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Gestures are at the heart of cooking: cooks draw on embodied routines to produce food, and that production is itself seen as a gesture: of love, of competency, of self-expression. Gestures are also at the heart of the Cooking Mama series of games for the Nintendo DS handheld console: the player taps the screen to chop carrots, drags ingredients from benchtop to bowl, and describes circles with the stylus to mix ingredients together.
This paper examines the encoding of gesture into Cooking Mama. It argues that Cooking Mama is well situated for assessing the place of code in our life with media. It raises concerns about the encoding of techniques into an ever-finer array of technologies, and a simultaneous expansion of gaming into ever-wider arenas of everyday life. These games are situated within a history of cultural technologies through a reading of Luce Giard, in which the cybernetic flavour of Giard’s conception of knowledge and routine is enhanced. They also need to be understood, however, in context of the Nintendo DS platform and its specific affordances of touch and gesture. An analysis of the design and operation of the DS’s touchscreen interface complicates divisions between gesture and signal, and between bodily routines and computational codes. At the same time, the dependency of code upon an executor, whether human or non-human, complicates questions of determinacy.
Bringing together a platform analysis of the DS interface with culturalist accounts of practice and habit, I hope to show the usefulness of Cooking Mama for thinking of our life in and with media. The term “gestural economy,” ported from phonetics discourses, is proposed to account at once for the formal simplicity of Cooking Mama’s gestures and their abstraction from the familiar routines of everyday life.