Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS)

Tim Jordan: Zero Hit Points and Information Politics

Tim Jordan, University of Sussex
November 25, 2014

The moment when an avatar 'dies' in an online multiplayer game will be examined as a moment of information politics. The talk will first explore what this 'dieing' means and what kinds of inter-secting politics can be found in it. Several moments of death in massive-multiplayer online games will be compared both in terms of visual references and gameplaying meaning. It will be noted that all such moments are as much moments of resurrection as they are of 'death' because they are always moments when zero hit points is translated into full hit points for the avatar. This moment will be seen as a key informational moment, involving recursing information to the game and of satisfying various networks and protocols that define the game, that connect to a politics around the common theme of games as means of avatars 'killing' other avatars. This will be connected to Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter's critique of games as being dominated by a 'militarised masculinity'. This will be examined in relation to the way games implement stereotyped and extreme racial and gender characteristics in relation to visual and aural representations but also trivialise the importance of race and gender in gameplay. This both essentialises gender and race while rendering it irrelevant to gameplay. This critical analysis will be complicated by the demand from such games that players play with others and form social groups, ensuring all games are not only about killing but also about co-operating. What this means for the critique of games as 'militarised masculinities' will be discussed. Following this case study, the idea of an 'information politics' will be focused on and explored. This exploration will propose two parts to understanding the idea of an information politics that is exemplified by the discussion of death in gaming. First the idea of an information politics as one political antagonism in a field of several such antagonisms will be explored. Second, it will be proposed that the nature of information politics as an antagonism can be understood as being constituted by the three inter-linked dynamics of recursion, devices and networks-protocols.