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Marxism and the computer game
University of Manchester, United Kingdom.
University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom.
University of Skövde, School of Informatics. University of Skövde, The Informatics Research Centre. lars.kristensen@his.se. (Media, Technology and Culture (MTEC))ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5364-8036
2016 (English)In: Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, ISSN 1757-191X, E-ISSN 1757-1928, Vol. 8, no 2, 117-130 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article asks the question, how should the computer game as a new cultural form be assessed from a Marxist perspective? Marxism is a developed theoretical discourse operative in several domains that are potentially relevant to computer games. The first part of our discussion focuses on Marx’s discussion of technology in relation to art and presents his historical dialectic of alienation and disalienation. This dialec-tic highlights the ambivalence of technology: it is both the condition of possibility of a society of a plenty in which humanity is freed from drudgery and yet, with each step forward, it is associated with the imposition of new demands and novel forms of oppression. Viewed in this way, computer games are an important manifestation of digital technology, deeply implicated in new forms of capitalism. In the second section we use Marx’s ideas on art to explore the aesthetics of the new medium. The aesthetic occupies a special place in Marxist thought because it defines a space of reflection in which we can find a momentary escape from the fray of conflictual social relations and from which the future may shine a light. Viewed as a form of art, computer games are also ambivalent. On one side, they have been associated with a revival of play and a new culture of levity and creativity, which has spread as far as contemporary workplaces and even transformed the design of industrial, or productive, technology. At the same time, we argue that there has been no corre-sponding social transformation – people are not more free as a result of ‘gamifica-tion’. Rather, it seems that computer games present a deepening entanglement of aesthetic values (play, freedom, imagination) with technologies of control (interface, system, rules). In conclusion, we suggest that digital games bring the dream of art to life but that the result is not freedom but rather a perversion of play as its facility for opening up imagined spaces is used to restrict access to the space of freedom.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bristol: Intellect Ltd., 2016. Vol. 8, no 2, 117-130 p.
Keyword [en]
Marxism, play theory, game industry, aesthetics, work, technology
National Category
Media Studies
Research subject
Humanities and Social sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:his:diva-13061DOI: 10.1386/jgvw.8.2.117_1ScopusID: 2-s2.0-85001104769OAI: oai:DiVA.org:his-13061DiVA: diva2:1040986
Available from: 2016-10-31 Created: 2016-10-31 Last updated: 2017-01-03Bibliographically approved

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The full text will be freely available from 2017-10-31 12:43
Available from 2017-10-31 12:43

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