Making Games, Making Sense
As machines for the production of meaning, computer games are dreadfully inefficient. Techno-social assemblages of heterogeneous materials, gasping and stumbling, flailing way too many moving parts, stories duct-taped on algorithms, misassembled, misplayed, misread. We stare at these monstrosities looking for familiar patterns, we wreck them with Katamari balls of disciplines to expose deeply embedded messages and values. Some of us even try to shape them with the intention of an artist, propagandist, marketer of ideas.
In this talk, I outline a series of critical issues I encountered while making games for social commentary for about a decade, highlighting gaps and shortcomings in the vocabulary we use to make sense of computer games. Philosophers of games can have a role in reshaping this cultural form, asking dizzyingly difficult questions that developers (too busy debugging or getting rich or dying trying) and critics (too busy fighting the Culture War of the Week) are unable to ask.
Paolo Pedercini is a game developer, artist and educator. He teaches digital media production and experimental game design at the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University. Since 2003 he works under the project name “Molleindustria” producing provocative games addressing issues of social and environmental justice (McDonald’s videogame, Oiligarchy, Phone Story), religion (Faith Fighter) and labor and alienation (Every Day the Same Dream, Unmanned). Molleindustria [soft industry/soft factory] is a project of reappropriation of video games, a call for the radicalization of popular culture, an independent game developer. Molleindustria obtained extensive media coverage and critical acclaim while hopping between digital art, academia, game design, media activism and internet folk art.