Playing Dead: Learning-through-dying and Undeath as Mediation in Computer Games

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    The computer gaming medium is constructed around a currency of lives, which can be earned and lost in the process of the completion of the game through the avoidance of losing. In the moments before the screen flashes “game over,” we enter a symbolic state “between two deaths,” which Slavoj Žižek describes as the gap “between the death in which I lose one of my lives and the ultimate death in which I lose the game itself.” This fantasy structure in which the player can survive multiple deaths, so long as the final death is averted, is centered on the desire to complete the game. Jacques Lacan tells us that “man’s desire is the desire of the Other,” and in the case of computer games it is the computer itself that takes on the role of “big other” by imposing its own desires as our own and by dictating the objectives and tasks that must be completed in order to win the game. This big other is the imaginary construct of an external power whose desires we presuppose and take for our own in an attempt to please this authoritative or paternal being, person or institution. Thus, for Lacan, our own desire becomes what we think the other wants us to desire. Through establishing a series of tasks to complete under the threat of losing, or “dying,” the computer game medium becomes a big other by enforcing rules that structure players’ desires and predetermine our possible modes of living and dying in digital space.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalMedia Fields Journal
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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