In a time of academic and artistic interest in non-humans, this workshop sets out to explore how we might think of and work with players of digital games, in particular players that do not fit the description of the typical human player.
This turn towards non-humans is a reaction against what is often referred to as human exceptionalism; an assumption that everything, except humans, lives and functions in a passive and mechanical responsiveness, leaving humans as the only species granted agency, consciousness, intelligence, and social life. We might add joy, excitement, humor and the ability to play games, to the list. That the human species is primarily defined following prescriptions of the typical European man, the white, the normal-abled, the wealthy, the cis-gendered, the heterosexual, and the well-connected, is probably not news for the feminist educated audience. The non-human turn in academia and in arts is an attempt to turn our attention to the rest of the world, to what it might mean to seriously consider the living existence of everything else.
For many feminist writers and practitioners, interest in the non-human is an interest in difference and in entangled dependencies, in ways of collective living when difference, interspecies, co-dependent entanglements are the patent and inescapable ways of life. To study the ways in which species of all kinds interrelate, transform, depend, and inseminate each other, authors have turned to the study of bacteria in microbiology, mushroom picking in japan, and the history of crop-cultivation and sugar production in North America, dog-human relationships, and much more. There is nothing harmonious and conflict-free about these stories. Clumsy boundary managements, harm, violence, dominance and death are not left out of these stories, nor is there a dream that we might one day live without such unpleasant encounters. Instead the stories are written with the effort to make us better equipped to notice the entanglements of the world and to think these relationships with more nuances than what the Western and Eurocentric philosophies have taught us through narratives of harmony and conquest, friends and foes.
In this workshop we will explore these incitements via the practice of game design: what might it mean to be a designer of digital games in the age of the non-human turn?
In the process of designing playful environments for plants, bacteria, rocks, crystals, electromagnetic fields, animals of all sizes, assemblages, alliances and congregations, how might we, as designers, deal with a design situation at hand? How do we think carefully and ethically about the role of the designer? Including the power dynamics at play in the relationships between designers and players? Can we think of the game design activity as an activity of crafting relationships? And in that case, what are our chances of forming ethical entanglements, allies and affinities with and between the non-humans. What might game design for non-human players tell us about topics of difference, otherness and sameness, and can such an activity be a way to explore the assumptions and theories we base our design activity on?
While the questions are many, and tending to the philosophical, the workshop will be hands on. I will provide a technical setup as a framework for interpreting activity of various non-human players, including plants, electromagnetic earth-signals, rocks and crystals.
Alternatively, you are welcome to bring your own setup and potential players. Please specify your plans when registering.
After approximately 2 hours of hands on game development I would like to end with a discussion. This discussion will be guided in order to explore alternative ways of both reflecting upon and documenting the process.
Artists/Documenter (Other ways of participating):
If you would like to attend the workshop not as a game maker but instead for documenting the process, please get in touch as well.
I am welcoming innovative and alternative and artistic methods of documentation, including drawing, photography, animation, creative writing, interactive storytelling, programming, sound art, and social media.
There will be a small fee for the artist/documenter.
If you prefer to not be included in the documentation material, please notify me when registering.