We will all be presenting at this year’s PCA/ACA national conference this week in Boston.
Check out our abstracts and show up if you are interested.
Pitching the Pitch’s Pitch: The Hyperreal Aesthetics of Sports Video Games
In his Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard posits that “the real is no longer what it was,” and that simulation is “a strategy of the real, of the neoreal and the hyperreal.” Sports video games have often been labeled “sports simulations,” but they are hardly games that simply simulate sport–competition with rules played by players. Rather, they are games that simulate sports–institutions of exhibited competition that connect to geography, history, and economy. Sports is a transmedia product for fans in which the game that is played–on a field, in a cage, or on a pitch–is only a single part of the reality of the “game” that becomes the video game.
Sports video games do not—and perhaps should not—simply represent the experience of playing a professional sport at a pro-player-level. Instead, they offer a remediated experience of sports culture consumption. Sports video games rarely place the player fully in an embodied position within the game world, rather the aesthetic elements—largely centered around the television broadcast, but also including the use of pop music and non-diegetic gameplay elements—situate the player as a viewer-god who with control of the outcome of team, yet never taking them out of their comfort zone. In playing a sports video game, a player pays at watching—and controlling—the experiences of consuming “sports.” Using theories from sound, visual, game, and consumer studies, this paper will examine how the sports game genre’s aesthetics affect the player and the innovations of the genre.
Failing to Satisfy: Craving Moral Dilemmas in The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games, the first book in a trilogy by author Suzanne Collins, is intended to engage the reader in a dialogue about the consequences of war. In order to achieve this end, it is set in the post-apocalyptic landscape of Panem. Though the genre invites discussions of morality and amorality, these issues are only superficially addressed throughout Collins’ novel. In acclamatory reviews, the heroine Katniss Everdeen is lauded as memorable for her attempts to do the right thing in the face of insurmountable opposition; she is inscribed with agentic power. In contrast, I argue that her character relies too heavily on passive inaction and thereby avoids most moral dilemmas that arise, evoking questions about Collins’ choice to set the story in a post-apocalyptic world. By over-emphasizing the reality TV genre, the theme of violence and its relation to morality are weakened in order to accentuate ideas about popular entertainment and romance instead. This positions Katniss not as a strong and self-reliant female lead, but as the all-too-familiar passive heroine who is ultimately saved through her inaction and her lack of engagement with moral conundrums. This presentation seeks to address what kind of childhood is best projected through the character of Katniss, and how a post-apocalyptic landscape plays into that figuration.
Meta(l)textual Madness – Exploring the Transcendence of H.P. Lovecraft’s Horror in Extreme Music
In a 2004 interview with Arthur magazine, famed comic writer and self-described shaman Grant Morrison suggests other shamanic authors, including H.P. Lovecraft. Morrison states that Lovecraft was too terrified of the visions that he experienced to gain shamanic knowledge. But, this implies an interpretation of Lovecraft as one negotiating with the unknown, perhaps explaining the richness of his texts.
The shaman is one who is connected to both spiritual and natural worlds and thus the narratives produced by them express that duality. Adaptions of Lovecraft’s works have proven difficult to impossible, but many have focused entirely on content, as opposed to his dark aesthetic. Australia’s avant-garde death metal band Portal works with the narratives of Lovecraft, but in non-traditional adaptions.
When seen in public, the band is cloaked in black costumes, obfuscating their human forms. Their music is harsh to the ear, bombarding the listener with lengthy tracks of extremely low tones of monoaural assault. This juxtaposition between representations of human/inhuman are solidified by the music itself – the audience sees that there are instruments present, but noise of the band is wholly unrecognizable. There is immense technicality as we watch the human hands of the black forms manipulate the necks of guitars and basses, but the sound is a deep non-Euclidian blur, causing a rift between visual perceptions of performance, the knowledge of the music’s existence, and the new realities that have been horrifyingly thrust upon witnesses.