[-empyre-] The Playsthetics of Experimental Digital Games: Week 1 Featured Guests and Questions

Sandra Danilovic s.danilovic at mail.utoronto.ca
Thu Mar 6 05:40:49 EST 2014

Dear All, 

Skot, Bart and Felan, this conversation has launched quite beautifully and your thoughts and ideas really resonate with me! I have some initial reflections, and then, will add more at a later time. A reminder to empyre members and all invited guests to wade into the conversation, if you wish! 

My original intention in naming this topic  "the playsthetics of experimental games" was to provide a springboard from which we can flexibly play with those labels, categories, concepts, words, tropes, assumptions, biases, conflations (I riff on Mary Flanagan's ideas here in Critical Play: Radical Game Design); but also consider the variety of contexts, publics, and communities that intersect in this regard. Games as "interventions" are important in this discussion on experimentation, due to the socially meaningful ways in which they "make a difference" (I reference last year's discussion of the Games of the Oppressed and Gonzalo Frasca's work in this regard). THIS is really important to me (again, this is my own bias that instrumentalizes games from this point of 'mattering', how games  'matter' to a variety of actors, which would be riffing on Karen Barad's work). The Baradian perspective may click in some ways with Felan's idea of assemblages… and games as phenomena and material-discursive apparatuses instead of mere artifacts or objects. 

So, experimental games as game experiences that speak to us in ways unaccustomed to is important (my interpretation of Bart's 'otherwise being'). It is not impossible, I think, to see 'mainstream' games offering points of departure in relation to 'experimentation', perhaps for strategic purposes, for purposes of slyly using the label 'indie', 'experimental' etc to market the game. I didn't want to exclude  Triple-A games from this conversation, but…I was hoping to privilege the non-mainstream (whatever that means) as a way to honour and celebrate gamemakers, games, communities, that are doing really interesting and in my opinion, courageous work. I would hate to reify in any regard, but... language, language! 

 Drawing and redrawing these lines is half the fun. 

Skot, I think your statement below strikes me as really significant to this conversation and I would wholeheartedly agree that semantics add an additional challenge in this regard:

 "We're in this strange state as scholars where the language we employ about these forms of "art" and "experimentation" often differ from the manners in which the same terms are employed by practitioners. Which often differ from the various "scenes" which exist in Indie/indie/DIY/ art game making".

We have a variety of 'practitioners' on the invited guest list this month, they will speak to this idea of how praxis converges and diverges from our theoretical and discursive speculations. 

So, if semantics are an issue, then, how do we talk about "these" games? I think talking in flawed ways is more important than not talking at all (as a friend of mine would argue). 

But also, I like Bart's  "games as experiments" reconceptualization and the idea of failure, which made me think of Jack Halberstam's "Queer Art of Failure" (2011), the commitment to "alternative forms of knowledge production" , which basically deploys an intervention into the binary of success and failure. The scientific analogy that Bart alludes to is really interesting…I wonder where and how we can take this concept further?  

More later! 


From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au <empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au> on behalf of skot deeming (mrghosty) <mrghosty at gmail.com>
Sent: March 5, 2014 11:14 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] The Playsthetics of Experimental Digital Games: Week 1 Featured Guests and Questions

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