Jul 14, 2009

RCAPS Seminar: Professor, MANTELLO, Peter A. Coming Soon

RCAPS Seminar will be held on July 24th (Friday)

AY 2009 RCAPS Seminar

No computer game in history has stirred as much public controversy, negative social criticism and relentless media attention as the first person shooter game (FPS). Infamously dubbed the bad boy genre of video games, the FPS has come to symbolize the military entertainment industries increasing negative role in not only allowing youth to be witness to symbolic acts of killing humans as a form of recreational past time but also to allow them the ability to become participants. The First Person Shooter is experiencing life through the perspective of a weapon.

While the authenticity of an FPS is often judged by its ability to provide realistic detail to the natural or man-made environments that make up the physical topography of battle, whether it is achieved through reproducing the delicate curves of the medieval architecture of Mosul, replicating seat grime in a late night New York City subway car, or capturing the vibrant lavender and magenta glow of Fallujah's sky at dusk, the critical marker of an authentic FPS game is in its talent to simulate actual weapons of modern warfare. Not surprisingly, the holy grail of FPS truth is the gun. Not only is the gun the central perspective of game play, it is the instrument that enables a players satisfaction levels by allowing him the ability to master the accuracy of his weapon at selected targets. Importantly, the gun is the sole item responsible for his survival and his prospects of winning the game.

Increasingly, war is becoming a form of entertainment. The abstraction of videogames and war games are beginning to blur through the convergence of the traditional worlds of the military and the entertainment industry. This talk will examine how the notions of gameplay and selfhood have morphed into new forms of identity that are linked to global movements toward algorithmic identity.

Of note are games such as Under Ash, which is a Palestinian made first person shooter game which starts with an opening scene of the Hebron massacre by the Jewish Baruch Goldstein. The videogame was created as a response to the way in which Arabs are negatively portrayed in the majority of military themed video games being produced.
Similarly, the Iranian developed Rescue the Nuke Scientist was created in retaliation to the American made videogame, Assault on Iran. In Rescue the Nuke Scientist, the player must embark on a rescue mission to save two Iranian scientists abducted by U.S. Special Forces. And while such Muslim sponsored resistance games are banned in the United States, other games such as the freely downloadable America's Army has become the most successful recruiting tool the U.S. Army has ever produced - at a cost of 12 million dollars to U.S. taxpayers.

Recent games such as FallOut3 utilize spatial storytelling techniques as a way to create evocative environments filled with a collage of re-mediated texts - educational newsreels, TV sit-coms, radio broadcasts, print advertisements of the 1950's. These remediated elements serve in bringing to mind Cold War anxieties of the Red Threat and nuclear holocaust, fears that allowed the manufacture of America's rigid moral codes and an insular national consciousness. Inspired by George Miller's Mad-Max, FallOut3 follows the hero/heroine (it's your choice) from birth in a bomb shelter to his/her subsequent odyssey across a post apocalyptical wasteland of Washington D.C. in search of his father. Along the way, the hero/player must battle a series of inhospitable characters. Like many videogames that are tweaked locally for political correctness - the Japanese version of FallOut3 has removed the cut-scenes that graphically depict civilian populations ravaged by a nuclear explosion.

The convergence of allegory and algorithm in computer digital games redefines not only the way in which social and political narratives are constructed but how contemporary cultures negotiate gamespace and gameplay as a way to enhance or subvert notions of nationhood and conflict.

Interested applicants can register on the URL below.

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