Things have been rough lately. The last couple of years have made it incredibly clear that aspects of American culture that many convinced themselves were latent or diminished were only lurking quietly in the background. We've also seen new forces mobilized, driven by fear and nihilism, to dehumanize others—especially those in the margins.
So, uh, where do video games fit into this?
Well, that's the question I was asked by the NYU Game Center, who invited me to give a guest lecture titled "Making and Playing Games in a Time of Political Struggle." You can now watch my lecture above (or over here, if you'd rather watch on Vimeo) or listen to the audio only version right here:
Heads up: My answer is might not be as bright and optimistic as it would've been a couple of years ago. A taste:
In 2013, Eric Zimmerman wrote, hopefully, that games, requiring active participation of a sort not seen in other media forms, transform everyone into a game designer. And what is a game designer? It’s a manifesto, so it is (appropriately) brief: He simply explains that game design “involves systems logic, social psychology, and culture hacking.”
Systems Logic. Social Psychology. Culture Hacking. Familiar tools in these last couple of years. If we are actually moving into a Ludic Century, then it may be time to re-evaluate whether that is a particularly good thing.
When when I think back to my earliest thoughts about this talk, I expected to stand here present on how games were--or could be--opening up new possibilities for us, how they could help us to resist. But in revisiting Zimmerman’s manifesto--and much of my own work--I was left wondering if perhaps our love of the sculpture has us blind to the shape and sharpness of the chisel.
I promise I offer at least some notion of hope and direction here, but it is maybe more tempered than usual.
After the talk, I have a great conversation with the NYU Game Center's Director (and accomplished game designer), Frank Lantz, and a fantastic Q&A with the audience. We talk about everything from games industry's labor problems to Nier: Automata. So you know, extremely on brand. And as always, I'd love to hear what you think! Just head over to our forums to leave your thoughts!