All posts filed under: Issue 30

Introduction / Issue 30: Poetics of Play

Artwork by contributor Iasmin Omar Ata. For Issue 30, the editorial board of InVisible Culture is honored to present a special introduction by Dr. Aubrey Anable. In my book, Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect, I make the claim that video games are the most significant art form of the twenty-first century.1 It was meant as a provocation and, by settling the matter, a call to move the discussion away from the question: are video games art? And toward the more interesting one: What do video game aesthetics do in the world now? This move takes its inspiration from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s definition of “reparative reading.” Interrogating the critical habits in the humanities that keep us fixated on taxonomies, ontologies, and what they hide, Sedgwick compels us to instead ask, “What does knowledge do—the pursuit of it, the having and exposing of it, the receiving again of knowledge of what one already knows? How, in short, is knowledge performative, and how best does one move among its causes and effects?”2 Paraphrasing Sedgwick we might …

Contributors / Issue 30 : Poetics of Play

Iasmin Omar Ata is a Middle Eastern & Muslim award-winning comics artist, game designer, and illustrator who creates art about coping with illness, understanding identity, dismantling oppressive structures, and Arab-Islamic futurism. Their recent graphic novel, Mis(h)adra, has resonated with readers and reviewers alike with its vivid and searingly honest account of epileptic lived experience. Iasmin has been reviewed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, The Electronic Intifada, Library Journal, NPR, and such; they’ve taught & spoken at the New York Public Library and Harvard University. They thrive on dedication, dreams, and hard work — and believe wholeheartedly in the healing power of art. Grant Bollmer is the author of three books, Inhuman Networks: Social Media and the Archaeology of Connection (2016, Bloomsbury), Theorizing Digital Cultures (2018, SAGE), and Materialist Media Theory: An Introduction (2019, Bloomsbury). He is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at North Carolina State University, where he teaches in the Department of Communication and the Ph.D. program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (CRDM), and is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Media …

Image of the Playsaurus, Clicker Heroes 2014 video game.

Wait Wait… Don’t Play Me: The Clicker Game Genre and Configuring Everyday Temporalities

By Oscar Moralde “We do not say that we have learnt, and that anything is made new or beautiful by mere lapses of time; for we regard time itself as destroying rather than producing, for what is counted in time is movement, and movement dislodges whatever it affects from its present state.”1 “The Time Machine brings cookies from the past, before they were even eaten.”2 Game genre, duration, and the flow of the everyday Video game aesthetics extend beyond the sights and sounds encoded into datasets for electronic processing into the audiovisual worlds of player experience. They even extend beyond the feel and feelings produced by the cybernetic intersubjective assemblage of player and game at the threshold of the interface, which has become an important site of inquiry for game studies scholars.3 Game aesthetics are strongly situated aesthetics: spatial and temporal contexts not only shape the meanings that players take away from gameplay experience, but they also determine the form and types of experience that unfold in play. For example, in Hamlet on the Holodeck, …

The Kinesthetic Index: Video Games and the Body of Motion Capture

Written by Grant Bollmer In this essay, I present a history of the graphic adventure genre of video and computer games and its attempts at achieving a kind of cinematic realism through the registration of the body. In reviewing the history of this genre, I contextualize some early attempts to use motion capture and rotoscoping to incorporate human bodies into games, arguing that representation in games and other forms of digital media should be conceived not as deferring to the visual, but as reliant on the kinesthetic. While the visual presence of a human body may no longer be a coherent source of any link between a representation and physical reality, motion brings together digital images with the reality inscribed into media. This involves numerous questions about realism, indexicality, and affect, which I aim to intertwine and unfold below. In making this argument, I demonstrate three things. First, digital images are condensations of specific—if multiple—bodies that persist as representations that have some link with the physical world.1 Second, realism in games has long relied on …

Pokémon Korosu In-Game Screenshots

Playful (Counter)Publics: Game Mods as Rhetorical Forms of Active and Subversive Player Participation

By Nicole Kurashige Introduction Though most digital humanities scholars readily agree that game developers need to offer more progressive functions and options to enhance player agency, such recommendations for further research or action often ignore how players are already able to enact their agency in spaces beyond the game itself. Online gaming forums serve as hotbeds of active player participation and (counter)public discourse.1 Players seeking to expand their agency within games can do so via modifications (referred to hereafter as “mods”).2 Mods, which are collaboratively developed in such online forums by players for players, are digital compositions that can alter the code of a game in various ways, thereby opening up more possibility spaces for players without having to wait for developer intervention. Players, thus, challenge, resist, and subvert the procedural rhetoric encoded in a game by exhibiting their agency through the creation, distribution, and use of these mods. Mods and their related modding communities have been around for decades, but, surprisingly, little to no research has been done to examine their rhetorical significance. This …

The Monster Has Kind Eyes: Intimacy and Frustration in The Last Guardian

By Kaelan Doyle-Myerscough The Last Guardian is a 2016 single-player adventure game that follows the relationship between an unnamed young boy and a giant gryphon-like creature, referred to as Trico, as they navigate the ruins of an ancient, apparently technologically-advanced civilization.1 The player controls the boy, who is small and weak—he is incapable of fighting the ghostly suits of armor that he and Trico encounter throughout the game, and he often cannot physically traverse the massive, vertical ruins in which the game takes place without falling or stumbling. Meanwhile, Trico, who accompanies the boy, protects him from danger and is essentially impervious to harm; however, Trico is vulnerable to hunger, distraction, fear, and to the lingering effects of traumas it has apparently suffered at the hands of something in the ruins. The boy and Trico, neither fully able to traverse the space they find themselves in, must work together to locate food, overcome obstacles, and defeat enemies. Critical and audience responses to The Last Guardian were mixed: though the game was praised for its map …

Being

By Iasmin Omar Ata “We are the wound in the Arab world … everyone watches what happens to us.” –Nader Said1 Being is an abstract adventure game that explores, from a future lens, the past and present of the Palestinian lived experience.2 In the story of Being, the Palestinian diaspora has extended to outer space as the Earth crumbles. You play as a Palestinian cadet, sent back down to Earth by the colony, on a mission to recover artifacts, memories, and messages from a region near an old border. Your ship crashes into a ruined complex of houses; you step out of your ship into an eerie, red-light room. There are three doors around you and a table in the middle of the room, on which appear to be a cassette player as well as a cassette tape—but parts of the ribbon seem to be cut out. Curious as to what it would say, you begin looking around to see if the tape pieces are nearby. The first zone of the game focuses on memories …

Untitled Dating Sim & Boy’s Curse/Boy’s Blessing

By Nilson Carroll Using game genre as metaphor, I put a digital avatar of myself in a series of vulnerable positions for Untitled Dating Sim. This work considers the abstractions of human bodies in games as more than just a means to score points through (a patriarchal notion). Players follow the logic of visual novels to create the possibility for love/connection rather than an exchange between player and game aestheticized by violence. Video games are made up of designed exchanges between player and game. It is up to the game creator to assign these exchanges moralities, in-game values, and meanings, to give them flavor, inject them with violence, cleverness, primordial energy. By their nature, visual novels are designed to be quieter and more contemplative compared to games in other genres, dealing more with relationships between characters than centering around violent action sequences. Stemming from visual novels is the niche Japanese genre of dating sims, which vary from the playfully absurd to the pornographacation of characters of all genders and ages1. Inspired by dating sims, I …