Digital games, discourses and literacy (leve)

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My presentation at University of Manitoba entitled: "Digital Games, discourses and literacy" exposing some main points of my academic path until now dealing with games. Video related at:


  • 1. Digital games, discourses and literacy: a trajectory Luiz Henrique Magnani PhD researcher at Universidade de So Paulo Visiting researcher at the University of Manitoba - Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies [email_address] Nov-2010
  • 2. Early concerns (2004) Video-games and critical literacy: how can we play video-games in a critical way? Proposal/methodology : to explore a game (as researcher/player) testing their technical limits and the internal logic of their mechanisms Game selected : The Sims
  • 3. The Sims Some technical limits and allowances observed: 1) Kids cannot work nor do some domestics labor like cooking; 2) There is no homeless people. Every Sim family has sufficient funds to buy a regular house and some furniture; 3) Some direct relations: more expensive furniture = more comfort = better mood 4) With more than three kids in a family, it's almost impossible to play the game. -The Sims 1 simulates a U.S. suburban neighborhood.
  • 4. Some major conclusions : a) Technical limits and allowance are related to designer discourses. b) Challenging these limits could expose game's ideology(ies) c) Exploring and discussing these limits may promote critical literacy in educational contexts Some major limits : a) Focus in the object rather than community practices b) Risk of determinism (where is the player?)
  • 5. Turning the game - dissertation (2006-2008) Focus : thinking about potential of digital gaming for instigate the player to look critically at his/her own beliefs and value systems, based on critical education (Freire, Giroux). Main proposal : to examine different proposals of serious/critical games from the perspective of the author himself, seen as an expert, in his interaction with the games.
  • 6. Main changes
    • Interaction in its complexity started to be considered: player creates his own path but limited by designer previous choices. Designer as legislator (Frasca, 2001)
    • Game as cultural artifact : context of production and external relations of power began to be considered.
    • Serious/critical games advent: some critical/provocative games arise.
  • 7. Ian Bogost's Airport Security
  • 8. Some major conclusions: a) Games themselves can be designed in a subversive way b) We need models to understand how games operate in act of play and in other contexts c) Interaction with games operates in a kind of dialogic way (Bakhtin), but the designer is not present anymore. d) Designer as legislator is a powerful position: we need to discuss its responsibility Some major limits : a) Focus is still in a particular interaction (researcher's one). b) Without a contextualized game literacy event, it's difficult to understand how other players can make meanings of a game in a concrete situation.
  • 9. Recent perspective PhD (2010) Focus : player's complex meaning-making process, considering conflicts among narratives, communities, identities. Assumptions: (1) games carry ideological elements which must be interpreted within their contexts; (2) the way players construct meanings is not universal, but conditioned by their own histories as well as their sense of belonging to certain localities .
  • 10. Guiding questions (1) Which strategies can be used for the construction of meanings at play? (2) Which relations are likely to be established between meanings constructed from videogames and other interpretative contexts of the world and the others? (3) Which factors could favor and/or discourage a critical view and the respect for differences in such meaning-making processes?
  • 11. Main changes - Cross-cultural approach : games are produced by and distributed within and among those local groups and how they might either promote or discourage dialogues on difference. - Truths are built in a complex way. Every cultural artifact is related with a local. (Bhabha, Derrida, Cilliers) - Narrative as meaning-making : narratives organize and shape experiences and give us models of the world (Bruner)
  • 12. Video-games shaping experiences
  • 13. Video-games shaping experiences
  • 14. Guiles machete (name given to a stroke in Street Fighter game) naming and shaping Rhodolfos (a brazilian soccers player) celebration in a synesthetic way. Video-games shaping experiences
  • 15. Narratives about games Global / Universal? We? Local? Exotic? They?
  • 16. Some actual questions How dangerous are the universal claims in video-games? How can games narratives affect player's everyday life? Can subalterns speak in/by games? (Spivak) Good games: for whom ? For what ?
  • 17. Winnitron Jam experience Boys just wanna have fun
  • 18. Some actual challenges
    • - What kind of methodology could be proper to deal with these new practices?
    • - What kind of literacy (or another) concept could work to deal with video-games synesthetic?
    • - How can we define players localities or communities when they participate in different digital cross-cultural spaces with different positions and interests?
  • 19. References Alcoff, L. The Problem of Speaking for Others, Cultural Critique 20 (1991-92): 5-32. Ayiti: the Cost of Life , video-game. Gamelab, 2005. Bakhtin, M. Questes de Literatura e de Esttica: Teoria do Romance. So Paulo: UNESP/Hucitec, 1988. Bhabha, H. K. O Local da Cultura. Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 2003. Bruner, J.. Making Stories: law, literature, life. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 2002. Chance, K. The right to narrate : interview with Homi Bhabha 03/19/01, _ pdfs/chance.hbhabha.pdf . Last consulted 20 th April 2007. Cilliers, P. Complexity, Deconstruction and Relativism. Theory Culture Society 22 (2005): 255-267. Derrida, J. Gramatologia . So Paulo: Perspectiva, 1967. Frasca, G. Videogames of Opressed: Videogames as a Means for Critical Thinking and Debate . Atlanta: Georgia Institute of Technology, 2001. Freire, P. e Macedo, D. P. (1987). Literacy : reading the word & the world Critical studies in education series. South Hadley: Bergin & Garvey Publishers Giroux, H. A. (1983) Theory and Resistance in Education . New York: Bergin and Garvey. . Spivak, G. C. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture , edited by Nelson, C and Grossberg, L, 271-313 . Basingstoke : Macmillan Education, 1988. Wright, Will. The Sims, video-game . Eletronic Arts, 2000 .