Tampere seminar April 2014

The paper for the Critical Evaluation of Game Studies seminar in Tampere (April 28-29, 2014) was a work in progress, so the talk had more of a conclusion than the paper itself. The text from the last slides of the presentation is posted under comments. It indicates how the paper will end when it is revised.

It focuses on

(1) the resemblances between zombies and lepers in terms of institutional discourses of separation and contamination

(2) the zombie apocalypse and ‘the death of the clinic’ (apparently to make way for an alternative assessment paradigms, that revolves around fatherhood)

(3) the ‘logic of the clinic’ as embedded in certain game structures including Deus Ex: HR.

All of which can be tied to discourses of disability and ability.

To view the text from the slides please see the comment section for this post.

One Response to “Tampere seminar April 2014”

  1. playhouse Says:

    Extract from the presentation Carr, D (2014) Representations of Ability in Digital Games, for Critical Evaluation of Game Studies, University of Tampere, Finland (April 28-29, 2014)

    In The Last of Us and The Walking Dead, zombies take the role previously served by leprosy. They herald the breakdown of segregation, measurement and institutionalization (the ‘death of the clinic’). The technologies that previously supported these practices have stalled and decayed to the extent that they now function as obstacles. As a fantasy it suggests that without empiricism, assessment, systems of classification, distinction and segregation, the social world will implode and “we” will be consumed by the reviled and abject.

    Yet the relationships between Lee and Clementine, Joel and Ellie suggest that zombies perform an additional function. The arrival of zombies marks the collapse of social order, which rested on practices of categorization that are dependent on positivist assessment. The zombie apocalypse marks the destruction of one assessment paradigm, and the birth of another. In other words, the zombie apocalypse allows a male subject (a recent father) to shift into an alternative assessment framework built on less tangible criteria.

    This work on ability/disability and pervasive assessment in games raises questions about the ideology of the clinic or the ‘logic of the clinic’ as something that is persistent, and that is being expressed in games. It’s most relevant to games where there are representations of physical damage and distortion, loss, risk, threatened agency, and augmentation (i.e. where able-bodied identity is being ‘worried about’)

    The ideology of the clinic is disseminated and naturalized through forms of education policy and practice – see Ball’s Foucault, Power and Education: “the exercise of power only remains tolerable by hiding itself within the everyday, the mundane and the intimate” (Ball 2013 p 145) , while research practice can involve a “certain determination to throw off familiar ways of thought and to look at the same thing in a different way” (Foucault, cited in Ball 2013 p 145).

    The ‘logic of the clinic’ shapes discourses of status, value, worthiness, entitlement, capacity to contribute, adulthood and autonomy – and this all ties in to the ‘ideology of ability’ (Siebers, 2009). It is part of how we learn to think about ourselves and others. It is reflected in the fictions that are produced, and the fantasies that audiences are drawn to (if commercial popularity is indicative of cultural salience).

    It is naturalized, yet it can be rendered visible (there is lots of disability studies literature on the epistemological perspective of marginalized subjects – Garland-Thomson, Siebers, see also black feminist writing, eg. hooks). The literature suggests that experiencing the logic of the clinic as either natural, neutral or hostile, is likely to depend on lived experience.

    Conclusion (from the paper)

    Through textual analysis it has been possible to explore affect and disability-as-threat in Dead Space, embodiment, augmentation and control in Deus Ex: Human Revolutions, and to consider the relationship between assessment and zombies, leprosy and fatherhood in The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. The analysis raised questions about what might be described as game-world epistemologies, which can be linked to debates about game interpretation. Considering the role and allure of assessment in games has helped to make apparent the constructed, conditional nature of ability itself. This matters, because the “level of literacy about disability is so low as to be nonexistent, and the ideology of ability is so much a part of every action, thought, judgment, and intention that its hold on us is difficult to root out.” (Siebers 2009, p. 9)

    NEXT STEPS ‘Playable bodies and the logic of the clinic’ might be the working title of an invited talk that is now being prepared for the Scandinavian Game Developers Conference, University of Skövde 3-4 June 2014, and the topic of a monograph for Forerunners/University of Minnesota Press, Playable…? Play/able…?

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