Video Games and Culture of Laughter

Discussion on Games games as an alternate form of the expression of the carnivalesque.

Tue Apr 25th 2017 at 19:00
Malta, University of Malta, Tal-Qroqq, Msida, Msida

Event Details

Join us for our April game lecture, with Tomasz Majkowski talking about how games are not unique in their use of humorous --- one could say immature --- themes, but instead are a continuation, a resurface or an alternate form of the expression of the carnivalesque.

Game Lectures are free and open to the public, so everyone is welcome to bring along any friends or colleagues that might be interested in the topic. The talk starts at 7:00 PM and is scheduled for an hour, followed by some time for informal conversations with the speaker and the attendees.

The topic and summary of the April 2017 Game Lecture follows:

"Video Games and Culture of Laughter"

There is tendency video game studies to describe games as something of recent origin: XX-century phenomenon, connected to the “new media” and the rise of digital technology. Such approach tends to contrast video games and older culture forms, expose their unique, unprecedented features, and asks for new ways to understand them. The same intellectual stance results in the metaphor of maturity, that describes early games and game culture as childish and immature and demands – or at least hopes – for them to grow up and reach stage of social responsibility, productivity and gravity.

Although such theoretical and rhetorical approach seems valid and important, my aim is almost opposite. During this talk I’d like to show possibilities of connecting video games and gaming culture to the phenomenon centuries, or even millennia old – the culture of laugher, as described by XX-century scholar Russian, Miklail Bakhtin. This popular undercurrent of the Western civilization contrasts and opposes official culture of seriousness and can be expressed by various forms and means, replacing each other as time goes by, and society, technology and culture transforms. Although varied is style and substance, such “laughter genres” can be identified by several common traits, related to their internal “carnivalesqe worldview”: they are prone to parody, employ grotesque as main aesthetics, tend to be offensive (if not outright blasphemous) and create world upside-down, where everything low is exalted. 

During the talk I will argue that most of those traits can be found within contemporary video games and that so-called “immaturity” can be also understood as the expression of the carnivalesque. This way the rise of gaming culture and its idiosyncrasies can be described in relation to large frame of the laughter culture.

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