Wednesday, April 7, 2010

wednesday 2pm Section

Soderman writes: "the gameplay of Diner Dash is seemingly about temporal pressure, multitasking, and attempting to extract order from chaos, again and again, shift after shift" (16). And though Soderman himself seems to shy away from utilizing a version of psychoanalysis in his analysis (he finds the Oedipal schema "problematic", probably with good reason), I wonder if analyzing Diner Dash in terms of the Lacanian distinction between desire and drive could be productive in this instance. The very activity of repetition in casual games seems to bear marked similarity with the drive, the continual looping close but never finishing action of our drives in psychoanalysis designed to initiate a kind of jouissance outside of our sensible minds. And yet, purely repetitive casual games (like Tetris, Bejeweled, and pretty much any internet-hosted repetitive level based game) all end up being vaguely dissatisfying, but enormously time-consumptive. I don't even like Diner Dash, and I have played it before, and yet I still kept playing the game for 45 minutes in lab.

Soderman notes: "what struck me as strange when looking at the visual appearance of Flo was precisely this mixture of boredom, fatigue and indifference which is repeated for most of the game—especially when the narrative inscribes a new excitement with her career change" (29). And indeed, it is here, with the introduction of the persona of Flo that identification could be enabled, and with it, our mechanism of sense, human progress and law that is instantiated with desire at the formation of our subjectivity. I wonder if this foregrounding in DD of the absolute failure of any satisfactory narrative progression is a prioritization of the drive over desire, of jouissance over sense. Flo's progress in the world of ratings, point scores and economic gain is certainly a manifestation of the social milieu in which we all must navigate our own lives as symbolically initiated desiring subjects who 'do things' in the real world.

To that extent how could we use this distinction to play at itself in relation to games; or, more specifically, how can a game like World of Warcraft which combines highly repetitive elements like resource collecting ("farming") and monster slashing ("grinding") with the narrative of personal progression through level advancing quests which enable your character to dynamically change and accumulate new abilities be understood as being successful precisely by negotiating this desire/drive axis to its own advantage. And in what ways does this analysis fail? And, an afterthought, how can we understand those people who perpetually create new characters for RPGs or make Sims characters over and over again without actually engaging in repetitive gameplay as privileging desire over the drive? Does this work, and if not how could we understand a means in which desire, or identity, or economic/personal progress can exist in a game independent of any drive-related repetition?

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