Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Borrowed Kettle

As the Slamdance indie game festival gets underway today in Park City, Utah, the controversy about the forced withdrawal of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! continues. As a one-time finalist, the game -- which combines documentary digital ephemera from the actual school shootings with crude RPG graphics to facilitate a variety of forms of critical engagement and reflection -- received positive reviews from Clive Thompson ("I, Columbine Killer") and Ian Bogost ("Columbine, Videogame as Expression, and Ineffability"). It also received complaints after it was linked to the Dawson College Shootings, and its supporters were pilloried by the conservative Parents Television Council. The game's creator, Danny LeDonne also makes agit-prop videos that are disseminated through social media sites like YouTube and MySpace.

After the game was withdrawn, finalists and sponsors pulled out in protest. Virtualpolitik pal Nick Montfort withdrew his interactive fiction work Book and Volume, and the award-winning creator of family-friendly Clouds, Tracy Fullerton successfully pushed for the USC Interactive Media program to yank its Slamdance sponsorship. Of course, not all universities were so supportive of the disgruntled other finalists: citing their intellectual property interests as as sponsoring institution, the DigiPen institute forced a reinstatement of their entry.

What's interesting about the SlamDance rationale is the number of reasons given for deleting Super Columbine from consideration. It seems like a classic case of Freudian overdetermination, like the "borrowed kettle" that Slavoj Zizek uses to explain the excessive justifications for the Iraq war.

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