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Playing the crisis: video games and the mobilization of anxiety and desire

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Title: Playing the crisis: video games and the mobilization of anxiety and desire
Author(s): Mejia, Robert
Director of Research: Ono, Kent A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Ono, Kent A.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Nerone, John; Christians, Clifford; Brookey, Robert A.
Department / Program: Inst of Communications Rsch
Discipline: Communications
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Video Games Transnationalism Technology Race Political Economy New Media Military Media Ecology History Empire Biopolitics Affect
Abstract: This is a critical cultural and political economic analysis of the video game as an engine of global anxiety and desire. Attempting to move beyond conventional studies of the video game as a thing-in-itself, relatively self-contained as a textual, ludic, or even technological (in the narrow sense of the word) phenomenon, I propose that gaming has come to operate as an epistemological imperative that extends beyond the site of gaming in itself. Play and pleasure have come to affect sites of culture and the structural formation of various populations beyond those conceived of as belonging to conventional gaming populations: the workplace, consumer experiences, education, warfare, and even the practice of politics itself, amongst other domains. Indeed, the central claim of this dissertation is that the video game operates with the same political and cultural gravity as that ascribed to the prison by Michel Foucault. That is, just as the prison operated as the discursive site wherein the disciplinary imaginary was honed, so too does digital play operate as that discursive site wherein the ludic imperative has emerged. To make this claim, I have had to move beyond the conventional theoretical frameworks utilized in the analysis of video games. Though I am indeed indebted to these popular traditions of textual, ludic, and platform analysis, too often, I argue, they work to delimit the domain of the video game form, thereby obscuring our ability to grasp the “non-gaming” political force of digital play. Hence, the first two chapters operate to develop the historical perspective and theoretical framework needed for understanding how digital play has come to operate beyond the confines of conventional gaming. In establishing this rough historical perspective and theoretical framework, I am indebted to the best of what game studies has to offer, as well as to the works of James Carey, Michel Foucault, Paul Virilio, and Raymond Williams, for their conceptions of technologies as cultural practices that operate to codify the particular formation of various populations. If I am successful, my hope is that this dissertation might operate as part of an emerging tradition of critical game studies scholarship, willing to take seriously the totality of digital play. In this vein, I see my work as operating alongside the recent and ongoing works of Ergin Bulut, Patrick Crogan, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Aphra Kerr, Stephen Kline, Greig de Peuter, Roger Stahl, and others. My contribution, then, to this emergent field of critical game studies is that the video game form has come to operate as an engine of global anxiety in terms of its political economic, environmental, military, social, and cultural processes. Gaming practices carry with them a political and cultural gravity that has worked to mobilize various economic and military sectors, and though this has enriched some, so too has it brought about horrific results for various laboring populations, regional ecologies, and those on the wrong end of the militarized border. To those who might be turned away by the prospect of such a pessimistic take on the history and state of contemporary gaming politics, understand that I am neither a luddite nor an outsider to the gaming industry. I was born in 1982, and remember fondly looking forward to each new issue of Nintendo Power so that I might have the latest news on the most exciting upcoming games. Even today, I am implicated in that my gaming collection is possibly more vast than most, and I would argue passionately that Óscar Araujo and Nobuo Uematsu are amongst the most beautiful music composers, and that Hideo Kojima and Soraya Saga are amongst the greatest storytellers. And yet, as beautiful, inspiring, and moving as gaming can be, there is much that is horrific, revolting, and terrible about the industry as well. We cannot smile with good conscious at the pleasures afforded for us through the experience of digital play and simultaneously remain ignorant of the significant suffering undertaken on our behalf. It is my hope that this dissertation is a move towards good conscious.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34228
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Robert Mejia
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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