[-empyre-] (no subject)

Alison Harvey alison1harvey at gmail.com
Wed Mar 19 19:12:41 EST 2014


Hi everyone,

I seem to have signed up for the Digest email so hopefully this opening
gambit is not overlapping with someone else's.

It's been fascinating to read the posts over the last few weeks- I've found
a lot of the ideas productive and provocative, and part of that I think is
because of the capacious character of the term 'experimental games'.
Experimentation has a range of interesting connotations, and I think the
way in which its has for me at least led to thinking about the
material-political instruments of the lab and the those of game design is
quite thought-provoking.

But something's been missing for me in these discussions, and that's the
bodies. These days I've been thinking a lot about the physical,
psychological, emotional, and intellectual toll of game-making. Of course,
this is not new- crunch time and intensified work cycles among other
dimensions of the production process of digital games have been quite
well-theorized over the past decade+.  But it seems like in many ways this
has been quietly relegated to the world of commercial, mass, mainstream
game development, and the labour of those outside it, whatever we want to
call or not call them, isn't understood as such. Suddenly it seems the
arduous hours of unpaid and precarious game design toil are framed as
emancipatory, half ecstatic pleasure and half frenzied dedication, in a way
that looks strikingly similar to disembodied commitment to excellence of
elite athletes, artists, and musicians. I recently read an article by Mark
Banks on "Being in the Zone" in the creative industries, and the resonance
with not only the global games industry but also those we laud for their
experimental game design is striking. To be a truly authentic creator in
these media-making domains requires the compulsory harnessing of all the
friction-free, out of your body and in your mind creativity we can muster,
and this isn't just some top-down rationalization of work processes but
also a key part of the self-disciplining of creative workers.

The labour of game designers, especially those we laud as providing a
glimpse into some kind of revolution in game-making, bears closer
examination. I've asked elsewhere exactly how revolutionary it is that
queer, poor, trans* and disabled people, particular women-identified
people,  make games for no money and often in a culture that threatens them
with violence and harm for doing so. How revolutionary is it indeed that
those who have been excluded precisely because of their troubling bodies
must take on the responsibility and work of the thankless project of
attempting to shift mainstream games culture through community-organizing,
self-promotion, public education, and of course, making, making, making.
What disservice do we do by consistently framing these activities in
celebratory terms (intervention, inclusivity, democratization,
accessibility) and focusing on the production of games as though that
process were some kind of black box?

I think there's a word limit here so I'll leave it there and hopefully
others want to take on labour and bodies in experimental game design!

Alison
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