Join The Humanities Studio in welcoming Austin Walker, Editor-in-Chief at Waypoint, VICE magazine’s channel for gaming culture and writer on the intersection of games, culture, labor, and community, as part of the 2018-2019 Studio Speakers Series.
“You pull back your bow string and let loose the arrow. It sails through the air, until it shatters, useless against the scaled sheen of the dragon’s hide. What do you do?” In our daily lives, scenarios like these are empty fantasy, but for those familiar with Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games, a sequence like this is not only normal, but potent. With every new bit of narration and each roll of the dice, players weave together heroic stories of success and failure—and it is the latter, not the former, that provides a catalyst for future action, necessary context for characterization, and a clear marker of plot stakes.
Yet only in the last decade have the creators of these games begun to actively leverage the power of failure as a storytelling device, moving away from competitive models of play and towards exercises in collaborative fiction. Unsurprisingly, this shift comes alongside a broadening of “the role-playing game” as a category, as independent, alternative, and small-press games have emerged to challenge the hegemonic vision of play presented by Dungeons and Dragons. Now, queer creators, designers of color, and other marginalized game makers are creating their own fantasy sandboxes, and they’re contesting the boundaries of “failure” along the way.
Drawing on the work contemporary game designers like Avery Alder and Brendan Conway, along with the critical work of Judith Halberstam and Walter Benjamin, Walker will explore the function of failure in storytelling—whether those stories are about slaying dragons, developing one’s own identity, or building a sustainable community in a hostile world.
Original video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMiTIGQNyJs&feature=youtu.be&t=495
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