16-bit dissensus: post-retro aesthetics, hauntology, and the emergency in video games

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2391-8551.08.01

Keywords:

Pixel graphics, post-retro, aesthetics, hauntology, dissensus, Dys4ia, Undertale

Abstract

Santiago Zabala reveals a crisis in modern society that perceives a world dominated by oppressive neoliberal ideology as acceptable and unproblematic. He claims that today’s greatest emergency is that we fail to notice other emergencies in society. To break out of this state, we need an aesthetic force to shock individuals into a new awareness. Unfortunately, while many social and global issues have recently come to widespread attention, the emergency still prevails in many forms of media. For example, the emergency in AAA video games appears in their continual push for higher resolution graphics, hyper-detail, verisimilitude, and intricate gameplay, perpetuating a hegemonic ideology. Exploitative labor practices, lack of representation beyond hetero-sexual, cis-gendered and neurotypical, and capitalist ideals are perpetuated in popular games in service of a hyper-real, high-fidelity aesthetic. One force that combats this emergency is pixel graphics and simplified gameplay, or post-retro aesthetics. While tied to the past, these aesthetics are not nostalgic but transgressively hauntological. To explore this claim, I discuss Dys4ia and Undertale as key post-retro games and reach beyond commercial indie gaming to point to hauntological work being done through DIY game making platformers such as Bitsy.

Author Biography

Patrick R. Dolan, York University

Patrick Dolan – is a Ph.D. candidate in Communications and Culture at York University. His current research interests include affect, aesthetics, critical industry studies, video games with pixel graphics and low-polygon counts, and the politics therein. His research background focused on the industry, economics, and collector communities of horror VHS and DVD. He is the Editor-in-Chief of First Person Scholar, a middle-state academic journal.

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Published

2022-07-12

How to Cite

Dolan, P. R. . (2022). 16-bit dissensus: post-retro aesthetics, hauntology, and the emergency in video games. Replay. The Polish Journal of Game Studies, 8(1), 7–26. https://doi.org/10.18778/2391-8551.08.01

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Articles