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Playing in Ideology: Counterfactual Military History, Games and Understanding War!

WEBLEY, Stephen (2015) Playing in Ideology: Counterfactual Military History, Games and Understanding War! In: Challenge the Past, 19-21 March 2015, University of Gothenburg.

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Playing in Ideology: Counterfactual Military History, Games and Understanding War!
"All wars are things of the same nature ... War is the continuation of Politik by other means."
Vom Kriege (1832) Carl Von Clausewitz
" In man, there's already a crack, a profound perturbation of the regulation of life..."
Jacques Lacan; Seminar II (1954-55)
Steve Webley
Since its inception, following the French Revolution and the promulgation of the modern nation state, the academic study of war has had a close relationship with games. Moreover, it is argued that modern games allow players to experiment with counterfactual scenarios to develop their own understanding of war in specific historical epochs (Ferguson 2000). However, this paper argues that the analysis of the function of play in War Studies has been unable to bridge the gap between the dyadic of Clausewitzian philosophy (1832) and Jominian doctrine (1862). This gap coalesces in an inability to differentiate the capacity for war from the act, an inability to analyse the logics of war from within war itself, obfuscating attempts to evaluate the motivations, fantasies, and desires that support the reality of war (Masco 2013).
Engaging Huizinga's (1938) 'all play means something' and reading the philosophy of Clausewitz through the optic of Lacanian structuralism, this research paper situates the function and aesthetics of ideology within meanings derived by players. Utilising case studies from the popular franchises of Civilisation, Total War and Europa Univarsalis this paper argues that whilst elements of reality, such as genocide and fundamentalism, are omitted from popular games, the play instinct still mobilises the same ideological tenets in players as in reality. In play ideology is constructed unbeknownst to the player in the form of Lacanian sinthome - small proto-ideological kernels of jouissance - that enables Clausewitz' dictum of Real War to be played-out in its true guise as a particular Hegelian dialectic specific to the internal working of war and historicity. The games in question, whilst highly abstracted, bridge the gap inherent in War Studies by allowing players to a witness war as Politik - as an inchoate aggregate of the conscious and the unconscious, the rational and irrational, a sublime chimerical admixture of politics and policy and play that will always be in command of human nature.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: For access to the PowerPoint slides please contact
Faculty: School of Computing and Digital Technologies > Games and Visual Effects
Event Title: Challenge the Past
Event Location: University of Gothenburg
Event Dates: 19-21 March 2015
Depositing User: Stephen WEBLEY
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2019 08:50
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:56

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