The death of the player: videogames and post-humanism

Sonia Fizek

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Videogames as instances of everyday technoculture, operate within the premises of digitality, technology, simulations and software. By their very nature, they break down the subject-object, organic-inorganic, and player-game dichotomies. They constitute ludic ensembles, “inter-species assemblages” (Dyer-Witheford, 2015) or “biological-technological-informational” collages (Stasieńko 2017, 44). The subjectivity of the player is redistributed during gameplay into a post-human network of human and non-human bodies and agentialities.

And yet, most research perspectives see videogames as objects existing only once the player enters the scene and makes them happen. Beforehand, they are mere potentialities, possible worlds. Such a player-centric approach treats the human player as a necessary component in the process of ludic meaning production. However, when the game plays itself, the performative character of play is even more visibly negotiated with the system itself, where the “text” itself and its configurations are more important than the player’s actions within it. Once we take the human actor out of the equation, the game (e.g. Everything 2017, Emissaries 2017) starts performing itself like “… an utterance [that] has no other content than the act by which it is uttered” (Barthes 1967, 4). In this talk I will symbolically “kill” the player to focus on machinic acts instead (Galloway 2006). After all, the birth of the self-playing game must be ransomed by the death of the human player (Barthes 1967).

Post-humanist thought (Braidotti 2013) offers a promising perspective for studying self-playing games in particular, and videogames in general. One, which invites theories and concepts looking at the game, the technology, the non-organic players. The very fact that games entail AI, procedural generation, complex agential relations between the player and the avatar, mean that strict divisions into subject and object, activity and passivity need to be rethought. It is fascinating, if not necessary in order to understand digital play and games, to move beyond the human and look at the phenomena of gaming from the point of view of the game instead. The examples of self-acting AI and self-playing games I will reflect upon in this talk, make the technocultural and post-human dimensions even more pronounced. And perhaps videogames are not as much interactive as they are intra-active (Barad 2003).

Barad, K. 2003. “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of
How Matter Comes to Matter.“ Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28 (3), 801-831.
Barthes, R. (1967/1977): The Death of the Author. In Image-Music-Text, Fontana Press, p. 142-148.
Braidotti, R. (2013): The Posthuman. Polity Press.
Galloway, A. R. (2006): Gaming. Essays on Algorithmic Culture. University of Minnesota Press.
Dyer-Witheford, N. (2015): Cyber-Proletariat. Global Labour in the Digital Vortex. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Stasieńko, J. (2017): Automaty, hybrydy, afekty – posthumanistyczne konteksty apartu gry komputerowej i praktyk grania. In Teksty Drugie, 3, 2017.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventCultures of the Posthuman: 10th Beyond Humanism Conference - University of Lower Silesia, Wroclaw, Poland
Duration: 18 Jul 201822 Sep 2018


ConferenceCultures of the Posthuman
Internet address


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