Rear Left

Degamification

I have scarcely begun to make you understand that I don’t intend to play the game.” – Guy Debord, Critique of Separation (1961: film)

It’s been about six weeks since I submitted my dissertation, and I think I’m almost ready to read through it and begin thinking about making revisions to spruce it up for submission to publications.

Writing this piece was difficult for a number of reasons. I work. I have a young child. I also don’t find the act of writing easy. The ideas are there, and I enjoy research, but putting sentences together is hard. Let alone 5-figure word counts. I blame television. And videogames. So I write about videogames as television.

From the outset I was pretty sure that I’d be writing something about machinima, but it took me a good 6 months to nail down a topic. Just when I thought I had a pretty good idea of where I was going, the academic-publishing complex went and dropped a bunch of new publications on machinima in the last month I was writing. In the end I settled on using one video as a case study of the form’s potential to disrupt the immersive spectator-position of videogames.

Paolo Pedercini(of Molleindustria)’s Welcome to the Desert of the Real is far from representative. Not of machinima. Not of Molleindustria’s other work. That said, I argue that this piece demonstrates the capacity of machinima to promote a critical spectatorship position by disrupting the immersive characteristics of its videogame source, America’s Army.

The thrust of my argument is that machinima can be read in film/video studies terms, but that the spectator mode triggered in a game-literate audience by the low grade 3D animation of videogames and other visual cues demands a syncretic analysis that incorporates both film and videogame studies. Moreover, this piece speaks to both Alexander Galloway‘s notion of countergaming, and the concept to which it refers, Peter Wollen‘s description of Jean-Luc Godard‘s later work as countercinema. Amidst clamour for the gamification of everything, this instance of machinima offers the possibility of speaking within games against the dominant and oppressive logic of gaming.

I’m going to revise it and send it out to some journals. If it’s not accepted anywhere I’ll post it here and elsewhere. Hit me if you really want a look.

The Tal Afar Tophy

Posted in War & Culture by rearleft on March 22, 2010

An excerpt from my recent essay on remix technique in war trophy videos:

As an artifact demonstrative of the use of digital audio-visual recording technologies by Western militaries, and their remixability by veterans of the US-led wars of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the Tal Afar video points towards a set of historical and social conditions which demand reflection.

On one level, this production demonstrates the deep permeation into our culture of the logic of remix. The video’s producer (or producers) have taken materials from whatever source that they see fit, apparently without concern for copyright (in the case of the music), classification (of military documentation), or social norms (regarding depictions of killing), and remolded them into a form that they are able to share with everyone in the world. Moreover, judging by the volume of views, re-postings, and comments on the various instances of the video appearing online, a sizable audience exists for this particular type of remix. An amateur media producer’s ability to represent their experience and perspective on war, and to do so by working with some of the very materials of war-making itself, is a powerful notion.

At another level, this remix exposes the contemporary conflation of war and media, and the horrific normalization of this situation. In his influential essay “All But War is Simulation: The Military-Entertainment Complex”, Tim Lenoir (2000) outlines a network of collaborations between the military, government, academic researchers, and the entertainment industries. Remix war trophy videos can be viewed as a feedback loop in the Military-Entertainment Complex, the weaponised image reaching back out from the battlefield through the computer networks, confusing the viewer’s sense of materiality with its hyper-real representation of enemy cities being obliterated as if in a video game, complete with HUD interface. But ultimately this representation of war becomes, to draw on the notion of “the spectacle”, ‘not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images.’ (Debord 1977). When we watch the Tal Afar video on our screens it is easy to be taken by the skill of the editor, the wonder of the spread of digital technologies and remix culture across social sectors, the voyeuristic thrill of witnessing such destruction from the perspective of the destroyer, and it is easy to forget that what we are watching is clip after clip of humans killing humans.

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A Ghetto is a Ghetto

Posted in Media & Movements, War & Culture by rearleft on November 17, 2009

بدم Bidam (With Blood), a documentary on the impact of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza on Palestinian public health, co-directed by Juliana Fredman and yours truly, is screening on December 10 at the Marchmont Community Centre, Camden, London UK. The event is organised by the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association, and proceeds benefit the Shehadeh Mosen Diabetes Clinic in Abu Dis.

I can’t be there, so help me out by passing the info on to your London folks who can.

Here’s a clip:

Knowledge is Power

Posted in Personal/Meta, War & Culture by rearleft on August 19, 2009

Next week sees the second round of the evolving screening/workshop/art thing we’re calling Stinger Sessions. Taking place again at Serial Space in Chippendale, inner city Sydney, this one looks at war, games, and all those in-betweeny bits.

As an appetizer, chew on a delicious chunk of transmedia: the America’s Army digital comic book.

AAcomic

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50 in Fauxrabia

Posted in War & Culture by rearleft on July 8, 2009

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

In 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, the player takes on the personas of 50, Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, and DJ Whoo Kid as they slaughter hordes of identifiably arab enemies, in an unidentifiable middle eastern locale. The G-Unit is on a quest to retrieve a diamond encrusted skull that they take in lieu of a $10 million payment from a concert promoter.

The skull seems to be a bootleg of Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God, a piece that also appears in the art for 50′s new mixtape, Forever King, which features one of the countless Michael Jackson sample cash-in tracks bouncing around right now.

Blood on the Sand takes place in one instance of a set fictional video game territories that I am calling Fauxrabia. Unlike all other examples of fictional arab/muslim game lands that I can think of, 50′s Fauxrabia is devoid of uniformed US forces. It is as though we are only 6 months in the future and Dubai has gone to hell in a handbasket very quickly in the interim.

Compare 50′s Fauxrabia with Full Spectrum Warrior‘s Fauxrabian territory,  Zekistan.

This is a big topic that I plan on digging much deeper into in future. Suggestions for stories (particularly from more seriously engaged gamers than myself) are encouraged.

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