When Interfaces Interfere: Crashlands, Cancer, and Embodied Gaming

Author:Brian Reed Time:2020-01-13 Click:

Abstract: In Gameworld Interfaces, Kristine Jørgensen maintains that the best interfaces provide an optimal amount of useful information about a gameworld without becoming obtrusive. Video games are, however, complex objects, and sometimes they serve purposes other than entertaining users through facilitating immersive gameplay. They can, for instance, promote educational and aesthetic ends that are not inhibited but advanced by making an interface the focus of player attention. This essay offers one example of a game that cannot be fully appreciated by prioritizing efficient interface design. Sam Coster first conceived the broad outlines of Butterscotch Shenanigans’s Crashlands after being diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. The game, as finally released, is partially a statement about and in response to “all the bone pain, chemo nausea, anxiety, depression, stab wounds, tape rips and hair loss” that he endured. More specifically, by occasionally and obstructively spotlighting the physical, fleshly contact between a player, a screen, and an imagined landscape, it explores the problem of embodiment in video games. Crashlands teaches the phenomenological lesson that a body’s boundaries are not so easily transcended. As the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty would put it, players’ “flesh” necessarily provides the medium through which they gain access to and inhabit a gameworld. In other words, you take your body with you, sick or healthy, even when voyaging to another planet.

Keywords: video game studies, interface, medicine, embodiment, phenomenology

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