My object is video games and my territory is philosophical aestheticism. The methodology I used was close textual analysis of primary and secondary texts across a wide range of mediums. I wanted to examine the parallels between contemporary games and early-to-mid 20th century avant-garde movements and analyse how gaming’s dynamic attributes could help them become more fully realised. To begin, I analysed the immersive sim genre to explore how consumers could become producers, and how this shift fits with Paris and Munich Dada’s goal of reducing egotism in art (as conceived by Jean Arp and Hans Richter). Then, I looked at how technological advancements and limitations could aid in the creation of both unpredictable realities and imaginative surrealities, respectively, as conceived by Yves Bonnefoy, John Cage, and Andre Breton. Finally, I touched on how experimentation within the medium subverted audience expectations and genre conventions to create a transgressive experience that breaks down the player’s self-contained character, as proposed by Georges Bataille and Paul Hegarty. I concluded by reaffirming the incredible potential within gaming to transform the nature of art through its unique toolset in a manner hitherto unimagined, owing to their symbiotic relationship with environmental factors such as technology and player input.
This Essay is an examination of the ideological duality of Animal Crossing. This is a popular video game created by Nintendo, which has had several instalments over the last 20 years. The game involves the player moving to a new town, full of anthropomorphic animal characters. There are many clearly capitalist aspects at play within the game, with the necessity to get into debt, and or the pressure to consume is quite apparent if one wants to progress. However, it is clear that the game does not conform to the usual principles seen within capitalism and exhibits distinct ideological ambiguity through the processes involved within this game, like not charging interest on debt, but also through the intentions of the programmers regarding how one plays this, through measures to slow completion and general gameplay.
I aim to explore the concept of how we act morally in videogames and what motivates us to do so. I chose to use this game, Hotline Miami, a top-down, two-dimensional pastiche of ultra-violence, stealth and surreal story-telling, played from a canvas of 80s synth subculture particularly notable in the soundtrack and visuals. It is a neo-noir crime drama blearily glimpsed through a psychedelic haze, which follows the nameless protagonist the player controls. It is comprised of numerous chapters, most of which begin with the nameless protagonist waking up in his apartment and being tasked to complete a certain amount of massacres against an unspecific criminal organization at the behest of your answering machine. As hallucinations and reality become increasingly impossible to differentiate, moments of lucidity where you are given the opportunity to reflect on your actions become disturbingly non-existent.
In my project, I want to investigate whether the concept of player choice holds any value and if a video game can provide the territory for a meaning philosophical investigation today. With the factor of responsibility and authored narrative surrounding us, are we able to resist and rationally control our enjoyment of a game wherein you are tasked with committing immoral acts? The philosophers I will use are: Paul Ricoeur and his mimetic narrative of culture and Slovaj Zizek and his views on personal identity in the artistic video gaming world.
Links between violent video games and highly publicised violent crimes have resulted in society continuously questioning the morality behind violent games such as Grand Theft Auto III. From a philosophical perspective can violent video games be deemed moral?
Mill: An action is moral if its consequences result in more good than harm for the majority. Mill therefore would not have condemned violent video games as there is not enough evidence to suggest a link between violence in games and violence in reality. However, video games are classed as a lower pleasure and so must be played in moderation.
Kant: Kant was concerned with activities that result in an increased propensity for one’s duties to be violated. As with Mill, Kant would not condemn video games as not enough evidence exists to suggest one is more likely to violate their duties as a result of violent game play. In multiplayer gaming one can use other players as means to an end, which goes against Kant’s categorical imperative. However, Kant would view this purely as bad gamesmanship.
Aristotle: Aristotle’s main concern with violent video games would have been the effect they have on one’s character. He proposed that overexposure to violent acts damages one’s personality. Therefore Aristotle would have condemned violent video games purely for the effect extreme violence has on one’s character
The current world of violent video gaming with its age limits may fall successfully into the category of moral but what future technology has in store will bring with it a whole new set of issues.
Territory. I began by looking at computer games as my original territory, but this shifted as I progressed with my research to incorporate the wider realm of technology in more general terms. Concepts From my original territory I identified the concepts of Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence as my primary areas of research. I then furthered this to also explore the scientific rational project, with the growth of technology as a branch of this, and I further extended this to include the inhuman aspect of technology and a possible human disenchantment with this. Method. I began by exploring the nature of virtual environments and the interactions between the player controlled character and other intelligent aspects of the environment such as other characters or the surroundings themselves. This however led me to look at the fundamental concepts underlying the creation of virtual environments and artificial intelligence. I began to see the ‘rise in technology’ that was becoming prevalent within contemporary society and looked to find a philosophical background in which to interpret this theory. Philosophical Ideas. I looked at Heidegger who saw that technology was a means to achieve a certain purpose. However I also found the thoughts of Max Weber interesting, who saw technology as an area of disillusionment to people within modern society. He saw that very few people truly understand the world of technology around them and so we become disenchanted with our technological aspects of society. Also Lyotard saw the ‘Inhuman’ aspect of technology and the attitude of humanity towards it. Conclusions. I look to reconcile the modern world of computer generated virtual worlds with the different attitudes towards technology within general society.