Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hauntological video games

I've been thinking a lot about "hauntology" lately. To use Derrida's definition at the end of history the present becomes oriented towards ideas of the past, creating a sort of murky reflection of what we imagine "once was." There's a natural inclination towards things "rustic, bizarre or 'old-timey'." his Specters of Marx during which he reflects on the persistance of the concept of (utopian) revolution despite its apparent eradication from the scene of politics and history (the book is 'work of mourning' published in the early 90s after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the inaugeration of the 'end of history'). As such the concept of social and political revolution takes on a ghostly aspect - present and not present, eluding the categorical definition of western metaphysics, apparently erased yet still palpable in traces and echoes and uncanny visitations.
In this sense I came to realize that many of my favorite video games growing up shared hauntological qualities by sheer fact of relying on a mythological past while existing in the medium of 2-d electronic entertainment. These games, such as King's Quest IV, Dragon Warrior III & IV, A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy III & IV, ChronoTrigger and Secret of Mana are deeply dependent, both visually and by way of content, upon northern European and (it seems to a much lesser extent) Asian folklore. And this folklore was now being re-communicated via a full-on video game where one could visually immerse themselves in this world completely. Thus, these forgotten worlds that never truly existed "return" to life via the corrupted collective memory of late 20th-century video game designers.*

*I should note that it's doubtful any of these games would exist if it weren't for the popular works of Tolkien and his desire to "recreate" the Anglo-Saxon mythology he imagined was lost due to the Norman invasion.

What is hauntology? [Jahsonic]
Hauntology [Wikipedia]

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:: posted by David, 9:33 AM


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