Miguel Rivera

BU English MA Graduate. Tufts English PhD Student. Philosophy Hobbyist.

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These Are My Concessions: Video Games Might Actually Be Art

I think I’ve made a huge mistake. I think I am ready to concede the “are games art?” debate. For those interested, my original (severely amended) argument can be found here. Not that I don’t believe there are some serious problems with classifying games as art — I do — but I think a dimension of that concern was based on a fundamental inaccuracy of my powers of speculation.

I do not believe that the definitions of art as they are accepted in academia fit video games. I do believe that classifying video games as art poses some liabilities to the medium and it being able to flourish at its full potential because the critical vocabulary for certain things that are important to video games do not exist in aesthetics, thus by privileging the notion of “art,” an already existing critical vocabulary and the elements it can describe gain primacy over the things about video games that make them...

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Against “Dollar Voting”

The notion of “voting with your dollar” is rather quaint, isn’t it? The platitude is spouted as if the ultimate solution to all the world’s problems is through consumers allocation of their capital. All the while, corporations run roughshod over the rights and desires of consumers. If this concept of “dollar voting” works as described, how can the sorry state of affairs for the consumer be explained? The processes which govern the production of capital are far more complex than simply reflecting the consumer’s purchase preferences. However, it is an idea promoted by individuals who think they are truly the brightest crayon in the box, bringing attention to an ignored strategy for quality of life improvement. Ah, yes, “dollar voting,” what a novel idea! Promoters of this strategy must be truly brilliant. In reality, the idea of “dollar voting” wielding any kind of serious power is...

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The Elephant in the Room: Video Games and Narrative

Recently, a quotation from John Carmack — lead programmer on titles like Doom and Quake — has been making the rounds with some criticism attached to it. Though his quotation is in poor taste, he contends that the story in video game is not an important portion of the game. Naturally, such a notion has sustained an enormous degree of criticism by the gaming community at large which believes narrative is significant in video games. However, Carmack is correct in his contention; the story in a video game is not necessary to produce a quality game.

The Art Problem

One of the more lively debates within the gaming community in the past 10 years has been whether or not video games can be considered a “work of art.” This question is extremely difficult to resolve as what exactly qualifies as “art” is a matter of significant dispute in regards to individual cases within accepted mediums...

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The Pathologically Aggresive Response to Criticism: Heteromasculine Fear and Challenge to Self-Conception

At this moment, somewhere, in some town, something sexist is happening relevant to the loosely defined and infinitely diverse abstraction individuals refer to as the “hardcore scene.” These sexist events likely precisely mirror the sexism which exists in the “real world,” as so-called participants in the “hardcore scene” are interpellated into the same ideology as the rest of the Western world which construes and perpetuates sexism in a given fashion. These sexist productions are unavoidable within ideology (at this specific moment and time - not to say that they should not be opposed), but interrogating these issues and their presence in the “hardcore scene” is particularly productive, as this loosely construed social body often styles itself as immune to ideological interpellation (not in those terms, we can’t all have read Althusser, nor should we aspire to do so) and specifically as...

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“The Lie,” Joseph Conrad, V.S. Naipaul, and Internalized Racism in Postcolonial Authorship

Naipaul and “The Lie”

In V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River he writes, from the perspective of an East Indian merchant in an unnamed African country, “If it was Europe that gave us on the coast some idea, it was Europe, I feel, that also introduced us to the lie. Those of us who have been in that part of African before the Europeans had never lied about ourselves. Not because we were moral. We didn’t lie because we never assessed ourselves and didn’t think there was anything for us to lie about; we were people who simply did what we did. But the Europeans could do one thing and say something quite different… they could express both sides of their civilization; and they got both the slaves and the statues.” The sentiment of Naipaul’s character is loaded and difficult to parse out, however, a significant amount of effort is being employed on the part of Naipaul to express the content of...

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Moral Judgments in Postcolonial Theory: Productivity and Inquiry in a World of Ethical Obligations

Modern Postcolonial Theory is in a state of flux. As it has moved from the hands of literary critics and into anthropology and history departments across the globe, concerns and interests of the loosely (and poorly) defined theory have shifted and changed. There are a great many issues and points of contention when taking an inventory of Postcolonial Theory’s critical toolbox and discrepancies between the world Postcolonial Theory attempts to describe and the world which the postcolonies reflect. However, putting aside those issues, there is a key problem burgeoning in modern Postcolonial Theory, the submission of modern Postcolonial theorists to notions of false neutrality and hegemonic common sense.

Much has been made of the notion of “obligation” when (usually white) students of Postcolonial Theory engage with, for instance, literature from the Caribbean nation-states. Many students...

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The Mind, its Function, and its Manifestation

The mind and/or human consciousness, in an overly simplified form, contain two constituent parts. Namely, the traits which can be said to materially exist in some form and the self-construction of the individual.

The materially existent traits can be further divided into two categories, ontologically functioning facets of personality and human thought tendencies. Facets of personality derive from a number of sources. They can be biological or socially constructed. Tendencies are similar in that they can also be biological or socially constructed, but the difference is that they define how an individual might make choices and their preferences rather than a facet of personality which dictates the person’s “qualities,” such as those relevant to virtue or vice. The individual’s tendencies might be said to contribute to their self-construction, but it simply aids in the creation of the...

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Louis CK, William Dean Howells, and the Artist’s Great Lie

Louis CK has recently presented a polemical argument directed towards smartphones, in the form of an appearance on Conan O'Brien’s late night talk show. Despite not being a very good argument in favor or disfavor of any product or behaviors, CK’s articulation of this idea has resonated with many viewers in a seemingly profound way. Certainly, there are negatives to the use of a smartphone some of which CK keys in on acutely. However, what’s interesting is how Louis CK is allowed to make this interjection into the life of the middle class. CK attempts to, like William Dean Howells (far) before him, present himself as some sort of every-person who has commonalities with the lived experience of (to engage with some loaded Marxist language) proletariat. CK, however, is a celebrity with a net worth of 8.5 million dollars. This raises the question of where exactly does the bourgeois CK derive...

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Walter Benjamin vs. Oscar Wilde

There’s a question, of course, of utility when one talks about different aesthetic views. This feeling is impressed very keenly upon readers when reading the work of Walter Benjamin. He conveys a sense of extreme urgency about the fate of human life when discussing the aesthetic paradigm he endorses. Benjamin’s paradigm is one of pragmatism and democracy. Art exists not for its own sake, but for the sake of providing a utility - often a political one. Conversely, Oscar Wilde championed the idea that art is its own utility. It should be created in order not to further a goal or cause but rather to exist in itself. Oscar Wilde countered a familiar adage about art and life by saying that “life imitates art,” while Benjamin was horrified by this notion.

Benjamin and politics

Benjamin argued that the idea of art for arts sake was a fascist one. The aesthetic construct that establishes firm...

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