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Memory

Insufficient

Games history ezine

Volume two

Issue nine Discipline and games history March 2015


Discipline and Issue nine games March 2015 history Volume two

Contents Editorial

Zoya Street

Go to jail Monopoly and the preservation of theme John Osborne Role-play police Who watches the town watch? Miriam Oudin The body of the condemned Martial discipline Amsel von Spreckelsen Between measured footsteps Kaitlin Tremblay


Edited Zoya Street by

Editorial Zoya Street

@rupazero

Editor, writer and historian Zoya Street is the founder of Memory Insufficient, Editor-in-Chief at Silverstring Media, and is studying for a PhD in Sociology at the University of Lancaster.

The player, like any noble consumer, is a individual in pursuit of personal liberation. They come to games to experience a freedom that is missing from the material, social world. Yet by their essential nature (as defined by people who do the work of defining the natural essence of things) games should be limiting players’ freedom with complex systems of rules. What does it mean for games to be such a lucrative industry, when the benefit that they provide is not only intangible, but seemingly results from something nobody should want — extra rules being imposed on lives that are already constrained, extra complexity in lives that are already confusing?


The games industry is the business of maintaining a sense of wonder and exploration by laying down restraints; giving people transformative playful experiences by constantly making them aware of what they cannot have. Many games’ players might be hungry for power, but they’re also often gluttons for punishment. Or maybe what we really want to see is something resembling justice. This issue of Memory Insufficient begins with John Osborne outlining the history of Monopoly, a game that rewards players for treating each other with the total disregard for humanity arguably engendered by an unregulated free market — ironically, the game does this through the implementation of a system of rules. He shows how alternative games have imagined how monopolistic behaviour may be punished and reigned in, with the goal of benefitting society as a whole at the cost of individual liberty.

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Miriam Oudin looks at disciplinary forces in RPGs as narrative devices that control player behaviour, and how glitches in the AI can lead to overwrought systems of control. Amsel von Spreckelsen considers how societies are policed, connecting the hyperviolence of Mortal Kombat to the physical spectacle of civil punishment. Finally, Kaitlin Tremblay poetically explores the discipline of bodies in player-character performance in Dishonored. This issue brings home that when we think about rules and about agency, we’re not discussing abstract systems alone — these are powerful forces that make themselves known in bodies, in material relationships, and in social orders. Memory Insufficient is published on a Creative Commons Attribution - Non-commercial NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Go to jail

Monopoly and the preservation of theme John Osborne @jmarquiso

An American living in Cologne, Germany, John Osborne works in television and discusses games on several blogs and podcasts.

Parker Brothers ­— now owned by Hasbro ­— licenses Monopoly in 103 different countries, in 37 different languages. They’ve developed numerous variant versions based on different cities and licenses; Here and Now, ­ a world version; video game adaptations, smartphone adaptations, free-­ to-­play apps, gambling machines, abridged card games and travel versions, a TV game show and a feature film in development. Monopoly became a cash cow for the board game company (as well as its parent), ever since — according to the game’s instruction book ­— a man named Charles Darrow presented the game to Parker Brothers in 1934, saving the company from bankruptcy.


Since then it’s been a global vector for teaching the Capitalist values of competition, self-interest, and a free market. The basic rules are simple, revolving around the buying, selling, and development of land. Several would­-be real estate tycoons enter a city, buying up neighborhoods, and developing land and increasing value (and therefore rent) in order to produce more capital. In addition, the tycoons may purchase utilities such as water and power, as well as railroads. This continues until all but one tycoon declares bankruptcy, leaving that one with a monopoly over land in the city. Monopoly is a game that celebrates capitalism and the competition that fuels it. The game found its way to the United Kingdom in 1935 to John Waddington, Ltd., which would license and print the game throughout most of Europe. The game was popular and well known enough that it would be sent to POWs in the Axis Powers during the WWII. As British Intelligence led operation, the Red Cross would distribute the game to soldiers in POW camps — which also included tools for escape hidden in the boards, and real currency amongst the fake currency. (Waddington, Ltd. was also conscripted to print silk maps for soldiers behind enemy lines,so the operation was already in the right hands). After the War, the Iron Curtain was raised and Soviets would ban the game in Eastern Bloc countries. Still, several home made knock-offs have been found. Even after the ban, the game was popular enough that the State produced their own Communist versions roughly translating to names like “Save and Manage” (The game would be about buying necessary items for a household rather than freely buying up several properties). Eastern Bloc countries would still find versions pirated or copied from Waddington prints.


“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.” - Gordan Gecko, Wall Street. dir. Oliver Stone

The rules teach the Capitalist disciplines of competition, property, and the pursuit of wealth ­—it’s the board game version of Wall Street’s “Greed is Good” speech. In 1973, Parker Brothers sued Professor Ralph Ansprach over his game Anti­Monopoly (Anti­Monopoly, Inc. vs. General Mills Fun Group), proposed to go against the lessons learned from the original game —­that monopolies are desirable ­— the end result of Capitalism being the opposite of a free market. Indeed, the 40 years since the original publication of Monopoly saw the creation of new Anti­Trust initiatives, the New Deal, and some success to alternative socialist economic models. Anti­Monopoly is essentially Monopoly in reverse. The game begins in a Monopolized state (as in after a successful Monopoly game), with each player taking on the role of federal case workers bringing indictments to the parent company to return the game board into a free market system. Obviously, Parker Brothers had good reason to bring about the trademark suit, as the parody game’s possible confusion with its own board game could prove disastrous ­— that is, until Monopoly’s true origins were discovered by Ansprach himself. In 1904, Elizabeth Magie patented The Landlord’s Game, after inventing and testing it two years before. She campaigned for politician and economist Henry George, and invented the game to illustrate his theories --­specifically, that natural resources such as land should be owned by the community that lived on it, as well as value that came from it. George proposed a Land Value Tax to make this possible, and Magie’s The Landlord’s Game demonstrated how it would work. It included two sets of rules, one illustrating land


ownership as was the rule of the day, and another with the envisioned Georgist economy. The first set of rules outlined the sort of competitive land ownership, demonstrating tenants’ continuing impoverished state that comes with developing land and raising land value, utilities and railroads. The second set of rules replayed the game with a land value tax implemented, played less competitively and more cooperatively. It would include collecting taxes in the center of the board as a community pool, which is then distributed to create beneficial services - such as publicly owned railroads and a free University.

In other words, Monopoly began life as anti-monopolist propaganda. Today, it would resemble work from the more recent serious games movement, such as 9/12 or Sweatshop. The game proved to be popular. Magie formed a company to publish the game in 1910, and it found an audience amongst colleges and liberal families. It eventually made its way to a Quaker community in Atlantic City, coming to the attention of one Charles Darrow. In 1934, Magie sold the game to Parker Brothers for $500. Darrow then adapted it to the neighborhoods of Atlantic City, presented it to the executives at Parker Brothers, saving the company from potential bankruptcy. The game eliminated the Georgist ruleset, keeping the more popular and competitive initial phase of the game. At first glance, the history of Monopoly as Georgist propaganda turned into a celebration of Capitalism and the pursuit of wealth would prove this point. However --­even with only half of the rules intact. The Landlord’s Game is an elegant success. Nearly


every mechanic, including random die rolling mechanics, portrays ruthless pursuit of wealth above all else, and expresses the cost of the American Dream. Property, Utilities, and Transportation are first come­, first serve. Property goes up for auction if not bought. Everyday wages are represented by passing Go and collecting play money. Expensive Real Estate can be both a blessing and a curse. Luxury and Income Tax.

Even die rolling and card stacks show that success can be easily dependant on luck and random chance. “They learn that the quickest way to accumulate wealth and gain power is to get all the land they can in the best localities and hold on to it,” Magie herself said in an interview with The​ Single Tax Review ​in 1902. “There are those who argue that it may be a dangerous thing to teach children how they may thus get the advantage of their fellows, but let me tell you there are no fairer-­minded beings in the world than our own little American children. Watch them in their play and see how quick they are, should any one of their number attempt to cheat or take undue advantage of another, to cry, ‘No fair!’ And who has not heard almost every little girl say, ‘I won’t play if you don’t play fair.’ Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied.” There are emergent behaviors found in Monopoly that exist solely because of the rules. A house rule places all fines and taxes in a community pool in the center, to be collected by a lucky player should they land on free parking. It’s a balancing measure that closely resembles the property tax in Magie’s original version, while still basing success largely on luck. Keith Roberts created a Capitol Hill variant that introduces anti-trust laws and govern-


ment lobbying into the mix. As the rules stand, the game still depicts Capitalism as ruthless without benefit to the tenants of each neighborhood. While houses and hotels are built, rent value increases, water and power also increase. A monopoly is simply an unfair practice, a theme that Magie wanted to communicate. Reading the entirety of Magie’s description of her invention shows how every choice extends from her notion of capitalist exploitation. Due to a close adherence to the thematic point she wished to make, even today in a game translated and adapted to many different languages, cities, and licensed properties Monopoly still contains a lesson of economic fairness hidden within the subtext of rules presented as a celebration of the opposite. As a result of the discovery, Ansprach won the lawsuit and the right to call his game “Anti­Monopoly”,­ a game one would argue is closer to its Georgist roots, though after many decades of economic changes. The Landlord’s Game lives on, after all.

Resources Lizzie Magie (1902) Commentary on The Landlords’ Game, on which Monopoly is based Read online Mary Pilon (2009) ‘How a Fight Over a Board Game Monopolized an Economist’s Life’ Wall Street Journal Bryon McMahon (2007) ‘How History’s Most Popular Board Game Helped Defend the Free World.’ Mental Floss Advance to Jo: the History of Monopoly in Hungary. We Love Budapest. Capitol Hill Monopoly, Keith Roberts Play Again Games


Role-play police Who watches the town watch? Miriam Oudin Teacher, gamer, and erudite malcontent Miriam Oudin enjoys learning dead languages, reading the Hansard for fun, and discussing why her favourite games are “problematic”.

Police statistics for Europe:

Eurostat

The city that I live in has a population of about a million. According to the municipal government’s web site, we are served by 2,000 sworn police officers — that is to say, there’s a cop for every 500 people. This matches closely with the national average in Canada and the United States; cities in North America tend to have a slightly lower police density than Western European countries, and further afield the numbers vary widely. Of course, even within the same country, the situation on the ground will change, depending on whether the area is urban or rural, inner-city or a suburb, to say nothing of the funding priorities of provincial or state governments and the current


political zeitgeist. But keeping all that in mind, a 1:500 ratio seems like a reasonable heuristic for “Western” society. Now open up your favourite fantasy CRPG, fast-travel into the nearest town, and observe the people milling about. Do 500 lay citizens go by before you see your first town guard? How about 100? 50? 10? A few years ago there was a security incident at the college where I work, which meant that about a dozen police officers were needed to perform a sweep of the campus. Even this relatively small number of visible uniforms, scattered among my co-workers in a familiar setting, felt uncanny, and it caused a lot of anxiety for everyone involved. And yet, clusters of huge men patrolling the streets in shiny armour is a normal part of the landscape of a computer game. The enormous police presence in CRPGs is an inheritance from the “town watch” in tabletop role-playing games, whose existence, more often than not, was simply a heavy-handed metafictional tool.

The town watch was created to prevent players from deviating from the story that the game master wanted to tell. We players all “knew” that no known society has ever worked this way, in the same way that we “knew” that other artificial gaming tropes (hit points, alignments, levels) did not reflect any medieval or modern reality. But unlike hit points and other game mechanics, the actions and abilities of the town watch are a direct reflection of what the storyteller wants: the story itself is policed simultaneously from within and from without, the will of the author expressing itself through the actions of the in-game gendarmes. Like the paladin’s gods who act as a mouthpiece


for the game master’s opinions on good and evil, the town watch steps in whenever a character deviates from the GM’s ideal reality — either narratologically (“you can’t go in the castle! I haven’t written up that adventure yet!”), or, more insidiously, morally (“that’s not acceptable behaviour in my game and I’m going to make you stop”).

In both tabletop and computer RPGs, town guards’ levels usually scale with that of the players, and they are invariably armoured like panzers and armed to the very teeth. When I was playing Dungeons & Dragons back in the 90s, nobody really thought to ask who was outfitting all these men (and they were all always men) in expensive metal armour, or indeed why five or ten percent of the world population was loyal enough to the government to enforce its laws so unquestioningly... without what seems like the logically necessary corollary of turning the whole world into a Cold War dystopia. My own gaming groups were generally pretty cooperative and well-behaved, so I didn’t often have to deal with the twink who always wants to disrupt the city’s (and the party’s) peace.Nevertheless, we seemed to think that the 1:20 or 1:10 guard:citizen ratio was a perfectly proportional response to the hypothetical existence of such a person, and we took for granted that the entire police force would swiftly mobilize to correct any perceived deviance in the story. I now wonder whether our own sheltered existence, where real-world police were not considered a direct threat in our daily lives, meant that we were less skeptical of the hypervigilant faux-medieval D&D settings than we ought to have been, and less worried about the broader implications of a city-wide pushback whenever we acted out.


Testing the guard was something of a pastime even for my relatively well-mannered gaming groups, blissfully divorced from any real-world concerns about police brutality and impunity in a surveillance society. Though I’ve never been the sort of person to want to massacre everyone in a town (real or imagined), and I don’t think any character of mine took even a single point in pickpocketing in all my years of playing D&D, it’s still curious the extent to which I assumed it was normal to break the local laws just to see what would happen. Frequently the boundaries between rebellion against the narrative (“can we just get back to the plot, guys?”) and rebellion against the GM’s personal sense of morality (“cool your heels in the county gaol and reconsider your life”) began to blur, as they also do in the real world for anyone who does not align with the ideological orthodoxies of her community. See the TVTropes entry on the absurdities of the town watch in CRPGs

TVTropes

Computer games have the added absurdities that come about when guards’ scripts are programmed rather than improvised. TV Tropes joyfully enumerates the twisted realities of the town watch in CRPGs: behavioural glitches that make guards simultaneously all-powerful and strangely oblivious. For example, the oversensitive AI in games like Oblivion allows every single guard in a given area to psychically know when a crime has been committed nearby, causing them all to converge on the player. And yet, these are the same guards who forget within minutes that they have been shot, and generally express no curiosity about dead comrades, large-scale vandalism, or strangers in ill-fitting disguises demanding keys to secured areas.


Once, my Skyrim character assassinated a noblewoman on her wedding day, then wore her wedding dress around town for the rest of the week; though the guards expressed outrage about the murder and swore to find the crook responsible, they didn’t seem to find my choice of garment the least bit suspicious. The dialogue options in any game are necessarily finite and can’t be customized by a human GM on the fly, leading to nonsensical and repetitive behaviour that has birthed many jokes and memes over the years. To name only the most famous of these, so many of Skyrim’s guards declare, out loud and to nobody in particular, that they took an arrow to the knee in a previous career, that it was soon assumed by the player base that this was a prerequisite for getting hired at all. Oblivion had a game mechanic where certain characters were coded as “essential”, which is to say that they could not be killed. This was a hamfisted way to make sure that a bloodthirsty player could not break the main plotline: any NPC who was flagged as “essential” to the main story arc was immune to mortal wounds until all things came to pass. Most of the “essential” characters were quest-givers and members of the nobility, but it so happened that some of them were town guards. Accidentally stealing a shopkeeper’s wares was easy to do in a game where a single misclick can instantly transfer someone else’s property into one’s inventory. Since guards in Oblivion are seemingly connected by a psychic hivemind, this would cause every police officer in the entire city to descend on the PC demanding a fine, jail time, or a good old-fashioned beating.

Anyone who chose to fight the law at this moment was doomed to lose, if the life of a guard had been designated “essential”.


If “defeated”, an essential guard would simply crouch for a few moments before standing back up and continuing to pummel the PC. Fleeing was useless: the guards would literally chase you across the entire country, running about as fast as the fastest horse you could buy. A guard shot by a sniper from a nearby castle tower would dismiss the arrow wound as the work of rats, but a shoplifter would be apprehended instantly and never forgotten. Though I tend to play law-abiding characters in computer games, I was still irritated by this set of design priorities. I found it infantilizing to have my choices stripped away, and to have a programmer’s simpleminded ideal of “good behaviour” imposed on my character.

I wanted to be good, but more importantly, I wanted being good to matter. And now that I’m older and paying closer attention to real-world issues — a for-profit carceral system, a rigid and unforgiving social code about what can and cannot be said about the Boys in Blue — something feels even darker about the existence of an “essential” flag on a town guard


in a computer game. It seems troubling that the same pixelated goof who assumes that the arrow that killed his friend “must’ve been the wind” is impervious to damage should the player choose to fight back against him.

In this way, the town guard in a role-playing game serves to enforce the boundaries of the game itself, even though it pretends to concern itself only with in-world transgressions.

Many thanks to my friend Paul Starr for this insight.

This seems to reinforce the common belief that a narrative must be externally imposed by an author[ity], and that “the story” therefore always trumps the character’s inner desires and motivations as the player understands them. In this view, privileging the story necessarily subtracts from the player’s agency. The authority to police our own world could be seen as another tool of narrative control exercised by those in power over society at large.

Header image from Bethesda (2012) Skyrim


The body of the condemned Martial discipline Amsel von Spreckelsen madnessandplay.blogspot.com

Amsel von Spreckelsen lives near the sea. He blogs about representations of mental illness in gaming at madnessandplay.blogspot.com.

The traitor,

princess Kitana, defeated in fair combat by her clone-twin Mileena was condemned to the victor’s will by the decree of the emperor Shao Khan, against whom she had fomented her dissent. Free to choose the mode of her punishment Mileena chose death. Pinning the feet of the traitor to the floor with a pair of well-thrown sai blades Mileena sauntered over to her hated sister. As the panic mounted Mileena grabbed Kitana by the shoulder and crotch and then pulled, tearing her torso from her legs in one swift movement and then casting it to the ground, letting the traitor die slowly and quietly, her screams silenced now by the shock, of blood loss.


On 2 March 1757 Damiens the regicide was condemned ‘to make the amende honorable… The flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and calves with red hot pincers, his right hand, holding the knife with which he committed said parricide, burnt with sulphur … and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the wind.’ … ‘This last operation was very long. … They were forced, in order to cut off the wretch’s thighs, to sever the sinews and hack at the joints’. Michel Foucault’s study of the evolution of the prison system, Discipline and Punish, begins with an extensive and gruelling description of a public execution, built from first hand accounts, which I have edited down significantly above. My own study of the ownership of bodies in violent video games begins with a first hand account of the events of one of the many possible realities that could happen in a game of Mortal Kombat (2011). Primarily I have placed these two accounts next to each other to highlight two things: the concept of ownership of the body as a site for performative justice and quite how hard it is to separate someone’s legs from their torso.

For Foucault the key aspect of medieval, or at least regal justice is that it is performative in nature. The body of the condemned is the site of justice and the justice takes the form of the state, or the individual whose power constitutes the state, taking ownership of that body and submitting it to their will. There is a side effect in that any torture or deprivation has a public element, a pageantry to it, that might discourage other potential criminals from their criminal acts, but the core of it is in the violent assertion of ownership. The public execution is not about showing to others what


might happen to their bodies should they transgress, but about reiterating that the state has the right to do this to its subjects, as well as enacting and so giving a purpose to that right. I am not a huge fan of the position that all videogames are inherently power fantasies, or that they habitually centralise the agency of the player in their mechanisms. Player actions and inputs influence and in many cases drive the machinery but that is not the same as having power. Just as living is an active process, one that the person doing the living must engage in for the life to have meaning so playing is also active. The world and the game can continue without either, although for the consciousness it is immaterial whether they do so or not, but the player requires both to exist.

It is co-dependence rather than power fantasy. Ruler and ruled bound in mutual need for meaning. I do not think that games are inherently power fantasies; they have too many failure states and skill walls and difficulty spikes and cost barriers and glitches for that. But, as with life, they do afford, and sometimes this is indeed their primary function, those who have either the luck, the skill or the brutality to take up a mantle of a regent; to control rather than be controlled. It is at the point of ownership of the bodies of others within the gameworld that this power is most fully realised. The stealth kill, the torture attack, the brutality. These are all momentary displays of ownership of the other bodies in the game, and of the right of that ownership, earned through skill or through the divine right of a maxed out meter. These are where the player and the regent become one. “They do a small area at a time,� said the Russian officer. “They have to work slowly if they want to remove the skin cleanly, without any scratch-


es. If, in the meantime, you feel you want to say something, please let me know. Then you won’t have to die. Our man here has done this several times, and never once has he failed to make the person talk” … At last, the bearlike Mongolian officer held up the skin of Yamamoto’s torso … all that remained lying on the ground was Yamamoto’s corpse, a bloody red lump of meat from which every trace of skin had been removed. … “The fellow really didn’t know anything, did he? … Which means that you are no longer of any use to us.” The Russian officer in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has the Japanese spy Yamamoto skinned alive in front of Lt Miyamata as much as anything as a spectacle. It is his way of showing his control over the bodies of others, a control which is shown to be total and unimpeachable later on in Miyamata’s story. It is not the most efficient way of getting the information he requires, and in fact, despite his earlier boast that his victims always talk both Yamamoto and Miyamata endure the ordeal without giving away their secrets. But it impresses on Miyamata that his life is no longer his own, that his body is an empty shell owned by the Russian, a theme continued throughout the book in its depiction of Japan’s colonialist activities in Manchuria.

The actions of war and colonialism, the exercise of power, is a process of gaining control of the bodies of citizens and soldiers alike. Sheeva, Shao Khan’s queen Sindel’s Shokan bodyguard, like the Mongolian who exercises the Russian officer’s will, is also a proud and regal member of a colonised people. She is a leader amongst those who are led. They are, the both of them, both actor and puppet; the truest expression of the position of the player-character. Sheeva has a


fatality where, after a moment of intense concentration, she tears the skin from her opponent. It takes her but a single pull, to split the skin in half and to strip it from the body. She then displays it proudly to the player, the blood dripping meekly as the raw hunk of muscle that was once her opponent falls to the floor. It is not for the benefit of death that she does this, but to show her control and to gain respect and praise for her skill. This is the key element of Mortal Kombat’s fatalities: the display of ownership of the opponent’s body as earned through the ritual of defeat in martial circumstances. This ownership is granted to the player by the disembodied, regal voice of the commentator: ‘Finish Him’. The fatalities are performative in nature. They are, as with the amende honorable, not about death, which would be easy to grant, but about the exercise of judicial power in a public setting.

During the small window of victory the body of the fighter becomes an object not under the control of the original player, but subject to the whims of the winner. Almost every move in Mortal Kombat is ‘deadly’. You might survive a few of the kicks and punches, but not having a harpoon embedded in your chest or a razor-edged fan slashed across your skin. The X-Ray moves introduced in the latest iteration of the game are even more explicitly fatal, they hone in on the fractured skulls, broken necks and massive trauma inflicted during the course of a fight. In the upcoming Mortal Kombat X Sub Zero has an X-Ray that involves him tearing out an opponent’s intestine, freezing it into a jagged pick and then stabbing it through their eye and into their brain. Then the camera pans back out and the opponent still stands.


As long as you have a health bar, as long as you have not lost according to the rules of the game, then your body itself is sacrosanct. It can resist all damage without succumbing to the collapse toward nothingness that it so clearly desires. Conversely, during the fatality window the defeated body becomes entirely subject to the whims of the victor. It can be hacked apart along a series of fixed axes with merely the application of will. Where before a neck may have resisted the sweep of a blade now a head can be torn off with the hands alone. Hips, shoulders and the vertical and horizontal meridians are the sites at which the body willingly succumbs to the rule of law, the power of the tournament.

And then, after this ritualised death that is not a death, the character returns to their place on the select screen, ready to be tested again. Resources Ontological Geek Podcast #3 Mixcloud Ontological Geek Podcast #3 - Bonus Music Mix Mixcloud Michel Foucault (1975) Discipline and Punish Haruki Murakami (1994) The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Zolani Stewart (2015) ‘On Mortal Kombat 4’ Medium Header image from Netherrealm Studios (2011) Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition


Between measured footsteps Kaitlin Tremblay

thatmonstergames.com @kait_zilla Kaitlin Tremblay is an editor, gamemaker and writer, focusing on horror, feminism, and mental illness activism.

you would reward my stillness, an imperceptible motion across a rooftop, counting footsteps of lazily marching guards below I put away my sword, my hands glow blue, blink level II, measured time in breaths, not just brute strength, but patience patience patience


discipline, self-control, training, silent, swift, careful i should aspire toward this, a gentleness, graceful elegance, like your movements become part of the rhythmic heartbeat of the in-game universe, slipping behind and through cracks, into the very fabric of this world, a non-entity, a transitive spectre whose non-existence is key, and yet i cannot wait, shuffle blink and switch to devouring swarm, rats as ravenous as i am impatient, i jump with the full force of my weight, dual-wielding between a blade and bend time, slipping no longer between measured footsteps and silent breaths, but frozen bodies and plague-ridden rats, gaining a greater control in the chaos, free to follow the impulses of limbs and neurons rather than mental meditations of patience patience patience this is not so much a bloodthirst, but vengeance, punishment (discipline) for those enemies, pawns of a greater evil (the same old story) but there is something about moving between bodies un-sticking in time, their movements warming up as time catches up,


(what is better discipline, than to control time and the way you move through it unimpeded?) a defiance to self-control, a reveling in chaos (high), quick taps to shuffle back from bend time to devouring swarm to blink, evasion of a blade, a dance to the same measured thud thud thud of the game’s internal mechanics, a slash then another quick tap to switch to a pistol, muscle memory and intuition, until, everything around you stops, falls, and back to blink, to the rooftop, used for speed and not stealth, now.

Header image from Arkane (2013) Dishonored: Blade of Dunwall photographed by Joshua Livingston


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Discipline and games history  

Memory Insufficient volume two issue nine

Discipline and games history  

Memory Insufficient volume two issue nine

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