Thursday, March 10, 2011

Synchronicity and a Call for Papers - All Your History Are Belong to Us: The Middle Ages, Medievalism, and Digital Gaming

By Mr. VI

Synchronicity works in funny ways:

I came up with the idea of incorporating Dragon Age 2 into a post on interactivity, incorporation, identity and storytelling. I mentioned this to James and discovered he'd been thinking on ARG's and transmedia projects - you can read some of his thoughts here and listen to an intriguing podcast here on the subject published by the folks who are also publishing the forthcoming Immanence of Myth book.

So this morning, I was cruising through my livejournal friends-list when I came across this:

All Your History Are Belong to Us: The Middle Ages, Medievalism, and Digital Gaming
(more details below after I've finished pontificating)

I know, I know. LJ is so very stone-age, so very Web 1.0 but I love it anyway, even though as writer Warren Ellis says: '[I]t's because LJ is run on steampipes and rubber bands.'

And actually, Warren's a bit of a favourite around here. His epic Transmetropolitan cyberpunk comic series has a main character who seems to have mainlined the Gonzo journalism of the late, great Hunter S Thompson which in turn has inspired the Gonzomentary of the CLARK webseries.

Warren's also no stranger to games either; he wrote the script for the 2001 game Hostile Waters:Antaeus Rising and more recently worked on the storyline for the well known survival horror game Dead Space - which the Call for Papers below actually refers to in terms of 'templarization of history'.

Interestingly enough, I didn't originally intend the remark about LJ to be anything more than a throwaway one - I missed the original reference to Dead Space in the Call, and yet it's there; an acausal connection.

Because here's the thing, narrative doesn't have to flow one single way. As James has already said in his post on time, place and convention of literature:

[O]ur expectations of narrative structure are actually incredibly unnatural. Our cognitive experience is not linear. Someone says something to you. You are reminded of something a few years ago. You wonder about the future. All of these things can happen while you are also walking and other things are happening around you which themselves may have past, present, and future layers occurring simultaneously, again from the perspective of their perception.

Oddly enough, it's just hit me that the protagonist of Dead Space is named Issac Clarke. Which is a bit weird, isn't it? Meaning soaking through everything, in all directions like a blob of jam on a pristine white tablecloth:

'It's very good jam,' said the Queen.
'Well, I don't want any TO-DAY, at any rate.'
'You couldn't have it if you DID want it,' the Queen said. 'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday--but never jam to-day.'
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'
'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'
'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always makes one a little giddy at first--'
'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of such a thing!'
'--but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'
'I'm sure MINE only works one way,' Alice remarked. 'I can't remember things before they happen.'
'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked

Be seeing you.
All Your History Are Belong to Us: The Middle Ages, Medievalism, and Digital Gaming

The Middle Ages remains a vibrant presence in contemporary culture, and while cinematic medievalism has been intensively investigated in the last decade, digital gaming has received relatively little attention despite its widespread cultural impact. For example, the video game market now grosses more domestically than Hollywood, and World of Warcraft boasts more than 12 million monthly paying subscribers (25 million total units). Gaming theory too has seen its share of innovation, and digital technologies are now a regular feature of higher education and cultural studies. Medievalism, in its various guises, has also been the subject of intense scrutiny in anthologies by Anke Bernau and Bettina Bildhauer, Medieval Film (2009); Karl Fugelso, Memory and Medievalism (2007); and David Marshall, Mass Market Medieval Essays on the Middle Ages in Popular Culture (2007). Further, the turn toward speculative medievalisms, object-oriented philosophy, and Actor-Network Theory has initiated new methodologies, raised new questions, and offered new possibilities for understanding actor-actant networks and overcoming the subject-object distinction, all of which enrich our understanding of digital and historical realities and problematize traditional understandings of subjectivity, temporality, and textuality.

A few of the more popular medievally-inflected gaming titles (and series) include:

• Age of Empires: Age of Kings • Diablo • MediEvil
• Arthur: Quest for Excalibur • Dragon Age • Medieval Total War
• Assassin's Creed • Dungeon Siege • Morrowind
• Baldur's Gate • Dynasty Warriors • Oblivion
• Beowulf • Elder Scrolls • Sims Medieval
• Civilization • Fable • Shogun Total War
• Dante's Inferno • Jeanne d'Arc • Stronghold
• Dark Age of Camelot • Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader • Warcraft & World of Warcraft

I am soliciting 500 word proposals for a volume dealing with the Middle Ages, medievalism, and contemporary digital gaming, broadly defined. Some possibilities include:

• Gaming and medieval texts; medieval texts and digital textualities
• Gaming genres (Sword and sorcery/fantasy games, etc.), game types (MMORPG, FPS, RPG, RTS, stealth, survival/horror, etc.), single-player/cooperative/multiplayer games
• Gaming, speculative medievalisms, and counterfactual history
• Gaming, secret societies, arcane religions, and the 'templarization' of history (Dead Space, Mass Effect, and others)
• Gaming, digital sociologies, and electronic epistemologies
• Gaming, object-oriented philosophy, complexity, and Actor-Network Theory
• Gaming, digital communities, and electronic subjectivities
• Gaming, gender, sexuality, class, age; trans-developmental and trans-temporal subjectivities
• Gaming and race and nation; digital orientalism and postcolonialism; space-based societies
• Gaming and cross-platform media (games and/as film tie-ins)
• Gaming and pedagogy
• Gaming, discursive/symbolic violence, and ethics
• Gaming, social simulations, LARPing and LARPers (Live-Action Role Playing & Players)
• Gaming and cheats, glitches, hacks, mods
• Gaming, the academy, medievalism, and generational divides.

Please send your proposals (and any questions) to Dan Kline, University of Alaska, Department of English, 3211 Providence Drive, ADM 101-H, Anchorage, AK 99508 at by May 1, 2011.

Please cross-post freely

Daniel T. Kline, Ph.D.
Professor of English
University of Alaska Anchorage
3211 Providence Drive (ADM 101-H)
Anchorage, Alaska 99508
907-786-4364 |
The Electronic Canterbury Tales:

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.

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