April 7, 2017

Game Lecture: Tomasz Majkowski

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Right after the vacations, we come back on Tuesday 25 April 2017 with a great lecture by Tomasz Majkowski on how the expressions of humor and immaturity in games can be also understood as the expression of the carnivalesque. As usual, the 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 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.

About Tomasz

Tomasz Z. Majkowski: literature and game scholar, with an experience in culture studies. His main areas of interest are relation between video games an Bakhtinian carnivalesque, and postcolonial game studies. He is a head of Game Studies Research Center at Faculty of Polish Studies, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.