[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 2 on -empyre: GAMES AND REPRESENTATION

Jen Malkowski malkowjc at miamioh.edu
Sun Apr 12 02:52:33 AEST 2015

I’m interested in talking more about the provocation from Ian Bogost,
“Video Games Are Better without Characters,” that TreaAndrea brings
up. As she notes, “Bogost argues that games (like simulation games)
that emphasize complex systems instead of dialogue, characters, and
identities better prepare us to analyze the changing social and
economic times.”

There’s a lot in the piece that participants in this conversation
would likely criticize—especially Bogost’s aggressive caricaturing of
an investment in identity as a form of myopic, selfish, and
individualist narcissism (an old refrain, to be sure). But trying to
read it in a more generative way, I wondered about how we might
conceive of identity itself as a “complex system” that could be or has
been translated into game mechanics. In other words, when we think
more broadly about games, identity, and representation than only
advocating for more diverse characters in games (and it’s clear to me
that many of us are already thinking in that broad way in our work),
what games come to mind that represent identity itself as a complex
system, beyond simply featuring diverse characters? Or what games
could be made that would do so?

One example I sometimes teach that I think does this kind of work is
Anna Anthropy’s dys4ia (http://wizardofvore.itch.io/dys4ia), “a
journal game about the six months of my life when I made the decision
to begin hormone replacement therapy.” In one way, dys4ia, “a journal
game,” is deeply individualistic, as it chronicles one person’s
identity-centric experience. But in another way, it repeatedly and
overtly represents the social and medical systems that shape
individual experiences of gender identity (and not only for trans*
people). The game itself, though, is short and simple in its
mechanics, so I'd love to think of games that translate the complexity
of systems of identity into complex game mechanics, as well.

What games do you folks think succeed or fail at representing identity
as a complex system?

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