The Trouble with Bodies

A Trans Reading of Nier

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Last year, my friend convinced me to play Nier for the first time. Upon initially booting up the title, it seemed like a typical grimdark male power fantasy with severely floaty controls and a muted, masculine aesthetic. Today, I consider it the only mainstream video game I have played that embodies the trans experience. Over the course of my time with Nier, what at first seemed to be a weak narrative scaffolding attempting to justify fetishized violence transformed into a subversive work of empathic queerness. The game has a series of endings, each building upon the last, culminating in a nuanced network of meaning-making. Through these multiple playthroughs and endings, a cohesive queering of the text emerged in my player experience, with the intersection of my own lived-in qualia of being a trans person and the game’s transgressive body politics acting as the thematic core. What follows is the result of this—a deeply personal close reading of Nier as a triumph of trans narratives. Continue Reading

“You are not alone”

The unlikely intersection between Dark Souls, Burial, and... writing the dissertation

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During my MA, I grew attached to the music of the UK electronic artist Burial. His music helped me a lot throughout the writing process of my Major Research Project (MRP). His music is ethereal and spectral, simultaneously steeped in the depths of loneliness and pulsating with a comfort that draws listeners out of that loneliness; it is the kind of music that reflects the push and pull of (academic) isolation I experienced at the time and still deal with today. Take this beautiful remix of his, for instance, which is drearily pulled back slow and yet soothingly shimmers. It’s a song I had on nonstop repeat during my MA. Continue Reading

Sonic Meditation

How sound design in Inside creates a mindful experience

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When I was younger, and I found myself feeling dizzy from too many thoughts swirling in my head, I’d sit on the stairs of our house and listen to the outside world bounce off the curved walls of our foyer – birds chirping, cars driving by, the stiff bones of our house settling – until inevitably, the noise fell to silence. I’d be sitting there alone again, until I’d hear something else and focus solely on that sound. It became a ritual. Continue Reading

Virtual Bodies in Virtual Worlds

A phenomenology of play in video games

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Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s project in Phenomenology of Perception is to overcome what he calls the classical prejudices (1–93)—mostly, the belief in an objective world—by calling for a return to a proper description of phenomena. This can only be done by putting our unquestioned belief in an objective world aside. This leads to the discovery that the body, as an ambiguous and undetermined being, is our fundamental way of being in the world, and that all consciousness is perceptual. I will use this methodology to undergo a phenomenology of play, and describe the experience of playing a video game. Hopefully this will shed light on experiences of play considered marginal today. Continue Reading

A Line in a Cyclone

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“If ‘to dust’ is ‘to kill’, ‘dust to dust’ is to render into nothingness.” – Hyperstition Laboratory

Dubai is surrounded and entangled by demons. Thousands of humans are dead. They have starved, been shot, or consumed and blasted apart by sand. You, the leader of a US Army Delta Force special forces team, are tasked to walk into Dubai and find out what happened. Continue Reading

Working at Play

Alienation, Refusal, and Every Day the Same Dream

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There is, perhaps, no more of an innocuous fantasy video games can absolve than playing hooky from work for a day. And yet, in Paolo Pedercini’s Every Day the Same Dream, that refusal to concede to the droning and humdrum quotidian nonetheless feels subversive. A theory of alienation and its political potential, as it were, can help make sense of that affective experience of totally rejecting what is all too familiar: workplace boredom. Continue Reading