I really (really) like the way Jagoda, Hodge and Golumbia think about games. There are several reasons for this, but the prominent ones I want to attend to here are how each specify what it really means to play computer games (both commercially viable and the indie type), and how each find it important to set these descriptions against a background of relationality, sociality and politics. All three essays are somewhat polemical, and I feel that a conceptual line could be drawn through them, at least in the way each points to the mischaracterization of most video games as play, or indeed games.

Golumbia does well to clarify this terminology, through the Derridean jue, which like language is subject to rules but can nevertheless be reinterpreted. A second distinction between game and play, especially free, vertiginous, simulative and purely social, is made via Roger Caillois. Play, as a site for the concentration and reenactment of social reality, while “being socially divorced” (182) from said reality, is where I find Golumbia’s analysis most attuned to Hodge and Jagoda’s. Play in its unhinged form, has entirely new capacities for Jagoda; “If play can exceed gamification and its narrow sense of utility in the present… it relational character reveals the impossibility of pure play, beyond rules and ideology”. (117)

Hodge is able to this characterization of the contemporary moment a step further, in terms of both objects and relations, and in the always-on yet slackened states of being with amongst our flashing, beeping technologies. A game like Mountain can therefore bring us to such a state, a state of merely hanging, and allow a space for contemplating this state, as is the case for Joe.

There’s more I want to say about these essays, and I hope to get some of it out in seminar. I’m not sure if I’ve drawn the aforementioned conceptual line between them, and there’s still the matter of work and extraction of value in the video game world that we’ll surely discuss tomorrow.