Panel: Playing the non-playful: On the critical potential of play at the overlap of videogames and electronic art
This presentation explores the play of the video game as a kind of blunting of the promise of the play in artworks as the latter was understood by Adorno. In his ‘Aesthetic Theory’, Adorno suggests that a function of art is to ‘bring to light what is immature in the idea of maturity’. The artwork invites the subject to play and in so doing creates an opening to practices and urges that are kept out of view in the adult psyche, under the concealing rubric of being a ‘grown-up’. This opening leads us to awareness that adulthood and its reality principle are illusory or deceptive and exploring the artwork makes us sensitive to other possibilities by allowing the energies of our own childhood selves a temporary, perhaps momentary expression. This leads to an altogether more mature sense of thwarted possibilities and of present selfness as a shell that could be broken in the direction of fulfillment. In contrast to this progressive-utopian play of art, I will argue the computer game offers a kind of play that, while it summons the same energies, freezes them and prevents us from growing through the experience. Play with a computer game resuscitates something of childhood but then holds it up to ridicule and blunts its utopian potentials. This positions it somewhere between the artwork and the entertainment commodity, in a culturally specific space of in-adequation and indecision.
- Graeme Kirkpatrick‘s work combines philosophy, social theory and sociological research methods to explore technologies, especially digital artifacts, in social and cultural context. He is concerned to retain and develop insights from the Frankfurt tradition of critical social theory in the era of information technologies. He has published several books including ‘Critical Technology: A social theory of personal computing’ (Ashgate 2004) and ‘Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game (Manchester University Press 2011). At present, he is writing a ?sociology of the computer game, to be published by Polity Press in 2012, and essays on the project of a reconstruction of critical theory by way of contemporary philosophy of technology, to be published by Bloomsbury Academic.