Sunday, 31 December 2017

Video games on a psychoanalyst’s couch

The new book "The Playstation Dreamworld" charmingly critiques technology and capitalism through the growing role gaming plays in modern life


How have video games transformed the nature of self? This is one of several points of philosophical inquiry examined in “The Playstation Dreamworld” (Polity, 2017) by Hong Kong-based British author Alfie Bown, a book that charmingly articulates a critical theory of technology and capitalism in the context of technological entertainment.

In contrast to other texts on the subject that are largely uncritical or laudatory in their advocacy of gaming, what’s striking here is an emphasis on caution, drawing the reader’s attention to the anti-progressive aspects of gaming’s propensity to lull players into states of enjoyment that undermine social solidarity in the service of ideology.

The ideology in question here is a form of capitalism defined by cultural neoliberalism’s emphasis on ever-enhancing worker productivity and the emergence of monopolistic tech firms with an ever-greater power to create and organize conceptions of desire. Bown’s book is unambiguous in its political bent, and thankfully so.

Yet, his volume is far from a technophobic or anti-gaming screed. With an incisive eye and an obvious affection for gaming, Bown, an assistant professor of literature at Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Management College, is compelled by the subversive potential for games to function as powerful tools in the service of counter-ideologies amid rapid technological advances and a widening space for independent game developers.

Gaming is no niche subculture. The video games industry boasted a worldwide user penetration rate of 26.1% in 2017 with a projected revenue of US$108.9 billion. Smartphone and tablet gaming, the most lucrative segment, claim 42% of the video games market, piggybacking on the centrality of mobile devices in our lives.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.