Hugging Pixels: How Gaming Rethinks Physical Interactions

Abstract (in English): 

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the first confinement measures in most countries, COVID-19 has been a defining factor of our lives through 2020 into 2021. Due to the pandemic, all our lives were drastically changed; not simply by the losses and inevitable pain that comes with the disease, but also by the way in which it completely shifted the way in which our lives were organized. Where activities were once separated between the “inside” and the “outside” there is now only the “offline” and the “online,” both confined within our own household. Work and education are done remotely when possible, and socializing has abruptly become a virtual experience. Even attempts at socializing “in real life” must always be monitored by strict rules of social distancing and the wearing of a mask, which are marked by an absence of physicality. As a way to cope with such a situation, people have found ways to transfer their social lives online. How many Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving or the Winter Holidays on Zoom with their families in 2020? As we moved into an online social space, I found it interesting to look around me and see the reaction of my fellow students, teachers, or friends. Some of them could hardly adapt to the sudden need for technology, which they had never been comfortable using. Others lamented the lack of genuine human interaction that came with meeting people by pure chance; in the Zoom era, all is scheduled, after all. These reactions struck me in different ways, as all I could see was my acquaintances suddenly walking into a lifestyle that I recognized as my own and describing it as a living hell.

In this paper I want to engage with the ways in which online interactions can provide an alternative to social contact, especially in terms of physicality. Specifically, I want to focus on how video games offer ways to circumvent the frustration of distance and virtuality in order to offer new approaches to thinking about physical interactions. This paper will be based in great part on my own experiences as an online gamer, interacting with friends living across the world, and having to find ways through gaming in which one could find intimacy, physical contact, and at times eroticism. My argument is that while all media can offer some form of erotic or intimate interaction with its content, gaming, and especially online gaming, can push those boundaries further through a process of incarnation and transposition of the self into an avatar. This paper starts with the ways in which a player can interact with non-player characters and find solace in the virtual intimacy provided by said characters. This paper will address how an online interface allows for a different physicality through the control of an avatar. Finally, I want to discuss the specificities of VR socializing when it comes to experiences of virtual physical interactions.


ELO 2021: Generative & Interactive Spaces, May 16, 2021

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Daniel Johannes...