Accepted Paper:

The black boxes of visual interfaces - study of the power structures in the field of gameplay  


Paweł Gaska (Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, ul. Gagarina 11, 87-100 Torun, NIP PL 879-017-72-91)

Paper short abstract:

Using a mix of concepts from ANT, Bourdieu and Galloway I will analyze how the visual interfaces in games shape the structures of power. To answer questions about the distribution and redistribution of power, and which actors are capable of it, I will examine two case studies: WoW and Hellblade.

Paper long abstract:

The field of gameplay is where human and non-human actors meet and negotiate their actions. The visual interface (or Graphical User Interface - GUI) acts as a bridge between the electrical, embedded in code understanding of a machine, and audio-visual experience that the human actor desires. As it often is with tools, the interface becomes transparent to its users. It's often treated as just an insignificant addition to the 'true, diegetic world of the game', yet it governs how the interactions will proceed.

In this paper I will analyze how the visual interfaces in games shape the structures of power in this medium. To do so I will be using concepts from Actor-Network Theory, augmented with the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu and Alexander R. Galloway. My research will focus on two case studies, polar opposites in the way they handle the interface. On one end of the spectrum will be World of Warcraft with it's customizable, overwhelming GUI, that hides its exercises of biopower by pretending to be neutral stream of data. On the other end there is the minimalistic GUI of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, which reveals it's importance to the storyworld, and by doing so manages to accurately portray the experience of psychosis. By comparing this two I will be able to answer how is the power distributed in this relation, can it be redistributed and which actors are capable of doing so.

Panel E04
Meeting the visual