[-empyre-] Systems – Videogames of the oppressed / oppressive games

James Morgan james at factorynoir.com
Thu Mar 14 14:40:00 EST 2013


Long time lurker here, I want to first apologize for the informal sloppy  
nature of this email, if I don't put it together and send it quickly, I  
won't get it out at all.

I too was impressed by Joe's narrative of his works, much of which I have  
followed for a number of years. I also had the distinct pleasure of  
curating Joe and Paolo into my first museum show on games as art a number  
of years ago for Zero1. I have to say that I think the struggle to get  
work recognized as art has been playing itself out for a long time across  
new media and more recently among those of us who see games as a  
particular flavor of interactive media. And though the victories are  
trickling in it was that my last show that convinced me that the question  
of art in games and games in art just wasn't that interesting to me, but  
it was more important what one could do with the medium.

The resistance to putting games into the gallery and museum tends to melt  
away as the institutions recognize the tremendous diversity of expression  
and audience that are represented in the works and attracted to the shows.

That being expressed I have to say that the idea of Games of the Oppressed  
and even Videogames of the Oppressed really flips a switch in my head.  I  
think Anna Anthropy reflects very well on who and what is oppressed by the  
modern games industry and even to a lesser extent indie games. There just  
aren't enough voice, and isn't enough diversity in the voices of the games  
being played.

The rules and coded culture of the game create a powerful level of control  
over the player, and perhaps it is the manipulation of that through some  
manner of live coding or game modding that creates a useful dialog within  
games of the oppressed, I do not know. I have not encountered this before  
but am anxious to learn more. On the other hand a sense of game playing is  
at the heart of Theater of the Oppressed too, isn't it?

Games cultivate motivation and teach, but they teach best how to play the  

On Wed, 13 Mar 2013 15:38:30 -0700, Johannes Birringer  
<Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> dear all
> hopefully it is not distracting (after the long and semi biographical  
> post by Joseph Delappe which took me by surprise  - the way the  
> narrative progressed in its turns and outcomes, and i wondered of course  
> how narratively creative it was?)
> to come back to the reference to Augusto Boal and the somewhat  
> misleading, i suggest, heading of "videogames of the orppressed"  -
> perhaps the earlier discussion on video/games (Paolo, with all others  
> involved, and thanks for your reply Ana!) was far from exhaustive, and  
> once you introduced the correlation between a theatre of the oppressed  
> and what you call video of the oppressed, i could not help asking myself  
> whom you mean by the game-oppressed?  and why would you posit a desire,  
> on the part of the gamers, to have their games changed ("God of War" out  
> soon in Playstation 3, ready to be changed in the outcomes?) and have  
> them changed, as Boal and Freire would argue, so the political  
> conditions of oppression can be discussed, then resistances or  
> alternates be rehearsed and experienced as possible within the context  
> of the rehearsal with others --- ("After one representation, anybody in  
> the audience can take over the role of the protagonist and suggest,  
> through her acting, a solution that she thinks would break the  
> oppression. Since the problems are complex, the solutions are generally  
> incomplete. This is why the process is repeated several times, always  
> offering a new perspective on the subject. In Boal's (1992) own words:  
> "It is more important to achieve a good debate than a good solution." It  
> is central to stress that Boal uses theater as a tool......."
>  This is from Gonzalo Frasca, i tried to go back and read his texts and  
> also found it interesting –– and here i will come back at later point  
> perhaps to Joseph's fascinating narrative–  that Frasca distinguishes  
> between "Aristotelian" plot design for games, and the notion he prefer,  
> of simulation,  and then mentions the Boalian approach suggesting that  
> for him "simulation" is "imaginary dynamic system (the Mario world),  
> understood as the modeling of a dynamic system through another system..."
> http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/firstperson/Boalian
> Gonzalo Frasca / Videogames of the Oppressed   (2004)
>>> Is it possible to design videogames that deal with social and  
>>> political issues?
> Could videogames be used as a tool for encouraging critical thinking?
> Do videogames offer an alternative way of understanding reality?
> <<  (opening lines of Frasca)
> Brecht's techniques, however, were not exclusively targeted at the  
> audience. He also encouraged performers to be completely aware of their  
> actions. Instead of being "inside the skin" of the character, he  
> encouraged having a critical distance that would let them understand  
> their role.
> Brazilian dramatist Augusto Boal (1971) took Brecht's ideas even further  
> by creating a set of techniques, known as the "Theater of the Oppressed"  
> (TO), that tear down the stage's "fourth wall." Boal's main goal is to  
> foster critical thinking and break the actor/spectator dichotomy by  
> creating the "spect-actor," a new category that integrates both by  
> giving them active participation in the play. The repertoire of  
> techniques of TO is extremely large and includes, among others, the  
> "invisible theater" -- where actors work "undercover" in public spaces  
> -- and the "Forum Theater." >>
> (from further inside the Frasca text).
> Thus, i am not sure, do you wish to correlate something like hacking or  
> machinima'ing to the theatrical rehearsal for political participation?   
> Frasca's idealism is to be appreciated, his wish to give the user the  
> power to add/modify behaviors in a game character in order to and take  
> on and discuss/critique/rehearse/change and affect human  
> relationships,political and social issues......
> But as we tend to know, the process of changing behaviors is not an easy  
> task.. and I am not talking about hacking.
> How do other feel about games and revolt?   games of the revolution,  
> games of rebellion?
> respectfully
> Johannes Birringer
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> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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