Re: [-empyre-] otherness


i've been lurking avidly for the past month or so, following what has been a
really, really interesting discussion...

melinda wrote that
> ..  what was really evident last month in our conversations is how this
> genre, of modification and intervention allows fascination and
> identification with the other..  [...]
> what i see happening in these works is that they bravely present other
> realities in easily accessible ways.. which of course was the early  promise
> of the net , and all that hyped  "fluid identity" stuff was that  supposedly
> gave you the experience of being in another persons life/body/emotions,
> which i know i played around with textually a lot a decade ago.. and i guess
> games are the updated version of that.
> but there's something more in the gameplay that gets me.... some almost
> chemical thing that occurs  to totally immerse me even more within
> otherness.. i know the rhythm hooks into my body rhythm somehow eg >>  in
> Waco Resurrection i have an almost spiritual experience each time i am
> re-born..(as  David koresh.). umm maybe it is the music! thats a scary
> thought...
> but  i am trying to decipher what it is exactly that makes these games as
> "difference engines" so effective/affective ?

i love the notion of the difference engine, and my own interests lean
towards this indefinable 'chemical thing' that grabs you when you play a
game ... but couldn't it be argued that on some level, all games function as
a kind of difference engine? and that the kind of difference embodied in the
games under discussion here is, in fact, both more complex and more familiar
(if that makes sense) than in other games.

hmm. that's not very clear. let me try and explain it a bit better. in its
simplest sense, 'otherness' refers to all that is not oneself - the 'not-me'
that gives us an identity and enables us to function as subjects. otherness
is simultaneously a physical, psychological, and emotional concern.  part of
the fun of regular gameplay (i.e. action gameplay, not, say, something like
solitaire or minesweeper) is negotiating the border between the two -
'living' one's character and feeling more or less embedded in it. as far as
i'm aware (help me out here if i'm wrong), most commercially available games
engage difference or otherness on a primarily physical level, and encourage
the gamer to overcome it, rather than foreground it and incorporate it into
the gaming experience.

in the games we're talking about here, which contain an explicitly political
dimension, there is an additional level of complexity in the notion of
otherness, and hence in the sorts of affects we experience. part of that
involves a much deeper and more complex and contradictory level of
investment in the psyche of the character - and, i would guess (i've only
seen one of these games in the flesh), a much less easy ride in terms of
'becoming' one's character. As Michael says, Waco is a primal scene of
American fear and getting into the body of David Koresh is bound to bring
about a different kind of rush than getting into the body of Tony Hawks. ...

so on some level, all of these games confront the player with the
fundamental impossibility of what they're attempting - i.e. the ability to
fully occupy another self, the ability to bridge the gap between self and
other. in other words, they don't simply address political issues, they
simultaneously comment upon the difficulty of fully confronting these kinds
of issues via 'virtual' engagement. for me, that's part of what's so
interesting about them.


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