The Affective Space of ARGs

In “Navigating Movements: A Conversation with Brian Massumi,” Brian Massumi and Mary Zournazi begin by discussing the concept of affect, and its differences from that of emotion. Emotion, according to Massumi, has more to do with an individual response in the moment, while affect as I understood it, is both about all of the potentials that could be felt from the multiple affective fields acting on a body as well as about something that emerges in an ongoing way from a collective that an individual is then affected by at a particular moment, as opposed to something emerging from the individual. It is “the virtual co-presence of potentials” (213). I think that many of the characteristics of ARGs provide them with enormous potential to create and intensify spaces of affect within games, and that this potential could be especially important in serious games.

            To begin with, ARGs, because they are inherently massively collaborative, have many opportunities to create collective experiences that are both contributed to and felt by many. Just the act of coming together to accomplish something that couldn’t be solved individually, no matter how “important” or not, or of collectively entering into and building a world, bring about  certain kinds of affect. And any form of storytelling has the ability to hold multitudes of potential within it, not being confined to clearly defining a singular point and instead leaving room to present contradictions and posit contradictory ideas as equally valid within a narrative. But ARGs, as a form of storytelling produced by the joint many forces designers and players alike shaping them, have a special capacity to produce potential, the outcome and even overall point of the game all having the potential to emerge in an infinity of ways depending on the player interactions with the world the game designers began with.

            Massumi also discusses how, increasingly, the politics of capitalism have evolved from an imposition of disciplinary power to a politics of affect; it is “intrinsic  to our formation” because “we actualise it as it in-forms us” (223). Rather than being imposed upon society from somewhere above, it is so insidiously a part of our society that it permeates it from somewhere within, brought to reality by the members of society rather than forces of “power” outside it. He and Zournazi posit that resistance against it then struggles because of its inability to also play within this politics of affect. By removing the boundaries of the realities that bind us, I wonder whether serious ARGs might provide more room to intervene in affective ways. Instead of falling back onto judgement that has an “anti-affective affect” (236), would a resistance through ARGs that seek to create change instead be able to create spaces to experiment with alternate ways of being that then translate into real world change?

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