Game Game

I guess it was just a matter of time before the growing field of ludology began using games themselves as a way to explore its boundaries.

Finnish ludologist Aki Järvinen has made a game about games which he obviously had to call Game Game. He says that it is the same kind of meta-referential use of its own medium as in Scott McCloud’s famed Understanding Comics (which I incidentally can only recommend).

I wish that more people would see the rhetorical and educational potential in these new forms of media. It is obvious to use the comic book format to show the limits and poetics of the comic book, but it isn’t until you see stylistic experiments such as Matt Madden’s that that potential is realized.

I’d like to use some of these methods as a way to explain philosophical concepts. How would you produce philosophy or social theory in other forms than text? Could you make philosophy-on-film or on self-help tapes? I fondly remember how the old Danish children’s science program on Danish TV, called Vitek explained Einstein’s theory of relativity by using the “people conveyor belts” at the airport.

(by alternately putting the camera on or off one belt, and the presenter on the other, how can you tell whether it is the camera or the presenter that is moving – and relative to what? It is a wonderfully visual way to illustrate a difficult concept)

It reminds me of Fight Club where the narrator finds a bunch of educational articles about body parts and organs in Reader’s Digest, all written in the first person:

“I am Joe’s Lungs. Without me, Joe could
not take in oxygen to feed his red
blood cells.”

Later on, the narrator uses this form to express states of mind and ideas – submerging his ego in a statement such as “I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.”

Could you make films with philosophical concepts as the main characters? “I am Jack’s Kierkegaardian Anxiety“? “I am Jacks Heideggerian Being-in-the-world“?

Probably not – or at least not in any ordinary sense of making film. But maybe you could do it through video games, comic books or cartoons which offer markedly different ways in which you can be visual and engaging.

I am reminded of Timothy Asch’s anthropological film “Ax Fight” which is basically the same short fight seen three times. First, as it were. With lots of shouting and incomprehensible stuff going on for the un-initiated. Second with interpretation, stopping up and explaining the scene with kinship digrams, hierarchies and motivations. Third, the entire scene again, now interpreted and “making sense” to the viewer.

One of my old pet projects was to make a film (or a text) like that as an experiment of anthropological style. 99 different ways to interpret the same scene. All depending on what you wanted to focus on. Is it kinship? Economy? Religion? Inter-tribal relations? Or gender roles? Are you going for the structuralist view or the functionalist angle? Or the ethnoscientific or the evolutionist?

Combining these would easily offer such a broad variety of interpretations that it would probably be slightly disheartening for the aspiring anthropologist. But much closer to the actual nature of anthropological work, all the same.

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