Keynote: Playing Games: Hegemony as Enemy (ED-MEDIA 2008)

In the first keynote of ED-MEDIA 2008, Alan Amory, Professor of Education at the University of Johannesburg spoke on Playing Games: Hegemony as Enemy. The talk was deliberately provocative, with a number of game and movie trailers with nudity and profanity — part of the goal “to make the audience uncomfortable”.

He showed the trailer to Memento, a neo-noir crime thriller where viewers need to piece together the story in a detective-like fashion. The film is about memory, masculinity and violence, where maleness is constantly asserted as hegemonic.

He then discussed globalisation and how free trade agreements are really tools for more powerful Western governments to dominate markets that involve weaker countries. How behind the diplomacy, and stock market deals, and oil trades that affect the world, usually are men — power hungry men.

The highest grossing video game of 2007, Halo 3, is essentially about the Rapture, as celebrated by Christian Fundamentalism. The game is riddled with classic Christian good vs evil rhetoric (“judgement”, “fire”, “demons”, “Lords”, “the prophet”, “instrument of God”, etc.) Another hugely successful game is BioShock, set in a city called Rapture. The game is about fascism and anti-Science. The designer of the game is deeply concerned about stem cell research and utopias/dystopias as portrayed by Ayn Rand.

Then, Eyes Wide Shut, a film about a man in crisis. An example of sex as portrayed by men in Hollywood: stylised and essentially without depth.

The overall message is how media, including digital games that are today a key aspect of popular culture, are still male-dominated and based on power and economic models from seventeenth century Europe. Media is a vehicle for propaganda, increasingly embellished with violence, nudity, profanity and religious overtones. Do the games that we play, encourage and design re-enforce these stereotypes? And even educational technology, does that reproduce ideological imbalances?

I enjoyed the presentation. Alan took a risk to present in this way and his message asked interesting questions, which will frame my research on games and educational technology going forward.

A snippet of the presentation is on Qik, the new micro-vlogging service where users can upload/stream video taken by their mobile phones (as opposed to the text-based micro-blogging service, Twitter). The podcast of the keynote is also available.

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