09/26/2017, 00:12, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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Homo Ludens

Author: Sabrina Zehetner (TVP)


(For the next week, our journalist will be available in the Forum for the questions and comments of our readers!)

Treat it like a game. The 21st century is marked by a gamification of culture. With ludic technologies, virtual reality becomes real virtuality. From a psychoanalytic view, virtual identities promise complete autonomy at an unconscious level but there is an inherent difference between mere play and the ratio of a game.

Even though the idea of the sub specie ludi is quite ancient, success in the digital age requires a certain level of playfulness – thou shalt have fun at work! Ludification and game design have become the dominant approach in education, art, politics, economics and warfare – even human identity itself is in a constant state of game-playing. Johan Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens (1938) is experiencing a renaissance despite the fact that – in his theory – technology and play have virtually (pun intended!) nothing in common. Johan Huizinga was a Dutch historian who discussed the importance of play as a formative element in culture. His theories are especially popular in modern game design. Huizinga refers to the activity of playful pretending as “the consciousness that it is different from ordinary life” which temporarily creates order and perfection but what Huizinga fails to address is the fact that play exists in an intermediate world between the ordinary world and the world of pretense. In psychoanalysis, the ability to have two contradictory experiences at once is called an ego-split. If you’re watching a horror movie you may feel scared but another part of your ego is conscious of the fact that the serial killer committing murders on the screen is not real. The occurrence of these contradictory feelings – pleasure and fear – is called “Angstlust” (thrill or the tingle of fear”) – a term that can be traced back to Greek tragedy and mythology. Digital media play a crucial role in the fragmentation of the self because of the sheer unlimited number of possibilities they offer and the very nature of ludic technology....

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