Ethical temporality: refiguring time as political speech in 13 minutes and Bury Me, My Love

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This paper draws on the concepts of diachrony and synchrony to provide a comparative method for analysing the complex temporalities of performative texts, with a focus on digital games’ representations of refugee stories and experience. Where synchrony aligns temporal frameworks (as in the sense of ‘synchronising watches’), diachrony separates or splits them apart, generating experiences of speed and acceleration. Digital games are particularly powerful drivers of diachronic experience, and superheroic characters are often central to these designs – their powers creating a sense of hurtling into a different, compelling future.
However such designs and characters, with their extreme focus on diachrony, are ill-suited to documentary subject matter – in particular, the plight of refugees. Here, designs focused on super-emopwerment risk trivialisation and inappropriateness. Instead, different temporal regimes are required that are capable of recognizing the complex political issues facing refugees in the contemporary world.
This paper will draw on the concepts of diachrony and synchrony in order to examine some recent games which make distinctive use of comparative temporal schemas in ethical, political and documentary modes. The major case studies will be 13 Minutes Ago and Bury Me, My Love, which re-articulate the typically frenetic (that is, highly diachronic) videogame temporal schema with different rhythms and tempos. For many games, feedback loops are designed to be intensive and immediately respond to player inputs – however in both of the case studies, immediate gratification is delayed or short-circuited. The superheroics common to game designs are re-aligned with the rhythms and temporalities of everyday life. The aesthetic approach thus denatures the normative experience of time in games, creating two temporal effects: firstly, a diachronic effect which separates these games from the typical organisation of time in consumer media; secondly, a synchronic effect which aligns these games with extra-ludic and documentary texts. In concert with other aesthetic techniques, the chronotypology of 13 Minutes Ago and Bury Me, My Love seek to overcome the ‘magic circle’ which can deactivate the ethical gravity of gaming, and thus articulate the value of lives in exile.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2018
EventPhilosophy of Computer Games Conference - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 13 Aug 201815 Aug 2018
Conference number: 12


ConferencePhilosophy of Computer Games Conference
Internet address


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