• Subcultural Style and Splatoon

    That cycle of subcultural packaging, sale, consumption, dissipation, and renewal is endemic to subcultural growth and transformation. This cycle is discussed by Ryan Moore (2010) and Dylan Clark (2003), particularly in reference to how punk has died again and again at the hands of mass culture, only to be continuously reborn. In part, this has to do with how easily the materials of everyday life can be made into subcultural signifiers. For punk, it could be as simple as a safety pin or as elaborate as a liberty-spiked mohawk. For hip-hop, it could be anything from an oversized shirt or a pair of limited edition sneakers. The meaning is all in how something is worn, in how it is used. It also springs from what is readily, materially available in post-industrial society.

  • Room to Reflect

    This gets to the second part of the book that is instructive for this essay: the deep integration of meritocratic tenets into games. I believe video games are now an actualized meritocracy, where players are consistently exposed to design and narrative features that are predicated on celebrating a combination of skill and hard work. Although meritocracy may seem both timeless and good, it’s actually a relatively recent phenomenon that dates to the 1950s. The author, Michael Young, who popularized the term did so in a critique, intending for us to reject it largely because it ignored structural factors. As merit was more widely celebrated by technocrats, Young wrote about how he believed we were on the wrong path, one that only seemed right because it celebrates those of us at the top, teaching us to think about how we earned it, rather than consider the advantages and lucky breaks that helped us get to where we are. Research on merit and the benefits of structural advantages have shown the ideology turns people into jerks, systematically ignores issues of privilege, and that it has so infiltrated the way that we think that meritocratic cues prompt us to defend the status quo.

  • Ritual of the Moon

    In her book Touching Feeling, queer theorist Eve Sedgewick details what she sees as two forms of analysis: paranoid reading and reparative reading. Paranoid reading is the most common form of critique. Heather Love describes it as “grim, single-minded, self-defeating, circular, reductive, hypervigilant, scouringly thorough, contemptuous, sneering, risk-averse, cruel, monopolistic, and terrible” (2011, p.237). Reparative reading, on the other hand, is a less suspicious mode of critique that focuses on healing queer wounds rather than simply pointing out more insidious forms of oppression. It is “multiplicity, surprise, rich divergence, consolation, creativity, and love” (Love, 2011, p.237). Reparative reading is a form of academic creation where the emphasis is on finding forms of healing and reparation rather than the seemingly endless mode of finding more things to be depressed about. This is not to say that paranoia is never necessary. Amelioration will always inflict some harm. The good and the bad are not ever divisible. A way to fully utilize reparative reading is to embrace the possibility of hard, difficult, and unwanted feelings. Criticism, paranoia, and refusal are part of self-defence, protection, and healing. Reparative reading might tend towards utopian dreaming, but utopian dreaming is a useful for political change.

    Cvetkovich (2007, 2012) is inclusive of the transformative possibilities of bad feelings. Though carefully not ‘looking on the bright side’ of depression, she relates the experience of depression to being ‘stuck’ whereas creativity is associated with movement. If depression is a block or an impasse, Cvetkovich suggests the way to deal with it might lie in forms of flexibility and creativity. Creativity is a form of movement; sometimes it moves forward, sometimes sideways, and sometimes even backward. I want to move Sedgewick’s idea of reparative reading towards an alternative form of knowledge production: art practice. I propose that reparative art is a method to work through difficult feelings but is also a method to stay in them as long as they need to be felt. Sometimes the work is to bring out difficult feelings. Reparative art is not a way to move on from or be cured of mental illness, psycho-social disability, or the states in need of healing, but actually a mode of staying in them. Sometimes that means moving around in them, sometimes being stuck in them.

  • Should You Pull?

    Most players of mobile games intimately understand the economic model of the Japanese “gachapon” (ガチャポン), even if they are not familiar with the term. Generally speaking, a “gachapon,” (or gashapon ガシャポン, gacha ガチャ, or gachagacha ガチャガチャ) is a coin-operated toy vending machine. Many of us have likely spent our quarters in similar machines as children, accumulating an eclectic array of bouncy balls, stickers, and other cheap goods in the lobbies of supermarkets around the world. The Japanese term derives from onomatopoeia for two distinct sounds: the “gacha,” or the sound of turning the crank of the machine, followed by the “pon,” or the sound of the toy dropping down into the receptacle. It is a blind process, but the graphic advertisement on the front of the machine allures us with the promise of possible rewards. […] This essay briefly explores the intersections between the history of the machines as socio-cultural objects and the use of gachapon mechanics in virtual play.