MASSIVE Event at UCI — Why Games Matter

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The MASSIVE event yesterday was great. It was entirely worth the schlep down the 405. Nice discussions and blissfully brief presentations.

Big up for Celia in particular and the rest of the organizers for the event. It was a great example of a great symposium. And normal food and stuff — not just bake sale stuff.

I speed presented on the topic of Why Games Matter, for me at least. Not being a hardcore gamer (I think I was the only presenter to not cite their World of Warcraft ranking or level or whatever they call it cause, like — I don’t play, even though I promised my colleague and collaborator Peter Brison that I know, "for research".)

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Why do games matter for me?

1. They are excellent mechanisms for framing and asking questions about how social formations arise, how people articulate and imagine different kinds of worlds, how communities form and dissipate.

2. Play can safely offer a chance to change one’s perspective, if only for a moment, as you assume different roles, or different characteristics, or confront challenges that bust through social barriers or norms that you typically hold in your first life. (E.g., trying to find food when you’ve never wanted for food; feeling the pain of greed when trying to hold onto hordes of money, when you, in first life, don’t have much; standing on your head in the middle of a public thoroughfare in your Brooks Brother’s finest, when you’d never do that unless it was a fun game challenge; etc.)

3. Associating play with the inhabited, physical world can create different points of view. That is the world of the alternate/augmented reality game, or games that take place not only online but inworld are ways to move the solitary or cocooned activities of online electronic games slowly out into the physical world. This is important, that transition inworld, for phenomenological reasons I have yet to work through, but it’s a chapter of the book, so I guess I’ll have to work it through. Heidegger? Hi. It’s Julian again.

4. Play allows for the embodiment of different social formations. You can wrangle a good old time or cavern raid or whatever and feel the sense of collaborative engagement and the satisfaction of social interactions.

5. Embodiment of different social formations, different points of view from what we’re typically accustomed to, and so forth can (aspirationally) yeild new considerations as to what goes on in the world.

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So what?

6. Many aspects of first life are in the midst of catastropic failure.

7. Games and play can change perspectives on first life crises to make our world more habitable, more sustainable, re-invest a sense of preciousness for life, where life all too often is cheap and commoditized.


this thread is related to this one on networked publics and individual empowerment

this thread is related to my simcity 2k essay, which tara mcpherson just reminded me of, written in 1993, which prefigures this line of thinking, for chrissake. it’s nice to see some continuity.