Archive for October, 2014

Recent readings, papers, zombies

October 24, 2014

Alexander Champlin (2014) Playing with Feelings: Porn, Emotion, and Disability in Katawa Shoujo. Well Played: Vol 3. Link 

Backe, H-J and Aarseth, E (2013) Ludic Zombies: An examination of zombieism in games. DiGRA 2013 paper. Link

Gayser, H and Tshabababa P (2011) Return to Darkness: Representations of Africa in Resident Evil 5. Link

My papers and presentations for 2013/14 are updated here.



CFP: Rethinking Disability on Screen: A One-Day Interdisciplinary Symposium

October 24, 2014

A one-day symposium (which clashes with the DiGRA Conference in Germany)

Thursday 14th May, 2015, Humanities Research Centre, University of York


Deadline for abstracts: 16th January 2015

Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be emailed to by Friday 16th January, together with a brief biographical note (100-150 words).

Full CFP under ‘comment’ section.

Foucault’s blueprint for horror games

October 1, 2014

Working with disability theory involves to some degree or other engaging with Foucault, and Foucault appears in the Dead Space analysis (journal article version, in press this month). Anyway,  I’ve been following up.  I found that S. Lalvani’s Photography, Vision, and the Production of Modern Bodies (SUNY Press, 1996), was helpful. As was S. Ball’s Foucault, Power and Education (Routledge, 2013)

There’s bio-power stuff in some game studies papers. In these, for example, where the emphasis is on discipline and productivity in and around MMORPGs.

Dyer-Witheford, N., & De Peuter, G. (2009). Games of empire: Global capitalism and video games (Vol. 29). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Silverman and B.Simon (2009) ‘Discipline and Dragon Kill Points in the Online Power Game’ in Games and Culture October 2009 vol. 4 no. 4 pp 353-378

Here is a quote about Foucault from that Silverman and Simon paper: “sections of his seminal work, Discipline and Punish, can almost be read as a procudural manual for MMOG game designers and guild leaders everywhere” (2009, p 358).

Foucault from History of Sexuality – this is the stuff I’m working with.

…the rise of government and institutional powers directed at the “administration of bodies and the calculated management of life” (Foucault 1978, p. 140). This power was organized around “two poles” (p. 139). The first of these “Centred on the body as a machine: its disciplining, the optimization of its capabilities, the extortion of its forces, the parallel increase of its usefulness and its docility, its integration into systems of efficient and economic controls” (Foucault, 1977, p. 139). The second focused on “the body imbued with the mechanics of life and serving as the basis of the biological processes: propagation, births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy and longevity, with all the conditions that can cause these to vary.” (Foucault, 1977, p 139).

So…the above quote considered in relation to Dead Space:

“centred on the body as machine” – Isaac, obviously…driven, operated, fixed and fixing

“its disciplining” – Isaac must operate effectively, disciplined by the space itself…strategy, player control – literally, the controls.  Closely watched. Focalization.

“the optimization of its capabilities” – level up, customize

“the extortion of its forces” – capacity to damage

“the parallel increase of its usefulness and its docility” – accuracy, the avatar does more with less of my conscious effort as I improve

“its integration into systems of efficient and economic controls.” –  at both narrative and ludic level

“focused on the species-body, the body imbued with the mechanics of life and serving as the basis of the biological processes” – humans v. aliens

“propagation, births and mortality” Run as themes through Dead Space – foetal monsters, egg layers, unification, overkill…

“the level of health” Honestly…

“life expectancy and longevity”  Obviously…


The ‘compensation model’ of games and disability research

October 1, 2014

As part of preparing for work on the AHRC funded Alternative Futures development project, I’ve been wondering about ways to approach the topic …

I am finding it difficult to frame the research in a way that does not collapse into a ‘compensation model’ (e.g the idea that Technology X compensates for Impairment Y).  I am concerned that the compensation model is a bit like the early ‘games and gender’ lit that married an essentialist approach to gender, with an essentializing research design. Which is useful to think about, I guess, as it suggests the need for a similar approach. (Garland Thomson uses the term ‘compensation model’ when discussing disability and middle class benevolence in 19th Century US literature – see R Garland Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies, Columbia U Press 1997)

‘Helpful’ would be recognition of the opportunities for social, political, expressive, playful and pleasurable participation on offer in MMORPGs, online communities, virtual worlds, etc., while ‘not helpful’ would be conceptualizing impairment as a deficiency that motivates, ‘explains’, determines or characterizes participation.


This is a muddle because I’m still thinking about it – so this is a list of possible ingredients.

I am thinking about combining (1) the notion of ‘reading formations’ (Bennett and Woollacott) with (2) the cultural model of disability (Snyder and Mitchell, 2005) to think about (3) disabled audiences as ‘expert readers’ in relation to (4) popular depictions of cyborgs (broadly defined) especially in digital games and gaming culture.

Expertise: I’m thinking about personal and politicized accounts of institutionalization, including all those accounts of unwise prosthetics and the pressure to perform impairment in a manner that ‘fits’ with institutional policy, technology, etc. (as shared in the disability studies literature).

Expert readers: where this ‘expertise’ might manifest as the capacity to situate myself in a viable way, in the face of authoritative practice (‘viable’ according to self-description). Disenfranchisement, then, would involve the sense of annihilation that is experienced when/if I have been positioned in a way that runs counter to my sense of self, when a legitimate refusal feels absolutely necessary and yet at the same time completely impossible.

Resistance,  resiliance, community: having the power to access the discursive resources that would give me a legitimate place to speak from (or, to ‘speak back’ from – ref. bell hooks). Which suggests that one of the points of a ‘community’ could be to act as a ‘discourse bank’: a sharing and pooling of discursive resources that make it possible to counter the individualizing of the clinic, a vocabulary that makes it possible to ‘talk back’/‘look back’ at the clinic, and unveil its supposed neutrality.

So…I’m thinking about science fictions (texts and their disabled audiences as ‘expert readers’) as a discourse bank for oppositional readings on body/technology relations, with a particular focus on the figure of the cyborg…and the implications for evolving discourses on technology and the body, and the foregrounding of the expertise of disabled subjects in this domain (as expert readers of the relationships between new technologies, power, policy, practice and the body).

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Free hat and new flippers, Second Life.