Phillips and Stauffer’s Structures


One conceptual structure Phillips introduces is “digital death worlds.” She first brings in the concept of death worlds through a reference to Mbembe, and goes on to describe the digital versions as places that allow and even encourage gamers to play with dying and killing. She says that digital death worlds enact mechropolitics, which means that the virtual deaths have real-world effects–possibly through the way they connect humor, fun, and productive collaboration with death–and may promote a real-world fascination with death. Phillips goes on to say the digital death world can exasperate biases against people of color in the real-world fascination with death, because of the way the worlds encourage treating death as a spectacle, and the historical precedent that has been set for treating people of color in particular this way.

One conceptual structure Stauffer introduces is “settler common sense.” She describes this as the mindset nonnative colonial subjects retain, in which the settlement of native lands is normalized, and experiences outside of, or resistant to, settlement are erased. She cites another scholar to say that it is a reliance upon framings that center settlement as the “ready made” backdrop for all experiences, rather than an active, non-neutral process. Stauffer says common sense helps people collectively take certain things for granted so that they can focus on the things that they cannot, but that settler common sense exposes the limits of this, and how it can make one an agent of injustice without them being conscious of it.

It seems like both Phillip’s discussion of “digital death worlds” and Stauffer’s discussion of “settler common sense” are asking the player/person to be more critical of the way they are perceiving and responding to games and their environments more generally. Phillips illustrates how behavior and reaction within games can feed into events outside of the game world. Stauffer wants more attention to be given to the fact that many people are navigating the world and game-worlds with a false-understanding of what is true and “normal” or unbiased. Together these two concepts/authors build to the idea that most video games cannot be a neutral or decolonized space unless someone is actively working to make them be so. As a result, the kind of agency players and characters can have in a game is effected by the mindfulness of those involved, and the illusions under which they may or may not be operating.

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