tracing vectors//games of multitude

Perhaps this is colored by our field trip to the Strong Museum of Play and its archives//library, but reading Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter’s Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games brought about questions//considerations of virtual games (and the ecologies of their creation and circulation) as artifact. On our field trip we saw archives of games (functional and broken//accessible through filters of restoration—and does that change the game?), materials of conceptualization, failure, imagination, production (notebooks, sketches, texts, scraps and scribbles that exist in de/re contextualization), and processes of classification and curation (matters of concern—how can play be captured?).

how can games be treated as serious artifacts? (not serious games, but objects in complex contexts with other objects—technologies, counter/movements, cultures, norms/deviance, ideologies, novelties, viral tendencies, systems, traditions)

tracing vectors//accounting

“Games of multitude are, in (Felix) Guattari’s conceptual terms, a ‘molecular revolution’ involving ‘the effort to not miss anything that could help rebuild a new kind of struggle, a new kind of society’. Not missing anything includes virtual games. ‘Strange contraptions, you will tell me, these machines of virtuality, these blocks of mutant percepts and affects, half-object, half-subject,’ Guattari mused, perhaps (who knows?) contemplating a video game console—yet potentially, he insists, such ‘strange contraptions’ were ‘crucial instruments’ to ‘generate other ways of perceiving the world, a new face on things, and even a different turn of events” (214)

Games of multitude are a capacity to not only resist Empire but also to develop, protect, and propose alternatives through new forms of subjectivity and new movements opposing global capital (186-188). Reading this text brings my attention to what is typically unaccounted for in my thinking about games—the experience of playing and the materiality of the game—the complex ecology the game exists within. The concept of Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter of the game as multitude accounts for the discourses surrounding games, constructing games as vectors of contending interests and agendas and as instilling skills that can serve and subvert norms (“Introduction”). My desire to ask about classification in the archives and the conversation we had with our museum guide about capturing play (in video game/console play as a means of documenting for curation) I think were really attempts at accounting for these vectors—what standards exist for categorizing digital and nondigital games? Who/what are they according to? What is the balance//struggle in accounting for cultural phenomena//affect? How is the experience of play accounted for vs. the construction of play to be experienced? How is production for play, not of it as experience, not lost? // What does it mean to capture play? Whose body/ability is imagined? Is the emphasis mechanics, material environment, narrative? And what of the race for preservation before degradation, decomposition, and death? Of bringing back through materials not of the original ecological design?

What might the vectors of the games on exhibit at the Strong look like in a different context? What might be accounted for? What accounts might play out?



Hamlet on the Holodeck: Interactors of Digital Materiality

Janet Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck (which is nearing its 20th anniversary since publication—I wonder if it might be revisited through digital sensory extensions? Did anyone else sigh small sadness over the URL to the book’s resource page being a nonspace? Imagine this with a digital compendium!) has left me with much to think about as one of the first digital explorations we are venturing into as I carry forward my interest in possibility spaces, agency and materiality. Digital materiality—tactile and sensory interaction with digital materials—is something I’m captivated by in my own work/thinking. It is this interest in exploring sense and digital sensorium (extensions, amplifiers, interactions) that left me thinking about the video game the main character Theodore plays in Her while reading.

The game is of interest to me in its balanced blurring of boundary between Theodore’s apartment/life and the game—the game interacts with his actions (embodied/his body is read as the control) and speech in real time and is responsive (scripted, but still receptive), but it does not slip into a virtual reality (perhaps its more of a hybrid reality than a hyper reality). Thinking about this game while I read, I found an interview from The Creators Project with the designers of the two video games featured in the film; I’m drawn to the work of David O’Reilly, the creator of the alien child game featured in the clip above. It’s interesting to read about the creation process of the games themselves and fitting them into a reality that is removed from our current capability, but that does not seem too far removed in terms of completely foreign technology or environments.

To me, this game, as well as this narrative of this game within the film, represents some of Murray’s concepts of immersion, the liminal, and agency. Theodore is immersed through sensory interaction with the game medium and narrative/character, and this is broken and added to through interaction with his OS Samantha (something to explore as far as elements not part of the game/play but that are bounded within the player’s reality and environment). His game is mediated and mediates his external reality of his life and the internal reality of the game, allowing for interaction through the medium. His actions and inaction affect the game play and seemingly the narrative and character. But this is a fictional game on a fictional system/technology in a fictional future. I wonder, though, within our current technological affordances in the digital, how this medium interaction can be explored through games. I’m extremely curious if/what digital games treat the technology less as conduit and more as extension of self/senses and what the player can do within them—as a material component acting, interacting, and reacting. Murray’s articulation of agency/actor/player as interactor, I think, illuminates a space to explore digital materiality:

The interactor is not the author of the digital narrative, although the interactor can experience one of the most exciting aspects of artistic creation—the thrill of exerting power over enticing and plastic materials. This is not authorship but agency (153)

I’m not sure how this advances/adds to my seeming obsession with material possibilities in games, but through Murray’s interactor, I feel as if there is an ability to get a firmer grip.