[-empyre-] The Playsthetics of Experimental Digital Games: Week 1 introductory statement

Sandra Danilovic s.danilovic at mail.utoronto.ca
Tue Mar 4 15:30:16 EST 2014

The Playsthetics of Experimental Digital Games: March Discussion

1. Introductory Statement: Sandra Danilovic (guest moderator)

Thank you so much Renate Ferro, Tim Murray and Patrick Lichty for inviting me to guest moderate on –empyre - this month. I am honoured and excited to initiate this discussion on “experimental” games, a topic that is selfishly close to my heart and mind.

I want to emphasize one specific theme in this introductory statement while also respecting last March’s (2013) empyre discussion on “Videogames and Art: Incite/Insight”, which delves into the connections between videogames, art and social justice contexts. I will reference this past discussion as much as I can over the month, but also, I like to think that this new discussion on experimental games will contribute something fresh, given the rich and diverse experiences of the invited guests this month.

Now back to my theme (which may be somewhat frantic and disjointed, alas, such is life). In this statement, I want to frame videogames (even if it for a fleeting moment) as forms of *radical honesty* in relation to creative and artistic experimentation.

What are some ideas or concepts that perhaps we are *still hesitant* to articulate, name, foreground, speculate on, in relation to experimental games, art games, games for social change? I am very interested, both in my research and creative practice in giving voice to the hidden, unnamed, awkward dimensions of human experience –the taboo, shameful, and ineffable. I am interested in a form of creative honesty that can express ideas or experiences that are unacknowledged, discredited or dismissed. I specifically work with the themes of disability, illness and trauma in games and games as vehicles for personal storytelling, embedded in broader social justice goals.

The growth of conferences (ex: “Different Games”) and journals (Well Played’s February call for papers on “Weird Games” inspired by the kooky aesthetics of Sianne Ngai (2005) - the zany, interesting, cute) are a testament to the ongoing need to debate games, gaming and game aesthetics in relation to inclusivity, self-expression, and creative experimentation. DIY game artist Anna Anthropy’s (2012) call to creativity invites game artists to “put weird shit into your game”. In this discussion, I hope that we can simultaneously engage with the possibilities inherent in this nexus of games, play, art, craft, and idiosyncratic aesthetics – a form of highly embodied, deeply personal, high-stakes aesthetics. I think the invited guests have much to say in this respect.

But also, I hope that we can consider games from the perspective of the uncategorized yet categorized, difficult to play, unplayable, games as continuing interventions and deeply philosophical, political and personal platforms, games that radically challenge our perceptions and assumptions about what constitutes experimentation, play, games, art, craft, imagination, belonging, materiality. Here in Toronto, we have some wonderful DIY communities such as Dames Making Games (www.dmg.to) and Ladies Learning Code (http://ladieslearningcode.com ) that have non-judgmentally and compassionately opened up game design and programming practice to women/girls, casual gamers, and non-gamers.

So, in reference to these cultural discourses of “weird” games, different games, experimental games, my basic point is this: it’s not so much the *strange * that I am interested in, but rather, it’s the *strangely honest *.

In this regard, I have a confession to make as an artist who has had a long and sustained practice in a variety of visual media (doing stranger than strange things too): I am more interested in honesty than originality. Of course, originality is a worthy goal that many of us aspire to as artists, producers and scholars (myself included).

But, I am wondering how and why honesty sometimes gets left behind or lost in the pursuit of originality?

What do I mean by *radical honesty * in relation to creative experimentation? I imagine creative experimentation with and through games as a variation and extension of creative processes of all kinds (not just art, but also art). I stress process here. In this regard, I also invoke my bias towards some of my favorite things (imagine Maria singing these in The Sound of Music): the glitch, stream-of-consciousness, Bob Flanagan, improvisation, Deleuzianguattarian rhizomatics, Gertrude Stein, cinema vérité, Wong Kar-wai, Theatre of the Absurd, and most recently for me, the fast feminism of scholar Shannon Bell’s work. Also, the legitimacy that is afforded to us as glitch artists- to stylize ‘mistakes’, is important to me not because of the results as much as the process involved in making the mistakes. The backlash that may arrive with perceptions of erring, unoriginality, incompleteness, and disorder may spur us to the creative edge or beyond. Most importantly, the contradiction that lies within – erring, improvising and experimenting as sustained and carefully constructed practices that involve a sensibility, a courage, a truth *and* dare to stylize chance, messiness, probability, unpredictability, unanticipated results, awkwardness, shame, reaction (frustration, anger, pain, hurt). This process is honest to me.

So then, how do we bring a vibrant, but most importantly, honest approach to the idea of creative experimentation in, with and through games, embedded as we are, in contemporary digital, virtual, digitally augmented and hybridized landscapes?

I was inspired to galvanize this discussion on experimental games as *radically honest* concepts and artifacts because I feel that this is reflected in the works and perspectives of the list of invited guests this month. Of course, this is only my interpretation and…gut feeling.

Coming up soon (in another email) are this week's questions and featured guests: Bart Simon, Felan Parker and mrghosty.

I do hope we all enjoy this ride.


Sandra Danilovic, BFA, MA, SSHRC Doctoral Fellow
Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20140304/fc877073/attachment.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list