María Rubio Méndez
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Identidad y simulacro

  Resumen del artículo para el Congreso Internacional Philosophy and Videogames celebrado en Atenas en abril de 2011.

 

 

IDENTITY AND SIMULACRUM: THANK YOU MARIO, BUT YOUR IDENTITY IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE

 


María Rubio Méndez
Eurídice Cabañes Martínez

 

 

Identity and Conceptions of the Self

 

The videogames transgress – in the majority of cases unknowingly or while attempting to reproduce – the different conceptions of the identities found throughout the History of Philosophy (3). Videogames set forth a new type of identity, consciously created that, unlike the presumed essential identity, can always be transgressed, dismantled and put back together. This presumed essential identity has carried enormous problems and philosophical contradictions, like social conceptions that given rise to discriminatory politics; racist, sexist and classist. We propose five simulacra that operate in videogames and open the path to spaces for the experimentation and creation of identities. An analysis of, and experimentation with these simulacra could lead us to new conceptions of the self, outside the context of videogames, that will allow us to imagine emancipatory social structures and policies.

 

FIRST SIMULACRUM: INSERT COIN (EXISTENCE AND ITS MEANING)

 

Different videogames assume part of the cosmologies that try to give an answer to the question of origin, using it as a model for their identities and the universe of its characters: we can see Mario confronting evil in a theological universe as a hero in a Greek tragedy or we can play Silent Hill without knowing who we are with little more protection that the dim light of a lantern. The player, however, like Haraway’s cyborg, (2), knows that their origin is nonessential, totally artificial and malleable, which produces in his conscience a doubt concerning their sense of self sense of oneself: their identification is with a character that is inessential and arbitrary but cannot be destroyed if we want the game to continue.

 

SECOND SIMULACRUM: THE AVATAR (DENATURALISATION OF THE BODY)

 

In the tangle of social relations and in our self conception, the body appears as a solid ground within which to plant the identity like an immovable pillar of the self. The transformations of the body seem as if they are moulding an essential substrate that remains natural. In the videogame, the relationship between the player and their avatar could be easily assimilated as a simulacrum of essentiality: the pact that we establish with the corporal dimensions of the avatar can not only be transgressed, but also created unconsciously and therefore becomes nonessential. The simulacrum can cross the screen and engulf the body itself. The simulated essentiality of the avatar denounces our own contingent corporeality, the idea that constitutes the praxis of contemporary philosophy, where the body becomes a cultural product and can no longer be understood as a neutral biological act: the obsolete categories natural/artificial, body/mind have been transgressed.

 

THIRD SIMULACRUM: THE INTERFACE (ME-MEANINGS, PLAYER’S ONTOLOGY)

 

If we eliminate the body as the interface with the world we are left with the senses, language and interpretative activity. Therefore, if ‘the world changes along with our interfaces’ (5) we have the inalienable capacity to create different virtual realities both for the real world and our own identity. In this context, videogames constitute a magnificent space of experimentation since the interface of the simulacrum suspends all those truths whose legitimacy is based on reality. Disrobing ourselves of categories and systems of truth sustained by reality in order to dress ourselves in the different costumes of the game of simulacrum, we discover that our own reality is only another mask. We are no longer essential, because we never were: identity is no longer fixed and immutable and becomes mobile, changeable, nomad, multiple and plural, open to all the possibilities of being.

 

FOURTH SIMULACRUM: SAVE (MEMORY and TRY AGAIN)

 

Our past is fixed and immobile and seems to find its place in memory as the principal element for the cohesion of identity. The videogame, at least in its traditional format, offers us the possibility to transgress the past, return to a previous state to alter it and experience all the possible worlds where our decisions might have lead us. The simulated experience of memory in the videogame comforts our Faustian appetite; it is a simulacrum of our sense of identity based on memory that transgresses the principle lineal temporality and, yet, maintains the cohesion of identity.

 

THE LAST SIMULACRUM: GAME OVER

 

Death in the game (game over) returns us into the world, although we always have the possibility of inserting another coin and coming back. In case of continuing play, we can experience the death of the avatar without consequences. But the simulacrum cannot be perpetual; the immersion would appear to end with ‘game over’ – simulacrum of the death of the ‘self-gamer’. The ‘self-gamer’, however, invades the cognitive structures of flesh and bones ‘my-self’. The game, despite ‘game over’, has not finished.

 

METAMORPHOSIS OR THE END OF SIMULACRUM

“Tell me the truth, are we still in the game?" Allegra Geller in eXistenZ

 

 

 

The reflexion that takes place in the experience of playing does not disappear when switching the console off, rather it persists in reality modifying it, since it modifies ourselves and our perception. Once the virtual nature of reality is unveiled, we are left to rebel against the virtual realities that attempt to pass themselves as real. This requires a reflexive questioning of any dogmas that impose themselves on us, ridding ourselves of the signifiers that weigh us down, shaking from our bodies every dogmatic discourse and continually generating interpretations, virtual realities, being aware of their virtuality, revising and constantly modifying them; becoming nomadic experimenters, wandering in the places of the subjectification where to rebel against reality means to take on the task of generating it.

 

 

References:

 

(1) Gergen, K. J: El yo saturado, Paidós, Barcelona, 1992.

 

(2) Haraway, D., Ciencia, cyborgs y mujeres, Madrid, Cátedra, 1995.

 

(3) Heidegger, M., Ser y tiempo, Madrid, Trotta, 2003.

 

(4) Pimentel, K, y Texeira, K. (1992) Virtual Reality. Through the New Looking Glass, Intel/McGraw-Hill New York.; 2ªEdic.1995, 438 págs.

(5) Weibel, Peter, “El mundo como interfaz”, Elementos, 40, 2000, pp 23-33

 



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