Becoming Sensate

New Approaches to Observing Play

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Games move us (Apperley & Jayemayne, 2012; Giddings, 2009). They teach us how to play them, how to move through their worlds, how to learn their protocols, and how to negotiate their persistent blending of virtual and physical worlds. The moving parts of a situation of gameplay – the platform, the narrative, the player and her environment – act as an assemblage, a constantly changing interaction of humans and nonhumans influencing one another. The notion of play is not a fixed reality, but a result of these elements in constant contact and becoming what we recognize as play (Massumi, 2002). Continue Reading

Videogames and Empathy

Towards a Post-Normative Ludic Century

Essay - Empathy and Videogames

Videogames and empathy—you could hardly be blamed for thinking that these two things have very little in common. Just last week Polygon published an opinion essay titled “No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry.” In the essay the author, Brianna Wu, details the abuse directed at women involved with videogames. It’s a demoralizing read, one that had me reflecting on the notion that we are entering a ‘ludic century’ (Zimmerman), in which our culture will be defined by systems, games, and play. If that’s true, then we need to seriously consider what Heather Chaplin calls the ‘dark side of the ludic century’—an age in which we become better at analyzing systems and detecting patterns, and less capable of sympathy and empathy. From this perspective, the trouble with games and empathy may have only just begun as the ludic century could be a period of prolonged detachment and disengagement from one another. Continue Reading

Playing for Transcendence

Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Disability

Commentary - Deus Ex Human Revolution

My commentary takes up the relationship between transhumanism and gaming in Human Revolution. I discuss narrative support for and against transhumanism, and argue that theories of posthumanism offer another area of inquiry with respect to embodiment. I suggest that as the game explores how technology changes our understanding of human ability, it also points toward how disability does not consist of a set of deficiencies, but is instead shaped by environments. Finally, I contend that the game’s inaccessibility is instructive for considering its imbrication in a culture of difficulty that valorizes overcoming the body. Continue Reading