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

paolo - molleindustria paolo at molleindustria.it
Fri Mar 15 04:14:06 EST 2013

(Sorry for the previous email. It was a misfire)

On 3/14/13 10:54 AM, Johannes Birringer wrote:
> 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?

I won't further elaborate on the Games of the Oppressed thread, I did 
not write that thesis and there is more recent and more refined material 
by Frasca (http://www.ludology.org/2011/03/frascaplaythemessage.html). 
To me, he used Boal as a starting point to imagine how games can perform 
a similar critical and social function and drew some parallels with the 
issue of agency within a designed (scripted) system. No need to go deep 
into Boalology.

> Certainly, the idea of using simulation and videogames for educational purposes is far from new and was already extensively explored by constructionism. The idea was developed by Seymour Papert through Mindstorms (1985) and Logo...

Yes, the specter of constructivism is obviously hovering over these 
ideas but I believe it's necessary to integrate this model with a 
"deconstructionist" approach (Derrida scholars reading this, have pity 
on me). I mean: analyzing the internal logic of existing games and 
"jamming" their language. That's why I prefer to teach game design 
through hacking and tweaking rather than presenting notions and tasks as 
a-historical and a-political.

On 3/6/13 3:17 PM, Claudia Pederson wrote:
> I am just back from a talk on videogame interventions at 
> Haverford,where I spoke about game interventions online like forms of 
> nomadism (as advanced by Hakim Bey, and Deleuze and Guattari). The 
> questions were, what is next? what frameworks are of relevance to the 
> development of videogames with a activist agenda beyond the "public 
> sphere"? how does the anti-industry stance of videogame activists 
> intersect with other movements in the awake of Occupy and the Arab 
> Spring? (I am posing this question to all discussants) 

Yes, I meant to respond to this prompt. The many references and links 
shared around this thread demonstrate that there has been a lot of 
activity at the intersection of gaming, art and activism since the early 
What's next may not be that exciting for new media critics or curators 
looking for the newest media and the practices at the cutting edge, but 
it's quite important to me.

What's next may simply be taking these scattered, gestural experiences 
to the world outside our usual specialized circles. To the people who 
may not know about Deleuze and Guattari. Experimental, personal and 
political games have been produced before, but it's only recently, with 
the emergence of an independent identity within the community of game 
makers, that is really possible to imagine a widespread production of 
games and a proliferation of critical voices.
Sure, the independent games movement is not anti-industry. Rather, it is 
both organic to- and in tension with- the industry. But the industry 
itself is undergoing structural transformations that makes it 
exceptionally porous.
I talked about the topic recently: 

This is the reason why the search for high-culture legitimacy and 
museification right now, is not just ill advised but also reactionary. 
Finally, we can leave the warm and fuzzy art contexts and try to make an 
actual change!
Anna Anthropy, previously mentioned here, is one of the catalysts of 
these emerging instances. She may not quote Hakim Bey and her book "the 
rise of the videogame zinesters" is rough and rushed to say the least, 
but it doesn't matter for the people whom she is trying to connect.

One project I'm currently co-coordinating is a track at the Allied Media 
Conference in Detroit that consists in helping activists and grassroots 
organizations to make their own games for social change and personal 

Aside of this populist take, I also feel like these early artistic 
practices in gaming+art barely scratched the surface of what you can do 
with games. There's plenty of room for development in terms of language 
and expressive modes. Maybe it isn't the job of media artists to go 
beyond the mere gestural, pop-referential mode (i.e. "Here's a classic 
videogame about crossing a street, here's how I turn it into a game 
about border crossing... blah blah Deleuze"). Maybe the 
experimental/arthouse type of games will simply secede and create its 
own spaces and its own discourse like what happened to underground and 
experimental films.


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