Friday, August 26, 2011

The Cave, unpacked: part 1

I’ve been searching for a way to use this blog, where I’ve done so much that I’m proud of, as something other than an adjunct to what I’m doing as part of the team at playthepast. The difficulty is that the mission of playthepast is a superset of the mission with which I founded this blog, and there’s not a single thing that I’d post there that wouldn’t be appropriate here, either on the scholarship (how Homer and Plato can help us figure out what’s going on with games in the modern world) or on the pedagogy (how Homer and Plato can help us figure out how games can serve as an engine for educational reform) side.

On the other hand, I don’t feel as constrained here at Living Epic to avoid my tendency to formulate things abstrusely, and so as of today I’m undertaking the experiment of taking my recent string of posts about Plato’s cave (which are in fact mostly rewritings of posts originally made here) and unpacking them further, and more obscurely, here.

The posts at playthepast are written to bring the arc of my scholarly project into close contact with my pedagogical one. They pick up from the scholarly foundation I’ve built over the past seven years of the analogy between the form of practomime called homeric epic and the form called narrative videogame, and move through the scholarly edifice I’ve been building on it since 2008, of the way Plato’s reaction to homeric epic can help us contextualize videogames’ role in modern culture. From there, in recent weeks, the playthepast posts have turned towards applying the blueprints of that edifice to the building of learning practomimes like the ones on which my UConn team and I are at work.

At any rate, I want to start with the post that makes the turn to Plato. It starts like this:
This post takes us from homeric epic to a key moment of its reception in classical Athens, Plato. In it, I cover ground I’ve also covered in print, in a chapter in the collection Ethics and Game Design.
The first thing to say is that although I like my chapter in Ethics and Game Design very much, I’ve managed to move beyond it in the past year: in the chapter I manage to say, pretty much, “Plato tells us that mimesis only teaches when it gets interrupted the way Bioshock interrupts itself”; now, in these posts, I’m capable of saying also two more things, “I know how to interrupt mimesis to make that learning happen” and “I know how to analyze, and learn from, videogame mimesis when it doesn’t get interrupted.”

The former of those things is the basis of the practomimetic curricula we’re working on at UConn; the latter is the basis of my current work on the digital narrative videogame, which to this point comprises my analysis of BioWare’s epic style and will I hope soon also comprise analyses of the Bethesda, Bungie, and Square Enix styles.

So that kind of thing is my idea for Living Epic going forward. If you have a strong feeling about it’s worth or lack thereof, I’m pretty easy to find on social media these days, and I love both thoughtful conversation and bruising intellectual brawls.