Skin in the Game: Greymarket Gambling in the Virtual Economies of Counter-Strike — Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

boluk-lemieux-skin-in-the-game

Next Monday (January 14, 2018), we will be joined at the Digital Aesthetics Workshop by Stephanie Boluk & Patrick LeMieux. They are coming to us from UC-Davis, where Stephanie is Associate Professor of English and of Cinema and Digital Media, and where Patrick is Assistant Professor of Cinema and Digital Media. Boluk & LeMieux are scholars, critics, and artists who work largely around videogames and digital art. Their book Metagaming (Minnesota, 2017) wrenches open the ‘texts’ of videogames to consider them as tools, materials, platforms, and stages for all sorts of new social practices – it is easily one of the best works in game studies yet published. They have also co-created several critical games of their own that you can easily run on your laptop.

On Monday, they will be sharing in-progress material from their next book project, Money Games. Join us on Monday, January 14, 2018 (5-7pm in the Roble Arts Gym Lounge), and RSVP if you can! There will not be pre-circulated reading, though their games are recommended.

Here is the blurb for the event:

In 1987, a pyramid scheme called the “Plane Game” funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the pockets of “passengers,” landing at least six of the game’s “pilots” in jail. In 2018, more ubiquitous moneygames are played with smaller stakes across far wider fields. From the Valve Corporation’s Flatland to grey market gambling with Counter-Strike gun skins, this talk will move from from the Steam Workshop to the Steam Marketplace to series of third-party websites that explore the way in which money operates as a game mechanics and how game mechanics have come to operate as money. Although strict distinctions are made between gambling and gaming in both US law as well as 20th century philosophies of games and play, these terms’ etymological roots are tightly wound. In a post-2008 age of precarity, the wage has once again become a wager. In 2012, Alex Galloway proclaimed “we are all goldfarmers,” but gun skins and skin gambling represent an even more complex and complete financialization in that players have moved from one mode in which labour time is exchanged for a clear wage (even if it’s grinding in World of Warcraft) to one in which labour time itself becomes a wager. Ultimately skins are not simply texture files that wrap around the polygonal geometry of virtual weapons. Instead, they are objects of affinity and status, digital cash and casino chips, and a gun skins’ procedurally generated pattern, determined by a 9-digit floating point number selected upon unboxing, is more cryptocurrency than art asset. In this talk we follow the money, the skin, the flow, and the flight of new “plane games” as metagames become moneygames.
Advertisements

Out Now: Network Ecologies

NetworkEcologies

Network Ecologies is a great new open-access collection edited by Amanda Starling Gould and Florian Wiencek and published by the Duke Franklin Humanities Institute. The collection takes advantage of the Scalar publishing platform to include a variety of media alongside scholarly texts. Among other things, it includes a collection of artworks by Karin Denson and myself, which we developed for an exhibit at Duke in 2015 (also organized by Amanda Starling Gould) and which grew out of a collaboration with the Duke S-1: Speculative Sensation Lab. There is also an archive of videos from a 2013 symposium, including contributions from Jussi Parikka, Mark Hansen, Stephanie Boluk, Patrick LeMieux, and many others. Lots of great things to discover here–check it out!

 

Video Games’ Extra-Ludic Echoes — SLSA 2015

machine-puzzled-them

I am excited to be a part of the panel “Video Games’ Extra-Ludic Echoes,” which will be chaired by my colleague David Rambo at the upcoming conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) — hosted in Houston this year by Rice University, November 12-15, 2015. Below you will find the panel description and links to the individual abstracts.

Video Games’ Extra-Ludic Echoes

Chair: David Rambo

Each of the three presentations in this panel perform their own media-theoretical approach to comprehend how video games extend and consolidate the sociotechnical logics surrounding their conception, production, and reception. We intend to kindle a discussion about the ways certain video games order significant ideologies and activities of human life: from multimedial culture industries to the blurred division between life and labor to the concealment of racism in the techniques of 20th-century entertainment. All three share a motivation to delineate various cultural and economic inheritances of video games and the transformative ways in which video games echo those inheritances.

Shane Denson’s contribution attends to the serial manifestations of Batman across genres and media. He hones in on the subsumption of life-time under work-time that is common to the computational networks of daily life and to the crossed borders of serial figures such as Batman. In Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux’s “White Hand, Black Box,” we learn to recognize in the maniculed pointer of various softwares’ interfaces and especially in the Master Hand of Super Smash Brothers the now concealed tradition of black minstrelsy as it was imbued by Disney in the gloved hands of Mickey Mouse and other characters. David Rambo deploys a Spinozist theoretical framework to categorize the video game, Diablo III in particular, as a neoliberal enterprise that extrinsically determines the player’s desire and even will to live. Spinoza’s Ethics thereby offers a way to conceptualize the video game both as an autonomous entity marked with finite, and thus fulfillable, completeness, and as a node in a much broader regime of affections that orders capital’s socioeconomic system.

These three presentations depict the video game as an artifactual conduit eminently bound up with the cultural forces that ineluctably structure our civilization, from its marginal groups to its most powerful systemic imperatives.

Abstracts for the individual papers:

Shane Denson, “Gaming and the ‘Parergodic’ Work of Seriality in Interactive Digital Environments”

Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux, “White Hand, Black Box: The Manicule from Mickey to Mario to Mac OS”

David Rambo, “Spinoza on Completion and Authorial Forces in Video Games”

White Hand, Black Box: The Manicule from Mickey to Mario to Mac OS — Stephanie Boluk & Patrick LeMieux

mac-manicule

Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux’s abstract for the panel “Video Games’ Extra-Ludic Echoes” at SLSA 2015 in Houston:

“White Hand, Black Box: The Manicule from Mickey to Mario to Mac OS”

Stephanie Boluk, UC Davis, and Patrick LeMieux, UC Davis

Whereas the manicule, a pointing finger directing a reader’s attention, has been used for a millennium in chirographic and print texts, in the context of twentieth century animation and twenty-first century computing the medieval pointer has been recontextualized as the hand of the animator to a graphic user interface (GUI) element. After the popularization of the talkie in the late twenties, in Steamboat Willie (1928), the first ever “Merry Melody” released by Disney, Mickey Mouse adopts gloves and the lilting voice of Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer (1927). This process sanitizes a genre of racist comedy for mainstream consumption. Although Mickey’s gloves are easily deemed merely a contrivance of the technical limitations related to articulating fingers in early animation, Bimbo and Betty, Oswald and Ortensia, Foxy and Roxy, and, of course, Mickey and Minnie are anthropomorphic animals that whitewashed their relation to racist caricatures inspired by blackface minstrelsy. This history was further obfuscated as “Mickey’s manicules” eventually found themselves as elements within the contemporary operating systems like Mac OS and as GUI’s within videogames like Mario Paint in the eighties and nineties. From the metaleptic manicule of classic animations to the metonymic manicule in the GUI, this paper ultimately performs a close reading of the figure of “Master Hand” in Super Smash Bros. (1998) in order to argue that the white hand allegorizes the ways in which “user friendly” design has black boxed the racialized history of computation.

Out Now: Digital Seriality — Special Issue of Eludamos

eludamos-digital-seriality-cover

The latest issue of Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, a special issue devoted to the topic of “Digital Seriality” — edited by yours truly, together with Andreas Jahn-Sudmann — is now out! Weighing in at 198 pages, this is one of the fattest issues yet of the open-access journal, and it’s jam-packed with great stuff like:

  • Patrick LeMieux on the culture and technology of tool-assisted speedrunning
  • Jens Bonk on the serial structure of Halo
  • Scott Higgins on the ludic pre-history of gaming in serial films
  • Lisa Gotto on ludic seriality and digital typography
  • Tobias Winnerling on the serialization of history in “historical” games
  • Till Heilmann on Flappy Bird and the seriality of digits
  • David B. Nieborg on the political economy of blockbuster games
  • Rikke Toft Nørgård and Claus Toft-Nielsen on LEGO as an environment for serial play
  • Dominik Maeder and Daniela Wentz on serial interfaces and memes
  • Maria Sulimma on cross-medium serialities in The Walking Dead!

So what are you waiting for? Do yourself a favor and check out this issue now!

Speculation

Patrick Jagoda, assistant professor in the English Department at the University of Chicago and co-editor of Critical Inquiry, recently informed me of a project he’s been working on and asked me to spread the word, which I gladly do:

As Patrick puts it, it’s “a transmedia game (or ‘alternate reality game’)” that he’s “co-directing with Katherine Hayles (Duke) and Patrick LeMieux (Duke), and designing with several people at the University of Chicago, Duke, and the University of Waterloo. The game, called Speculation, launched just a few days ago and will continue for several weeks. It has a science fiction narrative and confronts finance culture and the recent economic crisis. The latest trailer is here: vimeo.com/39947942. It leads to the main game site at: http://speculat1on.net/ (complete with a discussion forum, cryptographic puzzles, games of various genres, narrative pieces, audio, and much more). There’s also a related Facebook page that belongs to Nex Noitaluceps.”

I’ve poked around the site a bit, and it’s really quite intriguing, so do check it out!