Friday, February 21, 2014

Dear Esther & Marcuse Prompts

Note: citing your texts is always a good idea. When dealing with video games, I recommend learning how to take screen shots and/or video, and using it appropriately.

Prompt 1: Reviewing the Reviews

I find the reviews of Dear Esther rather interesting, both as ways of thinking about the game and as evidence that there is intelligent life among video game reviewers.

Read the following reviews; you may read others as well, if you wish.

Using at least these two reviews to help you articulate your viewpoint (you may have use for either Portal or Zork as well), define/argue what Dear Esther is. Is it a game? Is it art? Is it both? (We might also ask whether the terms are mutually exclusive, highly compatible, or somewhere between) Is it something else?

You may, if you wish, use Dear Esther to make a wider point about video games or art, but don’t get distracted by the general point: focus first on defining Dear Esther through analyzing details of it.

p.s. There are various ways you can use the other games to help organize your argument. For instance, you might argue that calling both Zork and Dear Esther games is distracting or inaccurate - Zork and Dear Esther might be more correctly understood as being just as different as, say, a film from a short story.

Prompt 2: Marcuse and Dear Esther (recycled from last week)

Use Marcuse, including specifics, to analyze Dear Esther.  Alternatively, you may analyze Dear Esther in relationship with one other work of “popular culture” (I am using the term loosely, not precisely). You should, as usual, have a specific argument, in this case at least inspired by Marcuse (if you disagree in some fundamental way with Marcuse, this essay might help explain why).  The most obvious question you might begin with is:  “does my chosen work engage in, or try to engage in, the Great Refusal”?  Another example:  you might argue that Portal helps us challenge Marcuse’s argument that we [cannot] “really distinguish between the mass media as instruments of information and entertainment, and as agents of manipulation and indoctrination?”

In other words, the most obvious approach (although by no means the only one) is to use Dear Esther as an example or possibly counterexample of what Marcuse sees as the problems of the modern mass media, either alone or in comparison with another work of mass culture.

Prompt 3: Marcuse Research

Using academic sources only, probably from Pitt’s library (that is, an actual book, or an article(s) from a peer-reviewed journal), present research relating to Marcuse that you think would help the class, and that is at least moving toward an argument. To put it another way:  it’s fine to spend most of your space simply presenting one or several interesting sources, but you need to also, at the very least, show us the beginning of an argument, or to pose a question or series of questions which would lead to an argument.  A 75%/25% division between research and argument would be fine, although I’d be skeptical of a 90%/10% division.

Your sources should be obviously serious and substantive - at least 20 pages of academic writing, and probably more.  If you’re using a book, you shouldn’t necessarily read the whole thing, but read at least the introduction, and whatever material deals with a topic of interest to you.

Example topics:  how was Marcuse’s work received and used when it was published? How did Marcuse use, and react against, Heidegger?  (We haven’t read any Heidegger in this class, but it’s still a functioning example) How can/should we understand Marcuse using either the history of philosophy, or the history of technology?  What was the role of Marcuse’s thought in American politics of the 1960s?  Etc.

Recommended book:  Andrew Feenberg’s The Catastrophe and Redemption of History, and is even available as kindle book, if you’re too lazy to go to the library.

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