Assemblage Theory humanities gaming Posthumanism

#hgi a gust of wind's playbor is never done

One useful thing at HGI for me is playing some new games (new for me anyway). Yesterday I played Passage and Flower. I've inserted a couple videos about the games below. People like to say you need to play Passage before you read about it (it takes about 5 minutes to play), so if you haven't played it and you think those people are right, you shouldn't read this (aka spoiler alert). 

Here's my generous reading of Passage: it's a critique of a solipsistic, nihilistic worldview. The game presents us with that view of life and what you can patently see is that you get nowhere but dead. Love is represented but it is almost more of a obstacle to game play (or it would be if there was any point but dying). If one were to think of this as a serious game, it wouldn't be to say "this is what life is like," but rather "don't view your life this way." My closest analog to this is Radiohead's "Fitter, Happier" or maybe more generally existentialist art.

Flower, on the other hand, is more likely experienced as an optimistic game where the player is a gust of wind bringing flowers and life to various scenes. It has a kind of hippy, peaceful affect and, unlike Passage where the graphics emphasize the brutish, undifferentiated nature of life (same shit, different day), Flower present a gorgeous visual world.

Both games offer similar critiques of mainstream video games with their twitchy violence and point.less gathering. So I can see why people might respond well to these games as meta-gaming.

While Passage is perhaps intended to shock with its gameplay and Flower to soothe, it is the latter that offers the more radical presentation of humans and life, and maybe relates something about the nature of gameplay. It is inevitably playbor. I don't want to get into whether it is work or play. The point is that wind is endlessly productive in the context of a larger assemblage. We can debate intentionality and agency, but fundamentally the wind is engaged in a productive relation with the reproduction of life…. as, of course, we all are, inescapably so.

To return to Passage, it may be the case that meaning in the individual, psychological sense is not intrinsic to the universe, that we must be satisfied with making meaning, but that does not mean that the universe is devoid of nonhuman, molecular ethical obligations. For myself, I have often thought of Buddhist philosophy as offering the best access to such matters. But in this respect Flower offers a more compelling engagement with those obligations, even though it's probably not easy to see that in the game. After all, you aren't really wind playboring your way through the propagation of a field; you're the twisting of a controller propagating the shifting of pixels on a screen. Maybe that seems less noble, but only if you value the propagation of flowers over pixels (and I wouldn't blame you for feeling that way). 

But my point is that either way, you are invested in molecular ethical relations of exposure and becoming, and either way, your own agency unfolds through the affectivity produced in the assemblage.