Fiction seminar March 2013

Saturday 16th March 2013. Convened by Zara Dinnen and Tony Venezia. Contemporary Fiction Research Seminar: GAMING CULTUREA panel on games, game theory and gaming in popular culture; papers on Game of Thrones, the American Gothic in video games, and methods for critiquing the representation of bodies in digital games. Speakers: Dr. Diane Carr (IoE), Dr. Jane Elliott (KCL), Professor Tanya Krzywinska (Brunel). Chair: Dr. Clare Birchall (KCL).

Damage and Decorum in Dead Space   
Dead Space mixes gore and gruesome injury with imagery of physical alteration (viral and technological) and tests of ability. In this presentation Dead Space will be explored using textual analysis and various theoretical tools including the idea of narrative as prosthesis (Mitchell and Snyder, 2000); disability studies perspectives as applied to generic horror film (Smith 2011) and theories of the problematic and the problem body on screen (as discussed by contributors to Chivers and Markotic, 2010). This work is being undertaken as part of a new project on the representation of disability and ability in digital games supported by the AHRC.

In late 2011 I presented work on related topics at Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy, University of Sussex. Thursday 8th and Friday 9th December 2011

Playable Cyborgs, Digital Games and Disability Theory

The relevance of cybercultural and cybernetic theory to an understanding of the relationships between digital games and players has been noted (Giddings, 2005).  In this presentation, the focus turns more specifically to the figure of the cyborg within games. The feasibility of outing or claiming these cyborgs as disabled subjects is explored (Linton, 1998). The relationship between these playable cyborgs and the idea of disability as masquerade (Siebers, 2009) is investigated. While images of augmented, damaged and altered bodies are common in computer and video games, they have not been discussed as representations of disability. Digital Game Studies has not engaged with disability theory. Nor has Screen and Cyber Studies, to any great extent. Yet disability theory examines the relationships between subjectivity, experience and technology, and addresses the socio-cultural constructions of ability and disability, norms and deviance. Disability theory examines the instability of these categories, and their mutual dependence (Davis, 1995; Siebers, 2009; Linton, 1998). Augmentations and prosthetics (magical, technological, biological, earthly or alien) are often accorded positive status in games.  Augmented bodies are unlikely to be contrasted against ‘normal’ bodies in a predictable fashion. For example, in Resident Evil 4 both the protagonist and his enemies are integrated into authoritarian systems via their augmentations. ‘The technological augmentations carried by the protagonist link him (and the player) to vital resources, and are framed as positive. By contrast, the biological augmentations of his enemies are framed as consuming and destructive’ (Carr, 2009). In this particular game, positively framed augmentations are seen to support agency, while the negatively framed augmentations rob subjects of individuality and agency. Both negative and positive varieties resonate with discourses of disability, authentic identity, and technology.


Carr (2009) Textual Analysis, Digital Games, Zombies. DIGRA 2009 London, September.

Davis, L.J (1995) Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness and the Body. New York: Verso

Giddings (2005) Playing With Non-Humans: Digital Games as Techno-Cultural Form. DIGRA 2005. Vancouver, June.

Linton, S. (1998) Claiming Disability. New York. New York University Press

Siebers, T. (2009) Disability Theory. Ann Arbor. University of Michigan Press





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