Responses to Some of the Questions at my DIGRA Paper
Souvik Thursday, September 03, 2009 Assassins Creed , Avatar , Death , Deleuze , Difference and Repetition , DIGRA , karma , Prince of Persia , rebirth , Telos , Time , videogames , VirtualPresenting at DIGRA was a dream come true.Back in them days, when I used to I used to wait for ages for my dial-up to download a DIGRA paper and suddenly the infamous Calcutta power-cuts would frustrate all my endeavours... II never thought I'd be at one of these conferences.
Well, I made it and now my paper's done. As my earlier post said, the paper was on Indic eschatologies and the multiple temporality in videogames. Not surprisingly, I re-traversed my favourite topic of difference, repetition and endings. Again, not surprisingly, I went back to Deleuze.
I am quite satisfied with the paper - in the way I never am, because all I aimed to do was to open up some perspectives and not to defend a thesis. The upshot of it all was that seen from alternative viewpoints (theological and philosophical), the multitelic instances of gameplay complicate the very idea of narrative itself. Through its obvious presence videogames, this complexity is also revealed in earlier and more canonical forms of narrative. Indeed, coming from a literary background, my prime concern happens to be narrative in the videogame.
The paper itself is not in the conference proceedings - because I messed up and did not submit on time. So I'll put it up here. I still use (and will forever use) the very idiosyncratically British MHRA citation system but I'm sure you can put up with it. Fact is, it took me almost three years to get the hang of it.
Now, for some answers to the questions I was asked:
Q1: how can the difference and repetition (and Karma as actualisation of potentialities) idea be squared with recorded instances of the game (i.e. in games where you can switch on the recording mode and replay your record - not 'replay' as in reloading a savegame but an action replay as in a football telecast)?
I view even that as a different event that paradoxically is the same. the difference here lies in the fact that the event is actualised under different factors (singularities) , for example, the pressing of the record button.
Q2: I don't remember the exact question since I was half-dead with fatigue by then - in short, why is all this linking with karma etc useful? We already know that games have repeating instances.
Well, I am interested in narratives in videogames and one of the reasons why game-narratives are considered problematic is because of their multiple instances - which effectively confuse the hell out of formalist narratologies. To analyse the story(ies) in the game is to grapple with the problem of repetition. And no, the problem of repetition is not a given and is far more complex than game studies yet can tackle. Fresh perspectives are therefore necessary. This, however, has not fallen from the sky ... ancient philosophies were already engaging with this : games add to this serious philosophical discussion. another reason why games are important. my conclusion was pretty clear about this. And yes, Deleuze is very important in engaging with this. Game theorists the world over are now beginning to approach game studies from the Deleuzian perspective (read Bogost and Galloway for a start). I was also heartened that the commissioning editor of MIT Press, Doug Sery, made the obvious connection with DeLanda (himself an important commentator on Deleuze) and videogames --- something that academics in the field have often missed.
This also partly answers another question I don't see death in games as being trivial - because I'm looking at the narrative aspect. Even if you look at it like Frasca does ('it trivialises life' etc), as I say, this is a limited response based on a linear theology.
And after that little lecture, a question which though answered somewhat clearly at the time, is beginning to make me think in retrospect:
Q3: Is there a connection between videogames and the religious experience?
I'm not sure and i think I need to think this through. The paper, however, uses the theology in its philosophical aspect and shies away from religious commentary. This question, however, opens up a whole new angle (by the way, The Escapist was supposed to do an issue on games and religion).
Jesper Juul's comment on board-games also involving similar issues is interesting. I know I need to do something on Indian conceptions of play (Lila and khel/ krira etc) but am hesitant because this will involve a rather heavy study (parallel to the work on Huizinga etc) that I am reluctant in undertaking just yet, especially with my scant knowledge of the field.
Arnav Jhala's comments backing up my response about the Indian gaming situation were helpful: I didn't know that some people have tried making a Mahabharat game.
Anyway, got to get some sleep before leaving home at an ungodly hour to attend the last day of DIGRA. Apols for the stacatto writing. And I'll upload the paper tomorrow after cleaning it up a bit.
'Literature is a combinatorial game that pursues the possibilities implicit in its own material [...] but it is a game that at a certain point is invested with an unexpected meaning' - Italo Calvino