Dean for America

It’s an interesting day today: Ian Bogost and Gonzalo Frasca of Water Cooler Games have just released an official sanctioned political (after a fashion) game: the Dean for America Game. In a sense, it’s more about politics as a system than about any political stance per se: while it does convey Dean’s populist sensibilities, it doesn’t (by design, I assume) actually address any platform issues whatsover. However, it does, in a friendly way, portray the grassroots political process as a system. I’ve said before that the emerging game-media’s construction of human subjectivity is fundamentally distinct from that of other media in that it portrays as systems what were previously framed as stories. Usually, when we encounter human systems as systems, there’s a kind of alienating effect – we identify systems as machines, and by that as impersonal, intractable forces not amenable to human agency. We feel more comfortable with the kind of agency we get as characters in stories than as agents in systems. But as we become a population of game-players, that alienation diminishes – perhaps we will see the relentless march towards death in a tragedy as more alienating than interacting with a simulation of a related dilemna. Maybe the most political element of the Dean for America game is the depiction of political agency as an element in a complex system with emergent behaviours.

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