humanities gaming

forget gaming #hgi

Extending on the notion of haunting in the prior post, I was thinking about the issues of anamnesis and hypomnesis as they pertain to digital media, but more specifically to gaming. I think these are concepts that are fairly easy to connect to databases and digital preservation/access, but what about games, either digitally or in general? To get us on the same page: hypomnesis is the externalization of memory (e.g. taking notes), and anamnesis is the recollection of memory. [BTW, I'm down here at the Humanities Gaming Institute without any books so I'm just roughing this stuff out here.]

In thinking about haunting, as I was earlier, we find ourselves confronted by the effect of hypomnesic data that we cannot escape or are unexpectedly confronted with. We encounter it (and hence ourselves) as other. This is exposure. As Derrida reminds us, this is the exteriority of the archive. So much of social media, like locative games, is about creating this hypomnesic effect, though perhaps not in the unpleasant way that a haunting game would seek to intensify.

Of course games are a hypnomnesic technology. They store data, regardless of media format. They also require anamnesis or recollection from the players. To recall for ourselves, for Plato writing is the hypnomnesic technology that threatens memory and the living presence of speech. This problem is played upon in a game. The game contains memory in signs, but what do the signs mean? In particular, what do they mean about the future? the unfolding of the game? This is what we try to discern as players. If, as Derrida suggests, the futurity of the archive is shaped by its technology, then certainly the hypnomnesic effects of game technologies have a shaping role of recall (and hence forgetting and prediction). Furthermore, we must recognize hypnomnesis as the exterior of anamnesis.

So what is the role of forgetting here? A brief detour. I am thinking here of Buddhism, of letting go of things. What we forget no longer haunts us. And for Derrida, it is only through radical forgetting that the gift even becomes possible, only through the forgetting of the debt gifts incur. Here is Derrida from this site:

For there to be a gift, not only must the donor or donee not perceive the gift as such, have no consciousness of it, no memory, no recognition; he or she must also forget it right away [a l'instant] and moreover this forgetting must be so radical that it exceeds even the psychoanalytic categorality of forgetting. . . . we are speaking here of an absolute forgetting – a forgetting that also absolves, that unbinds absolutely and infinitely more, therefore, than excuse, forgiveness, or acquittal." Yet, this forgetfulness is not nothing, a mere "non-experience": "For there to be a gift event . . . something must come about or happen, in an instant, in an instant that no doubt does not belong to the economy of time, in a time without time, but also in such a way that this forgetting, without being something present, presentable, determinable, sensible or meaningful, is not nothing.

I know I'm not going to get my head around this fully right now, but I am certain of this connection between haunting, forgetting, and letting go. And I am interested in their operation in gaming, inasmuch as games operate as symbolic systems that operate in a kind of gift economy. One route certainly is to design a game that would intensify the role of forgetting, even if it is only performative forgetting.

So I will give one example here on the cusp of the World Cup. We say that goalkeepers need short memories. They must be able to forget the goals scored against them, let them go, so to speak. Successful game play requires not being haunted by our failures or holding on too long to our successes. (As the hero of tonight's game says, "I'm already focused on our next match.")