the game system as mother

SÈbastien Babeux’s talk was about space in video games, and has lots of fascinating examples of glitches in game space. You can read the abstract here. I don’t really want to talk about what his paper was explicitly about, I want to talk about the way in which he used the metaphors of child and mother.

SÈbastien begins by showing the space between a baby and its mother playing together, and shows the space between them as the space of play. He then relabels the baby as player – interior – and the mother as exterior, the game. (I may have the wrong names there.) The game is the other that the player works with and against.

Shows exampless games where you can’t get outside of very pre-defined space – that is you can SEE an illusion of a full spatial world, but your character can only move in narrow areas, sometimes even with invisible walls to keep you inside. Other games have “glitches” in space where you can get to places the designers didn’t actually plan, or places they forgot, like places you’re invisible to NPCs but aren’t meant to be – a feeling that the creator has lost track fo the player, and then the player is reclaimed by the game space.

The job of the system is to keep you in line, keep you in order.

I couldn’t help but ask a question:
Use of the mother. I saw that image and identified with the mother, not the baby! But mother as metaphor for the game – like the word MOTHERBOARD for the foundation of a computer. I wonder how this idea of the game as a kind of benevolent mother – then you showed us a lot of the limitations of game space – there are narrow corridors you’re allowed into. Dungeons and buildings all offer narrow passageways. Let’s not call them womb-like. And then you talked about how we can get OUT of the limited opportunities, subverting or using outside media.

So on the one hand I’m thinking that that space between the mother and child is BETWEEN TWO ACTORS. The mother is also playing. But a lot of your talk is more about the child player who needs the mother – uh, game – and at the same time wants to become independent.

I’m wondering how this would fit with Helen Kennedy and Seth Gedding’s ideas yesterday about, what did someone call it, pleasurable masochism?

I spoke too fast and anyway it wasn’t quite a question so I didn’t exactly get an answer – but this strikes me as weird and important. The mother as other, what a peculiar idea! I am the mother! This relates to earlier posts I’ve made about how (male) theorists have quite often compared computers to women, including Ted Nelson quoting Electronic Arts original motto and the Turing test.

15. October 2005 by Jill
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