Some Theory for Game Class


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Some Theory for Game Class

  1. 1. For today, I had you read a piece by French theorist Michel de Certeau. De Certeau is famous for the concepts of “strategies” and “tactics,” but this particular piece looks at something I think he dwells on that is far, far more important to our lives : practicing things into being. To understand precisely what he means, however, you have to relax your own sense of what “being” or “reality” means and you likewise have to nuance your sense of what “practice” means.
  2. 2. Michel de Certeau isn’t really someone we’d place in game studies. He’s a theorist, with methods drawing from philosophy, social sciences, and history. His interests focus on how we operate in our daily lives. He’s also very, very French, and French scholars loooove to think around a central point.
  3. 3. I know, right?
  4. 4. Try this one:
  5. 5. “First, if it is true that a spatial order organizes an ensemble of possibilities (e.g., by a place in which one can move) and interdictions (e.g., by a wall that prevents one from going further), than the walked actualizes some of these possibilities. In that way, he makes them exist as well as emerge. But he also moves them about and he invents others, since the crossing, drifting away, or improvisation of walking privilege, transform, or abandon spatial elements.”
  6. 6. “The same is true of stories and legends that haunt urban space like superfluous or additional inhabitants. They are the object of a witch-hunt, by the very logic of the techno-structure. But [the extermination of proper place names] (like the extermination of trees, forests, and hidden places in which such legends live) makes the city a 'suspended symbolic order.' The habitable city is thereby annulled. Thus, as a woman from Rouen put it, no, here 'there isn't any place special, except for my own home, that's all...There isn't anything.' Nothing 'special': nothing that is marked, opened up by a memory or a story, signed by something or someone else. Only the cave of the home remains believable, still open for a certain time to legends, still full of shadows. Except for that, according to another city-dweller, there are only 'places in which one can no longer believe in anything.”
  7. 7. “Far from being writers—founders of their own place, heirs of the peasants of earlier ages now working on the soil of language, diggers of wells and builders of houses— readers are travellers; they move across lands belonging to someone else, like nomads poaching their way across fields they did not write, despoiling the wealth of Egypt to enjoy it themselves.”
  8. 8. So what’s de Certeau trying to tell us? Here’s my tl;dr version: Places exist because we practice them into being, we know they should be there and hence we, through the use of space, insure their existence. This leaves us to ponder the question: is anyplace anything if we don’t USE it?