War Games

Ashley Dawson
New York, September 26th 2009, 16:30 - 17:00

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When Schiller penned his Aesthetic Letters shortly following the French Revolution, he saw the "play drive" as a virtuous alternative to the violence that had engulfed the world of politics, a force capable of reconciling the conflict between human beings' material, sensuous nature and their capacity for reason. Much of the subsequent history of aesthetic theory hinges on this vision of creativity as a redemptive alternative to the fallen world of modernity. But gaming is serious business. Even at the time that Schiller wrote, games were fast becoming an important means through which military technicians perfected the war machine. Today, the line between gaming and warfare has blurred beyond recognition. Military hardware is designed following the software protocols of Xbox games, and Defense Department theorists theorize strategy based on virtual war games. What are the implications of this transformation and saturation of the play drive by warcraft, and what is the likely upshot of the galloping aestheticization of battle?