your optimism strikes me like junk mail addressed to the dead

May 31, 2013 § Leave a comment


Consider a game like Mass Effect, in which sex is a goal, the reward for a series of obviously correct dialogue choices — “kindness is a currency”.

Sex in Mass Effect is a cutscene in which the player puts down the controller and watches two bodies awkwardly interface with one another. It is precisely the moment at which the player is no longer touching the game.

Sex is a movie, sex is a show, sex is a two-minute, pre-recorded, predictable sequence of events.

It may involve two parties of the same gender, but it is never queer.

When sex isn’t a cutscene, the prize, it’s totally mechanistic, linear. It’s about increasing a gauge, building up a number. Orgasm = level-up.

It’s about control in the most unsexy way possible, the fantasy of bodies that bend to our perfect wills and always perform just like we expect them to.

This translates to games that want us to keep going forever, that present us with the fantasy of an endless, unidimensional sexuality — of immortality.

They demand only that we keep playing, offering us only periodic, quantified rewards provided at intervals precisely calculated to maintain our attention. We grind for loot drops, play through hours of identical firefights for little bursts of character development, run through a massive dungeon fighting the same monsters over and over in between solving supposedly interesting sliding block puzzles.

And we are told that this minimal, repetitive engagement with gross, exploitative systems constitutes the highest, purest form of play.

“It gets better after the first 10 hours.”

“The endgame is really rewarding.”

“You just have to get to level 20, then things get really good.”

These are the words of sick players.

We are taught that the default protagonist is a straight white cis man with a malicious or absent relationship to bodies. That he represents the default, neutral choice.

There is no such thing as neutrality. What we call neutrality is an absence, a denial of bodies and their biology.

We are told to ignore our own representation, our physicality, our lived experience when we create.

Otherwise we become threatening.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Susu Laroche

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