Mother is a individual contribution of the volume The Person and Power, which collectively forms part of the post-digital publication:
The Person and Power is a volume of the post-digital publication, which aims to explore and examine ideas around what it means to be a person in the world and their position according to their individual power. The individual elements of this volume engage with concepts such as moral exploration through fan fiction, creative expression through artwork and photography, the empowerment of the everyday parent, power dynamics gone wrong and the power of the humans through technology. Each individual contribution to the volume explores concepts in a different manner, from textual analysis to a series of visual artwork. This volume embodies the post-digital through the content and the presentation, as our works will be presented as a set of creative artefacts.
The other individual contributions can be viewed by clicking the links below:
I was responsible for the creation of the publication known as Mother, which is a zine featuring Fallout 4 inspired fan fiction and video game photography.
Like many other individuals in the world today, I am becoming increasingly involved in the practice and the community of gaming. Fallout 4 is the first game that I have felt really connect me to the community, however when playing I felt extremely morally challenged by the questions being asked of my character and also me as a player. The entire story of Fallout 4 is complex and non-linear, due to the nature of the game, meaning every different player would experience the order of the story different and perhaps not experience parts of it at all. In essence, the game asks whether the creations called synthetic humans (or synths) should have a right to life, life independent from their creators. Whether the synths can, have or should have the same opportunities as the non-artificial humans of the world in Fallout 4. In my play through of the game, I opted to rebel against the creators of the synthetic humans and liberate the synthetic humans who wanted a chance at freedom, but at the cost of many other human and synth lives. Whilst I appreciated I was playing a game, I also couldn’t avoid my emotional investment in the story towards my character and others. Suggesting that although the game is just that, it could also be considered as a space in which to explore moral questions that might not, or couldn’t be asked in the context of material reality. There aren’t any synthetic humans as defined in the Fallout 4 universe yet; therefore in order to be able to engage with the concept of synthetic rights, the individual needs to be immersed in a world where this concept is a reality.
My position in relation to Fallout 4 is identifiable as a fan; I play the game, I watch YouTube videos of other people playing the game, Fallout 4 is my phone background and also features in my collection of laptop stickers. However in studying fan culture when self-identifying as a fan, it is important to acknowledge the need for critical distance, the need to be able to critique despite any emotional investment. Much like the researcher, the fan is also in constant conflict trying to decide what material is authentic fan produced material and what content aims to be received by fans as passive consumers (Lewis 2009: 52). Fans also approach the material itself differently, with some considering it to be an art form, others identifying it as an expression of their personal experience (Lewis 2009: 52). What has been noted however, is that fans take an affective approach in engaging with the content, an emotional investment in the medium or concept that inspires them to appropriate and create (Lewis 2009: 56). There are on going discussions about video games being viewed as an art form, with sophisticated graphics that require a high level of computer literate artistry (Travinor 2009). A new emergent medium has been created through these video games, referencing photo-realism but building on it and creating a new stylistic world. The camera represents the device through which the game player both views and explores their world and more recently, through which the player can produce their own form of photographic-type artistry (Giddings 2013). It is this practice of videogame photography that I wish to employ in my response to the post-digital publication, building on the moral questioning of the game Fallout 4. The images I intend to publish will document the locations I associate with my play through of the story and therefore places I believe my character would most likely remember too.
The immersive experience of video games, whilst adept in creating the notion of a virtual reality, means that the often graphic content of games seem much more life like (Travinor 2009: 8). The reality of the Fallout 4 game is that it is a first person shooter (FPS), which means that a large portion of gameplay involves the killing of other beings, from mutated animals, to other non-artificial human beings. In some cases, the deaths are extremely graphic featuring slow motion shots of heads exploding. Although the premise of the game and the ideology it engages with is extremely interesting and potentially relevant to the future of artificial intelligence, the countless acts of seemingly mindless killing is potentially damaging, not only to the story but also to the emotionally invested player. The idea of fiction providing the opportunity for moral exploration is being engaged with in Fallout 4, but the entertainment value of the game as a FPS stands in the way. In addition to the concept of videogames as art, the idea of the gamer is also being researched. The idea of playable technology can be translated across various different media practices, where the user can engage, remediate and adapt their identity presentations (Roig, Conrelio, Ardevoi, Alsina, Pages 2009). Combining the idea of fictional exploration and playable identities, I wish to explore the moral questions raised in Fallout 4 through the writing of fan fiction, specific to my character and my play through of the game. By bringing the moral debates away from the FPS dynamic I aim to explore the Fallout 4 world through my character and her position in it. After the liberation of the synthetic humans and the destruction of the organisation that created them, my character discovers and saves a synth that appears to believe he is her human son (who was kidnapped as a one-year old at the beginning of the game). The in-game reality however is that her son Shaun was kidnapped and eventually became the director of the organisation that created the synths, he perished when the organisation was destroyed. The synthetic version of Shaun appears to represent my character’s lost chance at being a Mother, as due to a period of cryogenic freezing, the human Shaun (or Father as he was also known) grew to be sixty years older than my character. The fan fiction I will be publishing will explore the post-post-war period in which my character negotiates the possibility of a life in the Fallout 4 world with her synthetic son.
The cultural prominence and importance of the videogame industry is increasing and many researchers are recognising this. I wish to acknowledge their theoretical work in my individual contribution to the post-digital publication in my creative response, titled ‘Mother’. Through self-created fan fiction and a series of videogame photographic images, I wish to explore the concept of the synthetic human in the Fallout 4 world and how I explore these moral questions through my emotional investment to the character. The fan faction will delve into the possible thoughts and feelings of my character when confronted with the prospect of life as a mother to a synthetic boy, whilst the images display a visual story where my character was faced with certain moral questions as a result of the game play. Both responses will aim to provide accessibility to the reader of the post-digital publication, whilst the content of the overall volume will contribute to their understanding of my section. Titled ‘The Person and Power’, the collective volume will aim to examine the meaning of what it is to be human and the associated power struggles. Whilst my contribution relates to the futuristic concept of artificial life, other parts of the volume engage with humanistic, current and essentially real cultural issues that are occurring. I acknowledge that to some readers, my work will not translate well, because not everyone is interesting in the videogame industry, however with the support of the surrounding contributions in the volume, I believe my contribution will accessible to those who are unfamiliar with gaming.
List of References:
Giddings, S. (2013) ‘Drawing Without Light, Simulated photography in videogames’ in
The Photographic Image in Digital Culture. Lister, M. Florence: Routledge, 41-54
Grossberg, L. (2002) ‘Is there a Fan in the House?: The Affective Sensibility of Fandom’. in The Adoring Audience by Lewis, L. Florence: Routledge, 50-65
Roig, A. Cornelia, G. Ardevoi, E, Alsina, P., and Pages, R. (2009) ‘Videogame as Media Practice: An Exploration of the Intersection Between Play and Audiovisual Culture’. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 15 (1), 89-103
Travinor, G. (2009) The Art of Video Games. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell