Truly stimulating screening of the new FX/Hulu technothriller Devs, and a Q&A with director Alex Garland, as well as executive producers Andrew MacDonald and Allon Reich @UCSC. It was a pleasure to be in conversation with them. Devs was partially filmed on the UCSC campus, and featured the McHenry Library and Quarry Plaza. Garland, who wrote and directed Ex Machina and Annihilation, gives us a fresh vision of the aesthetic richness within which we all work and study—as well as some heady existential propositions.
Thanks to UCI Informatics and organizers, Professors Bo Ruberg and Aaron Trammell, for hosting me on Friday, November 23. I presented my new research on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and its impact on the medium of video games. This research is forthcoming from from Cambridge University Press in a forthcoming anthology edited by Nathan Waddell. [photo credit:
Looking forward to my visit to the UCI Department of Informatics seminar series!
Traces of George Orwell’s critiques of totalitarian society, in both blunt and subtle forms, exist throughout video games. Major themes of dystopia, surveillance culture, technologies of control, authoritarianism, and the oppression of a large underclass exist in innumerable game narratives and environments. Do games like the BioShock series (2007- ), Remember Me (2013), Watch Dogs series (2014- ), We Happy Few (2018), Orwell (2016- ), Inside (2016), and Papers, Please (2013) encourage critical thought around the eventuality of totalitarianism, of which Orwell warned? Or, are these games merely systems in which to practice a kind of entrapment, in which so-called “freedom” may be performed within a medium that is exceedingly ordered in its very constitution?
Through the stories games tell, as well as in the very form of video games, is it even possible to truly stimulate a model of criticality? This chapter proposes that the critical influence of Nineteen Eighty-Four exists not only in video game narratives and the constitution of their navigable spaces, but also in the wide variety of strategies, rule-based systems, rhetorical capacities, ethical problematics and—most importantly—their strategic kinds of failure.