Cinematic Arts Newsletter

Annual Film Studies Lecture on Experimental Videogames

By Alex Denison, Ph.D. Film Studies graduate student

Patrick Jagoda, Associate Professor of English and Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, was invited to present his recent work on experimental videogames. In his illuminating talk, he drew an affect theory and recent scholarship in Games Studies to explain how nearly all videogames perpetuate neoliberal ideals regardless of how innocuous they might appear on the surface. His test case for this assertion is Candy Crush Saga, the popular smartphone game that draws players in by creating easy tasks for them to accomplish only to become increasingly difficult to the point where players pay money for extra plays. The majority of his talk, however, was devoted to avant-garde games that push against the neoliberal agenda with their lack of a sense of accomplishment, nonexistent narratives, and superfluous wait times. His key example of these experimental games is Dys4ia, a game that details the experiences of a transgender character. It incorporates levels such as a Tetris-like mini-game where the shapes do not fit to represent gender dysphoria and shows the both painful and boring process of hormone replacement therapy. It is works like Dys4ia, Professor Jagoda argues, that serve as an answer to the 'gamification' of everyday life.

His talk was followed by a fruitful Q & A session where he fielded questions from the audience for over half an hour.  

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