• A collaborative storytelling and the self-reflexive gaze: Imagining, Visualizing, and Adapting African exoticism through video games

    Shiyi Zhu (see profile)
    Global Digital Humanities Symposium
    Digital humanities, Digital storytelling, Video games, Audio-visual materials, Postcolonialism and the arts, Digital media, New media art
    Item Type:
    Meeting Title:
    Global Digital Humanities Symposium 2023
    Meeting Org.:
    Michigan State University Digital Humanities
    Meeting Loc.:
    Online / Michigan State University
    Meeting Date:
    March 13-15, 2023
    audio-visual, Interactivity, Narrative Models
    Permanent URL:
    From the colonial age to contemporary novels and the digital world, the fantasy and imagination of African have intrigued the attention from artists, novelists, and literary and cultural critics, and game designers. This essay focuses on three video games published on itch.io: Lotus of the Nile (2020), which prompts the users to co-create African artwork and explore the cultural heritage behind; Monster Stock Art (2022), which allows the users to generate African monsters based on mythologies and their own imaginations; and my art project Journey to CONLAY (2022), a digital adaptations of Joseph Conrad’s two travel writings “Heart of Darkness” and The Rescue. Focusing on the hyperlinks, call to actions, and computer-human interactions in these three games, this paper examines how the interactive form of video games can form a dialogue with and add insights on the binary self/other relationship in the traditional Saidian postcolonial scholarship, highlighting the interactive media as a self-referential form that reveals and reflects upon the playing subject’s conscious entertainment of the otherness as an imaginary space or an “unheard-of symbolic system”, as coined by Roland Barthes in his Empire of Signs. To achieve this, this essay relies on Deegan and Sutherland’s theory of electronic texts as a co-constructed workspace that emphasizes the users’ manipulations and creations of meanings. By doing so, this paper explores how video games mechanisms open doors to a new insights on the relationships between self and other, as well as a collaborative imaginations of the exoticism and the exotic and the narrator’s gaze in the new medium.
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