Deux Ex: school, clinics, bodies

I have been trying to decide what to speak about in Skövde in June. One option would be to revisit (fix, refine…) the talk from Tampere, as that was only a fortnight ago.

I think, though, what I want to do is focus on Deus Ex: Human Revolutions and look in more detail at the ways in which the ‘logic of the clinic’ is embedded in the game – which means working from and building on the analysis of DE:HR done so far on the project, and thinking about it through Ball’s book on Foucault, Power, and Education (Routledge, 2013) – because there are so many uncanny resonances and weird resemblances between educational policy and RPGs.

I’ve been thinking about Jensen’s body as a sort of focal point for tropes of discipline or ‘schooling’ – how he must be shaped to fit within spaces and scenarios and be proven efficient.

This post is long, and it continues as a ‘comment’

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One Response to “Deux Ex: school, clinics, bodies”

  1. playhouse Says:

    I’ve also been thinking about the various ways that his body is invisible or visible at different times. It is an FPS, so sometimes he barely visible, or visible as a fragment. Until he hides or takes cover, and then he is visible. Which amuses me, though I am not sure why. Anyway, he does have problems with visibility (as you would, if you are a protagonist in a stealth game…).

    Then there is the augmentation screen, where his stilled body is converted into a combination of schematics on an anatomy slab.

    Then there is Jensen as a set of resources and an accumulation of XP points, inventory, health points – Jensen who has snacks and drinks beer (and has altered vision as a result).

    I’ve been reading Ball’s book and thinking about the persistence of eugenicist thinking through education practice and policy (that is basically what the book is about) – and about attempts to standardize bodies through technology and medicine, and the eugenicist tone in journalistic accounts of neuroscience, and within media representations of prosthetics, and within technology and education research, and in horror movies (Smith, Hideous Progeny, 2012)

    Ball documents eugenicist thinking in educational policy; about division, classification and exclusion. He writes that “normalization and exclusion, articulated together in relation to the limits of normality, related to fears of degeneracy and contamination, are embedded in discourses of nature and blood. These are played out and are deeply embedded in the everyday practices of contemporary, mainstream schooling and in ordinary classrooms, and are constantly reiterated and reworked in policy and legislation, in relation to the imperatives of the population as a resource” (Ball, 2013, p 115)

    Ball is concerned with “modes of thought, practices and forms of ethics, which focus upon and produce modern educational bodies. These elements converge upon the black body, the disabled body and the “underclass” body in both dramatic and mundane ways, set within “a regulated and polymorphous incitement to discourse” (Foucault, 1981, p 34). They flow within and organize classroom processes and thinking. The work of nature, culture, blood and the meta-body together “explore a body totally imprinted by history” (Foucault, 1984a, p 83) – a residual body, a discarded and abject body […] In this, the school is a “precision instrument”, and “analytical space” in which to “locate individuals” or from which to exclude them, it is both a normalizing and excluding machine, which draws upon and ramifies “breaks in the species”. (Ball, 2013, pp 117-118 – to clarify, this paragraph is a quote from Ball that features quotes from Foucault).

    Bodies, classification and quantification are central to RPG game-play (stats, class, advancement, selection, specialization, progression – does ‘chance’ is still a part of this?) and this has also meant thinking about how patterns of division, discipline, classification and exclusion manifest in this particular game’s cities and their populations. Because much of the story-telling in the game revolves around the identification of different social groupings with competing interests, and these groups are mapped onto the game’s cities almost like a form of zoning. One of Jensen’s recurring problems is that agents won’t stay within or act according to their designation, they switch allegiance or renounce affiliation (like the heavily augmented veteran who rejects his implants and joins the anti-augmentation movement – perhaps it’s the augmented characters who are particular liable to problematic shifting and switching, while the ‘pro-human’ characters, meanwhile, are depicted as having a problem with change itself). Anyway – that is what I have been thinking about.

    I’m not much interested in arguing that games perpetuate this kind of thinking (or framing claims in terms of negative effect) so much as arguing that particular ways of thinking are ‘written in’ to us (not sure how universal this ‘us’ is) through education and that these ways of thinking persist, and so they shape (to some extent or other) the popular texts that ‘we’ produce, and persist in the schooled populations which become the audiences for those texts as well – shaping ‘our’ anxieties, sense of self, and present in discourses of worthiness, entitlement, othering, etc.

    This is not a departure from disability studies – this is all disability theory – it is about the ideology of ability (Siebers, Disability Theory, 2008 ) and about how it shapes contemporary discourses of health, value, validity, citizenship, status and entitlement.

    This ties to the stuff I spoke about at Tampere. I think this material will end up as 2 book chapters, the first on games and the logic of the clinic as expressed in RPGs; and then the next chapter would be looking again at the zombie apocalypse as a fantasy about the death of the clinic.

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