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Digra 2017 keynote Playing Alternative Histories Mukherjee

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Digra keynote

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Digra 2017 keynote Playing Alternative Histories Mukherjee

  1. 1. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra ‘Darmok’, Season 5 Episode 2, Star Trek: The Next Generation No, I’m not insane (yet). It’s not the jet-lag. Or a virus-corrupted slideshow.
  2. 2. Postcolonialism, History and Videogames Playing Alternative Histories
  3. 3. What history? Whose history? Perhaps in the future there will be some African history to teach; But at present there is none … Africa has no history! Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of the successive intruders India’s history is a highly interesting portion of British History
  4. 4. Colonial Cybertypes: Indians are just Indians! Consider, for example, the history of India as told by Age of Empires 3 which has Brahmin healers riding elephants and an infantry comprised of Rajputs, Gurkhas, and Sepoys. For those not familiar with Indian culture and history, this can be misleading: the Sepoy, unlike the Rajput and the Gurkha, is not an ethnic community but the standard name for a soldier in the East India Company’s time. Finally, elephants were traditionally used by the warrior class or the Kshatriyas; Brahmins, or the priestly class, would seldom be seen near them
  5. 5. Colonial Cybertypes : ‘Virtual UnAustralia’ One of the more controversial aspects of Europa Universalis II, which contributes to Australia’s popularity as a destination for colonization, is the ease with which the ‘natives’ may be either exterminated or assimilated. […] This native population is assimilated into the colony once it has become a certain size, and the natives automatically become productive citizens in the economic output of the colonies’ economy. A peaceable native population can be easily assimilated to create a large thriving colony without having to allocate troops to protect the colonists. Australia is a desirable colony in the game because it has a large and peaceful native population. However, trying to set up a colony or even a trading post in a province that has large and aggressive native population will often lead to the extermination of the colonists. This can be prevented by stationing the colony with troops, as even the weakest colonizing troops can usually defeat a large native army. - (Tom Apperley ‘Virtual UnAustralia: Videogames and Australia’s Colonial History’ 2006).
  6. 6. E.H Carr – ‘idle parlour games’ E.P. Thompson – ‘unhistorical shit’ Johan Huizinga – ‘The historian must [...] constantly put himself at a point in the past at which the known factors will seem to permit different outcomes. If he speaks of Salamis, then it must be as if the Persians might still win; if he speaks of the coup d'état of Brumaire, then it must remain to be seen if Bonaparte will be ignominiously repulsed.’ Stephen Weber – ‘raise tough questions about things we think we know and […] suggest unfamiliar or uncomfortable arguments about things we had best consider’ Niall Ferguson – ‘those which are essentially the products of imagination but (generally) lack an empirical basis; and those designed to test hypotheses by (supposedly) empirical means, which eschew imagination in favour of computation’ (on videogames such as Civ and Empire Earth): ‘a crude caricature of the historical process’ Tom Apperley – ‘Europa Universalis II provides scope for players to articulate and explore their counterfactual imaginary.’ Adam Chapman – ‘These games’ function as counterfactual history is not entirely self-contained […] there are still historiographical expectations that are more problematic.’ Counterfactual History and Historians
  7. 7. In Which Civilization is deeply hurtful to me: Counterfactuality and the Persistence of Colonial Stereotypes. - Luke Plunkett in Kotaku.com, 2014 In later games this bug was obviously not an issue, but as a tribute/easter egg of sorts, parts of his white-hot rage have been kept around. In Civilization V, for example, while Gandhi’s regular diplomatic approach is more peaceful than other leaders, he’s also the most likely to go dropping a-bombs when pushed. (Plunkett 2014) [A]larming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor. (Winston Churchill 1931)
  8. 8. Reverse colonialism in the Maratha victory over Europe: the code pure and simple is the fetishization of the imperial perspective. The SAME LOGIC as THEIRS!
  9. 9. Enter Postcolonial History (re)Writing: The Nationalist and the Subaltern 1. Nationality, nationalism. nativism: the progression is, I believe, more and more constraining. In countries like Algeria and Kenya one can watch the heroic resistance of a community partly formed out of colonial degradations, leading to a protracted armed and cultural conflict with the imperial powers, in turn giving way to a one-party state with dictatorial rule. (Edward Said 1994) 2. Subaltern historiography involves ‘focusing on their blind-spots, silences and anxieties, these historians seek to uncover the subaltern's myths, cults, ideologies and revolts that colonial and nationalist elites sought to appropriate and conventional historiography has laid to waste by their deadly weapon of cause and effect’ (Gyan Prakash 1992).
  10. 10. Bhagat Singh (Mitashi 2002) was a first-person shooter in the style of Doom and instead of fighting monsters, the player would be shooting British colonial police officers.
  11. 11. Explanation of the narrative discontinuity between Nusantara Online's cutscene and the game itself lies in understanding the cutscene as a unit operation of "playable" nationalism and disregarding its incongruity with the game's narrative progression. The cutscene's narrative of invasions, as a unit operation, metaphorically indicates the colonial domination that threatens the formation of an ideal Nusantara in the game realm. (Iskandar Zulkarnain 2014)
  12. 12. The hero of the game, Enzo Kori-Odan, is the ruler of Zama - a diverse country free of an imperialist past but now threatened by a coup. The story centers around Enzo and his wife Erine, and their fight to regain the throne. The hero's power comes from the collective energy of his ancestors, a force known as the Aurion. (Patel 2016) We have an advantage with our colonial past, in that we can relate to people from different countries. (Madibe Olivier, developer of Aurion)
  13. 13. Subaltern History Subaltern historiography necessarily entailed (a) a relative separation of the history of power from any universalist histories of capital, (b) a critique of the nation-form, and (c) an interrogation of the relationship between power and knowledge (hence of the archive itself and of history as a form of knowledge). (Dipesh Chakraborty 2000)
  14. 14. Playing Beyond the Archive(able): 80 Days There are also times we use fantasy to enable us to tell the kind of story we wanted to be able to tell, to redress some of the colonialism, sexism and racism of the period. If you’re inventing a world, why not make it more progressive? Why not have women invent half the technologies, and pilot half the airships? Why not shift the balance of power so that Haiti rather than barely postbellum United States is ascendant in the region? Why not have a strong automaton-using Zulu Federation avert the Scramble for Africa? Why not have characters who play with gender and sexuality without fear of reprisal? History is full of women, and people of colour, and queer people, and minorities. That part isn’t fantasy - the fantastical bit in our game is that they’re (often but not always) allowed to have their own stories without being silenced and attacked. That their stories are not told as if they’re exceptional. (Meg Jayanth 2014)Inkle Studios 2013.
  15. 15. Playing Beyond the Archive(able): Sîochân Leat (aka The Irish Game) “You’re playing the Irish,” she said. “You’ve already lost.” A successful game meant that we lost the fewest amount of game pieces possible—each piece represented thousands of Irish people. The game began with each square of the board holding two game pieces, one green figure and one white figure. During each turn, we placed an orange cube that represented Cromwell’s army into one of the spaces, thus displacing the Irish people (game pieces) onto other squares. Each square could hold up to four figures, which demonstrated the tale of the Irish losing their land and huddling together in increasingly crowded areas. If no free spaces remained, we placed the Irish figures off to one side of the board. These figures, Brenda explained, would be shipped to Barbados to serve as slaves. [...] I wondered about how many families split up, how many lost parents or children to slavery, and whether the English officers felt any remorse for their actions. (Shannon Symonds 2013) Brenda Romero 2009. The game is exhibited at The Strong Museum of Play, NY. It was a measure beneficial tthey said to Ireland which was thus relieved of a population that might trouble the Planters it was a benefit to the people removed who might thus be made English and Christians and a great benefit to the West India sugar planters who desired the men and boys for their bondmen and the women and Irish girls in a country where they had only Maroon women and Negresses [sic] to solace them. (J.P. Prendergast The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland 1868)
  16. 16. Set in an alternate reality post-colonial India, the story follows a search for the mythical city of Kayamgadh. According to the game’s lore: “People of Kayamgadh do not speak. They are afraid that their words might penetrate the layers under which their bodies are hidden. […] As a comment on post-colonial nationalism, Rituals reveals that fictions construct the reality around us, while its mechanics show that other people’s fictions can infect one’s own sense of self. (Jess Joho, KillScreen, 2014) Playing Somewhere Beyond the Archive(able)
  17. 17. Playing Alternative Histories The historian must [...] constantly put himself at a point in the past at which the known factors will seem to permit different outcomes. If he speaks of Salamis, then it must be as if the Persians might still win; if he speaks of the coup d'état of Brumaire, then it must remain to be seen if Bonaparte will be ignominiously repulsed. - Johan Huizinga, “The Idea of History.” 1973. Postcolonialism, History and Videogamese-mail:souvik.eng@presiuniv.ac.in tweet: @prosperoscell https://tinyurl.com/gamepoco

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