Hackers and Cyborgs: Binary Domain and Two Formative Videogame Technicities

Keogh Brendan
2015 DiGRA '15 - Proceedings of the 2015 DiGRA International Conference

Through the course of Binary Domain’s action-packed narrative, it becomes increasingly unclear who is human, who is machine, and who is somewhere in between. Ultimately, such a distinction is futile when our everyday experiences are so ubiquitously augmented by technologies—even the act of playing Binary Domain by coupling with a virtual character through a videogame controller challenges any clear distinction between human and machine. While such themes are not new to science fiction, the anxieties expressed by Binary Domain’s characters are relevant to what have emerged over the past twentyfive years as two formative modes of identifying with videogames: the dominant hacker and the integrated cyborg. The hacker, an identity that the dominant and hegemonic ‘gamer’ consumer identity can trace a clear lineage from, comes to represent the masculinist, mastery-focused identity that most blockbuster games celebrate.The cyborg emerges in resistance to the hacker, pointing to a diversity of forms and identities focused less on mastering the machine than participating with it. This paper uses Binary Domain’s complex anxieties towards technology as a lens through which to trace the histories of these constitutive modes of identifying with videogames, and to demonstrate the influence they have on shaping videogame forms and audiences.


Spec Ops: The Line’s Conventional Subversion of the Military Shooter

Keogh Brendan
2014 DiGRA '13 - Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies

The contemporary videogame genre of the military shooter, exemplified by blockbuster franchises like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, is often criticised for its romantic and jingoistic depictions of the modern, high-tech battlefield. This entanglement of military shooters and the rhetoric of technologically advanced warfare in a “militaryentertainment complex” is scrutinised by Yager’s Spec Ops: The Line. The game’s critique of military shooters is as complex and messy as the battlefields the genre typically works to obscure. Initially presented to the player as a generic military shooter, The Line gradually subverts the genre’s mechanics, aesthetics, and conventions to devalue claims of the West’s technological and ethical superiority that the genre typically perpetuates. This paper brings together close, textual analysis; comments made by the game’s developers; and the analytical work of videogame critics to examine how The Line relies on the conventions of its own genre to ask its player to think critically about the cultural function of military shooters.