaction,
this is still fairly new to me and this thought challenges one of my basic

>> 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.

I tried to suggest that I don't see theatre/rehearsals or applied theatre, and in extension
all sited political-social practices using theatrical strategies   -- enacted in a group that discusses the
forms and modes of oppression or exploitation they want to resist or alter/transform and then tries out
how to alter behavior, action, speech, articulation, gesture, and perception --  as working on the same
level (that of simulation) as video/computer games, but what you say below, about observing and participating
seems a similar issue for performing arts and games – yet i would love to hear discussion
on first person, second person and third person engagements –  even if the meta-level analysis may differ. But meanwhile
we have seen postings here that argue for meta-level analysis provoked by games, so I better be quiet now.

>My limited reading in this space and in the space of game design shows a
tension between game mechanism and narrative which is rarely played out in
any substantial sense. Playing a game rarely prevents meta-level analysis,
the fact that this is where the message in in Boal's work makes me consider
it an added level of understanding within the structure of play.  The
magic circle in this case (the place where you enter the game) can be
interrogated from the perspective of the spoil sport. It is possible to
watch T.O. but the power of it is arrived at in the first person, with
agency and within the magic circle of play.

>> I suppose we could debate James's suggestion that games can teach or are
>> a tool for possible education..

>I am curious as to what your point of view on this is as well.  My point
was not to talk so much about games and formal education but to say that
games are inherently teaching tools.  If you do not learn to play the game
(videogame) you cannot participate, it is in the games interest to teach
you.  At this point though the question is what do you learn of value
(without it becoming edutainment) and how transferable is that to the
real world.  It is my belief that those are both best dealt with by the
teacher. As a teacher we wouldn't just drop a piece of media into a
classroom without some consideration for its appropriateness and
afterwards it is very rare to not provide some additional connecting

James what you say about learning the game, this is of course true, and then would
have to be true for every form of tekhne and creative practice and use of a design object
or communiucation tool; so games teaches us how to play games, precisely, 
and that was what i worried about and tried to answer through some examples from dance, 
and Open Score, and not the billion dollar entertainment
sector & games industrial complex (a commentator last week in The Guarduan
wrote a whacky cynical review of sniper games, e.g. Sniper 2: Ghost Warrior
(C. Brooker, "Don't judge me, but I love sniping games", http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/17/dont-judge-me-i-love-sniping-games)
well,  and I can't quite fathom this kind of cynicism:

"It's taken a while to admit this to myself, but it's true: I will never tire of hiding in the mountains, blowing people's heads off from a distance with a high-velocity rifle.
 I enjoy sniping more than I enjoy leaping onto platforms, collecting stars, discovering treasure chests or any of that other bullshit videogames force 
you to do when they're not letting you assassinate anonymous strangers on the horizon, which is what God wants videogames to do. It's why He invented them....">>

As to bringing such material into a classroom, I wonder whether it might work to pair off such an article, and the Sniper game,\
with, say, Rabih Mroué  horrific performance piece "The Pixelated Revolution"* where he tells the story of the Syrian uprising
and the protesters filming the revolution with hand-held devices (camera eye), and then Mroué analyzes, in the performance (with the
projected and now YouTube-uploaded film fragments behind him on a screen), in detail, one film where the first-person/camera eye
tracks a sniper from the Syrian military, and as he turns his camera in him, is discovered by the sniper and shot.  This was not a game.

Rabih Mroué, "The Pixelated Revolution", TDR: The Drama Review: Volume 56, Issue 3  Fall 2012   cf. also  http://vimeo.com/44123255


Johannes Birringer

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