20 Nov 2014 - 50 Place Zeus (quartier Antigone) Tram : Ligne 1, arrêt Léon Blum Montpellier (France)

call for communication

In video games, the body is central to the experience. Even when it is not represented, as in First Person Shooters for instance, it remains a place of vertigo. This impossible disembodiment assuredly expresses a feeling of loss of control and imbalance. Should the player have the «hand of God" or should he be a third person avatar, he moves in the here and now, through digital devices in a virtual space or an augmented reality. As a real, intimate and alien place, our body is central to our perception of the world. It is through it, with it, that we watch, touch, smell, listen. The body is the familiar and intimate space of our lives. It sometimes is the only witness to certain actions or thoughts otherwise condonable. As Michel Foucault said in «Le Corps utopique", "I can’t move without him, I can’t leave it where it is and go, myself, elsewhere. I could go to the end of the world , I could cringe in the morning under my blankets, make myself as small as I could , let myself burn in the sun on a beach, there it will always be, where I am. It is here, and nowhere else. «And yet, one of the peculiarities of the body with which we are permanently attached is that it often works without our conscious input. As a matter of fact, only pain and dysfunction allows us to recall its presence. When our eyes accidentally capture our reflection in a window or when we discover our expressions and poses on a photograph, we often experience difficulty recognizing ourselves physiologically. Thus we feel intimately connected to our bodies, but its social and aesthetic representation almost entirely escapes us. Hence perhaps our time spent dressing up, being other, carving ourselves to control this reflection. A game's avatar becomes a reflection of this elsewhere, stranger to his own image, yet embedded in everyday cultural practices. In video games, the player plays with his identity and progresses masked to achieve the ultimate dream of a ubiquitous place, where he will finally be another one.

Today's media and video games act as symbolic avatars where are built the models of socialization and our individual identities. As such the individual incorporates, both symbolically and unconsciously, attitudes issued from the prevailing spirit of its inhabited time through singular practices and uses. Henceforth, the stereotypical representations associated with the body configure, discipline and dominate the individual, allowing him new experiences, discoveries and other cognitive and communicational skills. For Michel Foucault, the definition of identity as a set of relationships with others (of varied class, gender, and culture) is crossed and shaped by various hegemonic forms. In cultural studies, these representations are the expression of what is called a soft power. Indeed, «by incorporating these values, from game to game, in all of our lives, these products actively generate consent[1] ". Which invites, methodologically speaking, to consider immediately the links between symbolic forces, where hegemonic values, especially technological ones, are confronted to countercultural values until these one are in turn getting back by the process of speculative, polymorphic, opportunistic capitalism – this hegemonic figure of the contemporary world.


In this way some games like Call of Duty (while they require payment for access) provide possibilities for customizing objects, weapons, accessible spaces, unusual venues for agile players with their credit card. At the heart of player-experience, marketing solicitations are coloring the structure of game mechanics, and, according to financial players, players can acquire a specific eye retina or get access to unpublished areas (Call Of Duty on Xbox 360 using the Kinect device). This hyper rationality increased of the body, is also expressed in the transhuman and posthuman ultimate dream, trying to overcome nature by incorporating the technique in order to achieve immortality (Bioshock, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Minority Report).


In recent years, augmented reality has colonized the familiar gestures and video game action with the arrival of touch and gestural interfaces, video game consoles (Wii and Nintendo DS, Kinect, Microsoft Xbox and Sony Move, PlayStation) and various other technical features such as Leap Motion, tablets and cell phones. Actions unfold and dancing fingers on the keyboard becomes involuntary choreographies in the living room, on the street or becomes sensual caress of singular objects. Copenhagen Game Collective gave us B.U.T.T.O.N (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now) and Magnetize me: these games disguise the social space with meetings and conviviality, and invite players in body contact. At the same time as the body become interfaces, devices leave the screen and grow to be seized. In this way Gigantomachia by One Life Remains or Giant Joystick by Tiltfactory depicts situations of gigantism, wondering the miniaturization of electronic components and the hyperindividualisation of computers-player relationships. In Giant Joystick, Mary Flanagan depicts a giant Joystick such as a phallus, highlighting ironically male hegemony of these practices: players find themselves caressing and embracing the joystick to interact. These intuitive interfaces allow different categories of players to have fun, regardless of their practices. Also parents, grandparents and teenagers can share a play time in which a pleasure of “playing together” seems necessary. The video game is no longer reserved to stereotype hardcore players – adolescent, geek and asocial.

On the Wii Fit, we see women doing fitness activities; we see pensioners in nursing homes enjoying the Wii bowling, or also patients with the physiotherapist rehabilitating themselves with a video game. Everyone seems happy, dynamic and powerful in this gamefull society! However by carrying bodies, these interfaces create psychological discomfort. They force a performative staging, which borrows from smiles with disarray, but which also shows the difference between the canonical and ideal body presents in virtual worlds and visible and material reality. This gap is so important that it is impossible to transfer mechanisms, rhythms and sequences of actions feasible on the keyboard, of video games ‘standards to gestural devices. So if the avatar and the keyboard disappear, the player finds himself in a destabilizing primitive nakedness, where he has to face a virtual and technological space with his own body.

A new kind asserts oneself with these new interfaces: the "slow gaming" close to the concept of "calm computing" by Mark Weiser probably making echo movements such as "slow food" interfaces. In this way the work of Flower That Game Company, offers PlayStation 3 games where the player is either the wind or a flower petal in a poetic walk. Child Of Eden - adaptation of the game Rez - uses the Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360 console in a sweet musical performance that respects the rhythm of human body.

[1] Chomsky N., Herman E., La fabrication du consentement : De la propagande médiatique en démocratie, Agone, 2008.

Scientific axes

This conference's objective is to explore, in a sociocritical way, the representations of the body in the videogame’s images, in the experimental realizations of serious games and in the modes of interaction offered by the new playful devices: tactile, gestural and ubiquitous.



In RIRRA21, at the University Paul Valéry, this symposium is part of the contemporary visual practices program. The specificity of this program is based on a use of a poietic methodology or on the interaction between the plastic practice and theoretical practice. Its inclusion in cultural studies revolves around three major axes:

- Analysis of field gaming (video games from industry and independent emerging trends)

- Analysis of the forms (graphics, game design)

- Analysis of the values conveyed and of the tensions

- Intention of the author and reception of the player.

The poietic methodology uses concepts of sociocriticism by applying it to the analysis of the video game. Edmond Cros’sociocriticism method, born in Montpellier III, takes the liberty of analyzing the social tensions inscribed in artistic works and videogames, unknown to its creators.

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